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Ireland could grow dairy herd to 4m

Ireland has the potential to quadruple its dairy herd to a massive four million cows, according to well-known Cork-based dairy farmer Michael Murphy.

This has the potential to create 45,000 jobs over the next 25 years, according to Mr Murphy, who is also involved in dairy operations in the US, Chile and New Zealand.

"There is no other country in the world that has the same expansion prospects as Ireland," he said.

"Exports of dairy products will also boom by 400pc as every extra gallon and tonne of dairy product will be exported onto a world market where consumption of dairy products is growing at 2.5pc per annum.

"Grass-based milk production may be the only area Ireland has a real, sustainable, competitive, international advantage."

Mr Murphy believes dairying can do the same for rural Ireland that it did for the South Island of New Zealand 20 years ago. He says profits from expanding dairy farms would have a huge economic and jobs multiplier effect for Ireland.

He will be part of the panel of speakers that will be addressing the annual Positive Farmers Conference next week in both Cork and Meath.

This year, it focuses on what expansion-minded farmers need to be doing to profitably produce more milk at low risk.

"The abolition of milk quotas throughout Europe in 2015 presents Ireland with a huge opportunity for existing dairy farmers, tillage and beef farmers who want to convert. Ireland is the best-placed country in the northern hemisphere to supply a world dairy market that is growing at 2.5pc a year. But now is the time to plan and prepare," Mr Murphy added.

Among the speakers is grass systems expert Adrian van Bysterveldt, who cautions that expansion for the sake of expansion is madness. He will outline the most profitable systems for Ireland and also deliver the lessons from the Greenfield Project, which has built up a 320-cow unit from scratch at low cost.

He claims that all infrastructure costs in this farm, including the parlour and roadways, have been put in at a cost of €1,700 a cow, 62pc less than conventional costs of €4,500 a cow.

Dairy farmer Diarmuid Lynch will explain how he grows 36t DM/ha to support a building-free stocking system. Delegates will also get the chance to hear how Tory and David Baker have expanded to 400 cows in Birr. Moorepark's Laurence Shaloo will assess the risks of going over quota, while AIB's Tadhg Buckley will cover the practical approach to financing expansion and examine risks associated with investing in expansion.

There will also be contributions on maximising milk solids, breeding policies and once-a-day milking.

Darragh McCullough

Indo Farming