Momentum grows for switch from beef to dairy

Teagasc advisors in the midlands have confirmed a growing push by drystock farmers to switch to dairy.

“The momentum to get into milk is growing again,” said Peter Doolan, who works out of the Teagasc office in Portlaoise.

“This is very much the case with middle-aged farmers, who have sons coming through. For the most part, the business case for the switch to dairy is built around the formation of an informal partnership arrangement with the finance secured on the back of the son.”

He added: “There are a lot of large farms in this area. Many of the drystock farmers have already invested in paddock grazing systems and re-seeding over recent years.

They also have decent farm buildings. So the conversion to dairy would not be that big a step to take.

Doolan said the banks were more than happy to finance dairy conversion projects at the present time.

“The recent strengthening of milk prices is also a factor when it comes to beef and sheep farmers looking at a conversion into milk. But, fundamentally, these farmers do not see a sustainable future in livestock production.”

Doolan is advising farm families looking at the dairy option to ensure that the son, who is coming into the business, has a Green Cert qualification.

“He should also take the opportunity of visiting as many dairy operations as he can, so as to get some first-hand experience of what it is actually like to run a milk business.”

Doolan confirmed that beef farmers – particularly those with suckler cows – work extremely hard but feel they do not get a sufficient return for the hours they put in.

He said: “However, dairy farming is all about working smart, not just hard. And this is the real step-change that livestock farmers must secure, once they convert to milk.”

Doolan expects quite a number of dairy conversion start-ups to come on-stream at the beginning of 2019.

“Most of the farmers I am speaking to will, probably, draw down grants on the milking parlour and dairy. They intend funding the other items of work from their own resources.”