The number of young farmers hoping to enter the dairy industry continues to surge ahead, with 285 applications received for new entrant milk quota in 2012.
Demand for milk quota has more than doubled since the scheme was first introduced three years ago, when 141 farmers applied for quota. Department officials have also confirmed 111 applied in 2010 and 263 applied last year.
This year's applicants will have to go through a rigorous selection process, including interviews with a panel of assessors, consisting of two Department of Agriculture officials, an ICOS representative and Dr Pat Dillon, head of Teagasc Moorepark.
The farmers will be grouped into three categories: Category A are brand new entrants, while Category B are purchasers of quota as a new entrant through the milk quota trading scheme and Category C farmers are purchasers of quota as successors through the milk quota trading scheme. Successful applicants in Category A will receive 200,000 litres of quota. Any quota remaining after that will be divided among Category B and C farmers.
Dr Pat Dillon said the flood of applications for milk quota was a sign of the positivity within the dairy industry.
"The standard of applications has increased considerably in the past two years," he added.
"We have had some really excellent candidates applying. The standard was way up last year on previous years."
The Moorepark head added that there was a strong drive from new dairy entrants in the south of the country, particularly Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford.
The applicants included a high proportion of suckler farmers and young farmers whose grandparents had been in dairying but left in favour of suckling.
"In lots of cases, families have skipped a generation or two of dairying but want to get back into it again," he said.