For dairy expansion to continue, we need to plant more trees - Teagasc

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

For continued expansion of our dairy herd, we need to be planting more trees, the head of Teagasc Gerry Boyle has said.

But he warned that stringent obligations around the environment and that if the dairy sector does not take action around environmental challenges, solutions will be 'foisted' on the sector.

However, Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle said not everyone could milk cows either.

"There are new entrants coming in but they are small in number. There are not massive numbers coming in."

He also said that the capital cost of establishing a dairy farm would temper massive numbers turning to dairying.

Boyle was speaking at the Teagasc Outlook Conference in Dublin this week, where he said that Irish milk production is up 3pc this year, as the dairy herd cow numbers increased by 3.5pc to 1.48m, but milk prices were down 7pc.

And, while the Teagasc figures show and dairy farm incomes were hit by a drop of 22pc, they are expected to rise by 10pc next year.

Previous predictions of a 60pc fall in dairy incomes this year did not materialise, but the feed volume increase was not on average as high as expected.

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On the typical dairy farm feed expenditure is estimated to have increased by almost 50pc this year, while feed prices were up 6pc and fertiliser prices were up 7pc, while fuel prices were up 10pc.

Nevertheless, dairy incomes remain head and shoulders above other sectors, even at the reduced €67,000 income estimate for last year.

Milk prices in 2019 are forecast to decrease by 5pc, year on year, but with feed input costs expected to be back at normal levels, margins are predicted to increase.

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