Milk quotas: Production to soar while farmer numbers fall by 3,000
Ireland will see the number of dairy farms actually drop, even as milk production soars.
The country is set to produce an extra two billion litres of milk a year by 2020 as the shackles of milk quotas are finally cast off.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has predicted there will be an extra 300,000 cows in the national herd, bringing the total to over 1.3 million by 2020.
However, though every area of the country will see an upsurge in production, experts agree it won't be evenly spread, with some areas profiting more than others - and there'll be fewer farmers producing it.
Currently there are close to 18,000 dairy farmers producing 5.5bn litres of milk a year - but this is far from evenly dispersed, with production concentrated in Cork and other southern counties as well as Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
It is likely that the south will see a boom in milk production of around 60-70pc, whereas in the west the increase will be between 10-20pc, said TJ Flanagan, head of dairy policy with co-op umbrella group ICOS.
"Dairy production requires reasonably large blocks of land that makes it easier to get the cows in for milking, but in the west you'd have smaller, more scattered farms that make it harder to expand," he said.
While there will be an increase in Cork, it was already pretty saturated with cows, whereas some tillage farmers in Wexford, Waterford, south Tipperary and the south east were likely to switch to dairying as they had suitable land, he said.