Dairy expansion delivers benefits to entire rural community

The expansion in the Irish dairy industry over the last three years has been of a significant financial benefit to family farms and the wider rural economy.

That was the message from the director of Teagasc, Gerry Boyle, at last week’s Teagasc Moorepark dairy open day in Fermoy, Co Cork.

“It’s now over two years since milk quotas were abolished and dairy farmers have made significant productivity gains in that period,” said Prof Boyle. “It shows how the technologies being applied at farm level, especially in relation to animal breeding and grassland management, are fuelling this expansion in a sustainable way.”

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed said Irish dairy farming is in a very positive position.

“But we must continue to focus on resilient technologies which allow us to maintain our competitive advantage in milk production,” he said.

Mr Creed said Ireland’s unique grass-based milk production, from family farms, is a sustainable model. He said 2017 is designated as the ‘Year of Sustainable Grassland’ to celebrate this most important productive and sustainable source of livestock nutrition. Teagasc Animal and Grassland, Research and Innovation Programme head Pat Dillon, said the dairy sector is facing a number of challenges.

These include price volatility, shortage in the availability of skilled labour, the need to raise sustainability, and Brexit. It is important that dairy farmers adopt resilient technologies to insulate against these challenges.

Additionally, the farm business must remain resilient in terms of debt level, where all investment decisions are based on a comprehensive business plan and budget, said Mr Dillon.

A new handbook on farm Infrastructure, compiled by Teagasc with the support of Ulster Bank, was officially launched at the open day.

Prof Boyle said the handbook is a key guide for dairy farmers, as they consider expanding their dairy enterprises, becoming more efficient, or converting from a greenfield site.

The important areas such as grazing infrastructure, milking facilities, milk cooling, water and energy efficiency, land drainage design, and installation, along with incorporating biodiversity, are all covered.

“Grazing infrastructure for roadways, paddock layout, and water systems will be important in terms of overall herd performance as it can allow more days at grass and therefore greater profitability,” he said

Pat Horgan, Ulster Bank’s head of small-to-medium enterprise banking for south midlands and west, said the booklet is a valuable resource for dairy farmers looking to upgrade their existing infrastructure or invest in the establishment of a dairy farm enterprise.

“It will help dairy farmers who want to delve deeper into the areas of technical efficiency, people management and other business skills,” he said.


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