Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 October 2018

Labour remains the major obstacle to expansion: Dairygold

James Lynch Dairygold Chairman
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A quarter of Dairygold milk suppliers have highlighted labour as the main obstacle to their future farm plans, it has emerged.

An in-depth survey among the suppliers in the State's largest farmer-owned co-op has found that there are the equivalent of at least 530 unfilled positions available in the processors catchment area.

"Unsurprisingly, labour continues to be a significant on-farm challenge. Our milk supplier members have indicated that they intend to use more paid labour which again demonstrates that there are real job opportunities in rural Ireland - the equivalent to at least 530 in our catchment area," said Dairygold chairman James Lynch.

Half of those questioned use paid labour, while 30pc described finding workers as a significant challenge that must be overcome for them to fulfil their potential.

Around 35pc of its members signalled that land was a significant obstacle to expansion.

The survey designed to help the processor plan for future milk supplies over the next six to eight years paints a picture of the level of ambition for growth amongst suppliers.

Significantly, it found that over 60pc of suppliers intend to increase their milk supply which shows the industry will continue to expand at a rapid rate. Mr Lynch said the ambition of suppliers remains strong.

Dairy farmers expect to see milk supplies rise by over 16pc between 2018 and 2022, with farmers on average working 10 hours a day which increases to 13 in the spring.

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It also follows concerns raised at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference that dairy sector expansion was already well ahead of projected growth figures, with a survey by dairy processor Glanbia predicting milk growth of 30pc or 6pc a year by 2020.

There are currently 1.4 million dairy cows on the ground, with the most recent estimates from Teagasc predicting the cow herd would increase by 2pc each year up to 1.6 million by 2025 with the milk pool reaching around 8.3 billion litres.

It was estimated that over 6,000 people would need to enter dairying to keep the industry afloat.

Teagasc's Paidi Kelly agreed that it was possible the actual growth could far exceed the predictions and it was vital dairying was an attractive career for young people.

Michael Murphy, a dairy farmer with interests in New Zealand and the US, questioned if the industry was going to "repeat the same mistake" as it remains behind the curve in underestimating the amount of growth.

"The availability of enough young people coming into farming - that is the single biggest limitation outside of possible regulations in the future," he said.

The Dairygold survey found the average herd stands at 94, plus 26 in-calf heifers and 28 heifer calves.

Around 37pc are specialist dairy farmers with 50ha owned, 68ha farmed and 71pc leasing or renting extra land.

It found the average age of suppliers is 56, with 42pc of those surveyed revealing they have yet to identify a successor for their farm but only 9pc were concerned about the issue.

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