Teagasc is running a new entrants to dairy farming course this April in the Mayo region for the first time and the uptake so far has been positive.

This is according to Peter Comer, dairy advisor with Teagasc. “We are in the last year of milk quotas. Quotas have never been a huge draw back to expansion in the West, but with the whole buzz around dairy at the moment and with good milk prices, we expect an increase in milk suppliers in the Mayo region in the coming years.”

During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the number of dairy farmers in the county dropped and Teagasc’s aim now is to assist men and women who wish to get back into milk production or to start dairy farming.

Currently there are more than 400 dairy farmers in Mayo, who supply mainly to Aurivo and also Arrabawn.

“Suckler and beef farming have always been big enterprises in Mayo and dairy is, as they say, the minority sport,” Comer noted.

By the very nature of farms and land in Mayo, according to Comer, the county will never get huge numbers of dairy farmers but many may switch from beef to, simply put, make more money.

“For many dairy expansion is not suited because of fragmented farmlands, you need good land. We would not advise farmers with marginal land to get into dairy, but for larger beef farmers with good slurry storage there is an opportunity for them and we are targeting these farmers. Also for people who left dairy farming years ago, we are seeing an interest now from their sons to convert.”

Comer also referred to the Aurivo-Teagasc joint programme where blueprint dairy farms in Mayo and the surrounding counties are under way.

“The programme aims to develop focus farms in the region, to set the blueprint for farmers on how to do things in a profitable and sustainable way in terms of grass management, grazing, breeding and meat quality,” he explained.

The course itself runs from 1 April for five weeks, with a fee of €100. It focuses on infrastructure, paddock layout, milking parlours, grazing, purchasing animals and cash flow.

“It’s all about profit,” the dairy advisor said matter of factly.

“Everyone is now saying there is no profit in beef, but there is a reasonable profit in dairy farming. The biggest obstacle for new entrants we are finding is set-up costs, but if you get that at a reasonable cost, work efficiently and cheaply, there is good cash to be made from dairy farming, a living over and above beef production.”

For more information contact Teagasc’s Mayo office on 094 9371360.