Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ireland's dairy expansion - farmers milking more cows to maintain income

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Just 10 years ago, only 3pc of Irish dairy farmers had more than 100 cows. Today, 19pc of Irish dairy farms are milking 100 cows or more.

The figures, from Teagasc, show that expansion in dairying has occurred despite difficult market conditions since EU milk quotas were removed in 2015.

However, the figures also show that dairy farmers had to increase production by at least 50pc to maintain a positive income in 2016. Dairy farm incomes were back 15pc in 2016 due to a combination of lower gross output and lower milk prices.

Since 2015 milk output has increased on 82pc of dairy farms across Ireland with, it seems much of the expansion plans carried out in 2014. The figures show that production increases on individual farms were more modest in 2016 than in 2014 with 24pc increasing milk deliveries by less than 10pc.

A further 20pc increased production between 10-20pc, a decline of 11 percentage points compared to 2014. Despite this, there was a significant increase at the higher end with 22pc of farms increasing milk production by 30pc or more.

Expansion on Irish dairy farms

Expansion on Irish dairy farms was achieved through a combination of more cows, greater productivity per cow, a reduction in other livestock on dairy farms and a marginal increase in land area. According to Teagasc, average cow numbers on farms who increased milk productoin by at least 50pc from 2014 to 2016 stood at 112 in 2016.

Dairy cow numbers have increased by 327,000 since 2010 to over 1.35m. Based on 2016 milk supply, this has resulted in a 35pc increase in milk production nationally (43pc based on milk solids) compared to the average of 2007 to 2009.

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