Farm Ireland
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Saturday 15 December 2018

Will dairying provide the only sustainable farming option or turn young men into old men very fast?

Warns of 'burnout' in the sector just three years after quotas were abolished

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Stock photo
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Dairy farming is the engine of sustainable and profitable agriculture, the new Chairman of Teagasc Liam Herlihy told a recent joint Oireachtas committee on agriculture, amid warnings that young dairy farmers are already facing burnout.

Herlihly told the hearing this week that the focus of Teagasc must be sustainable farming systems and that the profitability of dairying in Ireland can spread into other areas and does not necessarily mean that everyone must milk cows.

"Not everyone will want to get up in the morning and milk cows and nor should they, but they can tap into the dairy sector from the point of view of a sustainable future and that’s important."

However, Tipperary Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill told the committee hearing that burnout three or four years after the abolition of quotas is becoming an issue for dairy farmers.

Milk quotas were abolished in March 2016 in Ireland and he said that the industry here has been told about the burnout in New Zealand's dairying sector and he's already seeing it in his locality.

"Young men are going to become old men very, very fast," he warned the hearing and questioned what is the most appropriate or economical unit for a one man unit.

"That has shot upwards to where it might be the amount of cows he wants to make viable income but the amount of work he can do is a different equation."

He also said the lack of availability of land to young farmers was a serious impediment to the sector and that it was untenable that young farmers can't compete with larger outfits. "They have the best education but with no access to land they won't achieve their potential."

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Liam Herlihy, who was recently appointed as the new Chairman of Teagasc said that dairying is hugely important but if we speak about the sustainability of the maximum number of farmers the lower level of profitability of beef farming is a concern and we need to be conscious of it.

"There is no point is having farmers staying at home farming on a full time basis, they must have the very same opportunity of earning a viable livelihood income as the siblings that would have gone on and had a professional career."

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