National dairy conference huge success

The annual Teagasc National Dairy Conference took place in Limerick in November.

This year’s event had a very exciting line up of speakers covering a range of topics. The conference focused on many of the key things that must be put in place in advance of 2015. AgriLand reported live. Here’s a recap.

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According to the organisers, Irish dairy farming is on the eve of the post-quota era.

“With just one more complete quota year to go ahead of milk quota abolition it is crucial that farmers now focus on ‘getting things right’ in the dairy farm business to take advantage of the opportunities that will be available.

Approximately 300 delegates attended in Cavan This follows on from the 500 plus turnout, recorded the equivalent event in Limerick.

“Attendance levels are well up on previous years,” a Teagasc spokesman told AgriLand.

“This reflects the growing confidence for milk at farm level. Farmgate prices have continued to strengthen over recent times. Yes, volatility will be a challenge moving forward. However, there is no reason to believe that international milk markets will fall back, as part of a general trend, moving forward. In fact he very opposite is likely to be the case.”

Speaking in advance of the conferences, head of dairy knowledge transfer in Teagasc, Tom O’Dwyer said: “The Irish dairy industry is changing. More milk will be produced and processed in the future. Better management practices, especially in the areas of planning and budgeting, will be required to allow this to happen and if dairy farmers are to successfully grow their business.

With the abolition of milk quotas in April 2015 just over a year away, it is timely to ask whether Irish dairy farmers are equipped with the necessary planning and budgeting skills needed. Successful dairy farms will be built on a solid, strategic foundation, which will require long-term thinking. But the farmer will also need appropriate technical expertise to make tactical – short-term – adjustments.”

O’Dwyer, the man who heads up Teagasc’s team of dairying specialists, told AgriLand that many dairy farmers may have no option but to milk freshly calved cows once-a-day only, once we get into the New Year.

“This is the only practical step that can be taken to prevent farmers from going over quota, that and feeding surplus milk to calves. There is strong evidence confirming that farmers with the highest risk of exceeding quota, dried a significant number of their cows off back in September.”

A leading US agriculture academic also speaking at the conference told AgriLand that a significant number of Irish dairy farming businesses will fail as they strive to increase output beyond 2015 in his opinion.

“It’s a simple fact of life. Experience gained from every other industrial sector confirms that this will be so,” added Associate Professor Dennis Kaupilla, currently on a six-month sabbatical with Teagasc from the University of Vermont.

“The reality is that some farmers will overstretch themselves and end up in a situation where they cannot meet their financial commitments in full.”

Full reports on the conference are available here.

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