Milk output running close to two years ahead of Food Harvest 2020 targets

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Massive growth in the dairy sector has been recorded since the end of the quota regime in 2015.

Industry sources expect total milk output to top seven billion litres this year, which is 500 million litres shy of the 50pc growth target set in Food Harvest 2020.

Indeed, it is expected that the 7.5bn-litre output goal set in the Food Harvest plan could now be reached in 2018, or 2019 at the latest. 

The bulk of the growth in the dairy sector to date has come from existing players. This is borne out in the statistics quoted in the Teagasc’s ‘People in Dairy Project’ which found that the average herd size has grown from 54 to 76 cows since 2005.

Indeed, there are 327,000 additional dairy cows since 2010, with the national herd now exceeding 1.35 million. And, close to half of these cows are in herds of 100 animals or more.

However, internal growth has been supplemented by an increasing number of new entrants. A recent survey published in the farming press put the number of new entrants since quotas were abolished at 600.

The majority of new entrants have been in traditional dairy farming areas such as Munster and south Leinster, and involved primarily drystock farmers switching into dairying.

But continuing income pressures among tillage farmers has prompted more interest in dairying from that sector. This trend was highlighted recently by the decision of the well-known Kehoe families from Wexford to move from cereals into milk. Further conversions are expected.

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The attractions of dairying have also been recognised by farmers in west and northwest, as our report on the McNamees confirms.

Advising new dairy entrants during the conversion and set up process at Aurivo is the responsibility of the Farm Profit Team and the Farm Services Team.

These liaise with farmers regarding the layout of the farmyard, as well as the purchase and installation of the milking machine and bulk tank.

Anthony Walsh of Aurivo says the co-op stays in close contact with new entrants to ensure there were no difficulties with issues such as grassland management, herd health and fertility, or milk quality matters like TBC and SCC levels.

In addition, Teagasc runs a five-day course for new entrants, which covers all the main planks of the modern dairying enterprise. Also included in the course are visits to new-entrant dairy units, where the pitfalls of getting started in the business are outlined and discussed.

The courses are based and at Teagasc Moorepark and the Greenfield farm in Kilkenny and one will be held each month from September to December.

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