Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Search is on for answers as superlevy threat grows

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Dairy farmers increasingly desperate to avoid serious superlevy fines are looking at every possibility to reduce their milk deliveries before the annual deadline next March 31.

Farmers in Northern Ireland report that they have been offered up to 30,000l of milk delivered straight into their bulk tanks by their over-quota neighbours south of the border.

While the prospect of extra milk for a nominal charge is extremely tempting for any northern supplier, it is also illegal. However, other more legitimate options are also being explored.

Several dairy farmers in the northeast were reported to be looking at leasing farms in both Northern Ireland and Wales last week in an attempt to find homes for herds of up to 200 milking cows that may face culling if kept in the Republic.

"Some dairy farmers that have really pushed the boat out in recent years don't want to sell cows right now because they believe they are so close to the end of quotas," explained Louth-based auctioneer Michael Taaffe.

However, one Northern Irish dairy consultant believes that Southern producers still have not come to terms with the seriousness of the situation.

"I don't think that farmers here have addressed the superlevy problem head-on yet," said Co Down based farm consultant Jason McMinn during a visit last week with a group of Northern dairy farmers interested in buying cows from over-quota farms in Co Kilkenny, Waterford, Laois and Wicklow.

"It appears to me that everybody down here thinks that everybody else is going to cut back," he said.

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His clients were looking at the possibility of trading young stock for milking cows with their Southern counterparts.

"There has been talk about leasing cows but we feel that that is much too complicated and risky regarding disease issues," said Mr McMinn.


The Armagh-based consultant said that Northern farmers were interested in Holstein type cows able to produce at least 7,500l of milk.

He said the going rate was about €1,500 for fresh calved young cows.

This price has taken a jump in the last two weeks according to auctioneer Mr Taaffe.

"Two weeks ago you could buy 8,000l fresh calved heifers for €1,400," he said.

"Last week they were making €1,500 and I expect them to go to €1,600 this week with the 1.8c/l increase in Northern milk price announced last week.

"Good stores of silage, good grass in the pastures and rising milk price is resulting in a lot of calls starting to come into me from English, Welsh and Northern Irish dairy farmers interested in stock. But they've zero interest in a 5,000l cow.

"A starved, 5,000l cow being milked once a day is not going to be an attractive package for these guys."

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