ID 1130474150791795
  • Paul Dillon

Irish Farmers Journal lobbies for ban on the export of surplus colostrum from Ireland.

Accusations of being out of touch with reality are common when farmers talk about the Irish Farmers Journal. However, advising Irish officials to “take a leaf out of the Russian textbook” must surely be one of the most ill-timed, asinine suggestions it has published for some time.

The facts of the matter;

Through my business and as an ex-dairy farmer, I was very aware that there was a substantial amount of surplus colostrum being generated and dumped on many Irish farms. I was also aware that there were purchasers of this surplus colostrum operating in Scotland, Netherlands, and Germany.

Following discussions with in the summer of 2021, Biocolo Ltd was formed and an agreement was made to run a pilot colostrum purchasing project in Ireland in the spring of 2022. The original plan was to enrol 20 suppliers in the Midwest. All farms were to be supplied with a chest freezer, storage containers and a refractometer.

The price paid would be €1.50/litre for >20 Brix and €2.00/litre for >25Brix. We believe this is the highest price paid in the world for bovine colostrum.

Demand for freezers quickly surpassed the original target of 20 and in agreement with ISR, a further 40 suppliers were enrolled and setup with freezers etc.

The contract with ISR in Germany is a pilot project and only runs for this year, there is no commitment by Biocolo Ltd or ISR beyond this year. The condensed calving pattern in Ireland and distance from Germany are two extra challenges for this business. There have been previous attempts by other organisations to buy surplus colostrum in Ireland, but none survived.

I have never been involved in a project where all the parties involved were so committed from the outset as they could see the long-term potential. ISR have been generous by supplying extra freezers when requested and all our suppliers have accepted the conditions of the scheme in good faith. I must thank Bord Bia, The Department of Agriculture and the local co-ops that we have been in contact with who have all been very supportive and without whose help, this pilot scheme would never have got off the ground.

The Future;

1) Get feedback from existing suppliers. How could we change the scheme to make it more workable for suppliers? How many existing suppliers would be willing to commit to selling the surplus colostrum in 2023?

2) ISR; Are they satisfied with the quality of the colostrum supplied? Do they want to continue the venture? Do they want to expand?

3) Biocolo Ltd; If we get a positive response from farmer suppliers and ISR, we will set out to increase the number of suppliers and cover more areas of the country. If, on the other hand, the response from existing suppliers or ISR is negative, and the issues cannot be resolved then that will be the end of the venture. And the Farmers Journal can take satisfaction from their contribution.

If the IFJ is on the side of farmers, they should promote all avenues to increase farm income streams. A mealy mouthed complaint that other people in the chain may be making more than the farmer while disregarding the steps and costs between the farm and the final customer, is disingenuous. Farmers have the potential for the first time to turn surplus beasting into an extra income stream. There may be a business in this - which will only work if it works for all stakeholders, including farmers. We will continue working with farmers, driving the hundreds and thousands of miles involved in this venture and we'll leave talk of the 'Russian Textbook' to the IFJ.