A new joint farm development programme between Dairygold Co-op and Teagasc has been launched, which is aimed at helping the Society’s 3,000 suppliers achieve profitable and sustainable expansion in the post-quota era.

The new €1 million, three-year programme is the sixth in a series of joint initiatives between the two organisations stretching back to 1993.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney today launched the programme, which aims to engage with Dairygold’s milk suppliers to give them better access to the latest technologies and research from Teagasc to help them improve their milk production systems. Previous programmes have covered topics such as the conversion of pasture into milk solids and overall on-farm efficiency. The current programme will focus on achieving profitable and sustainable milk expansion at farm level while sustaining herd health.

Speaking at the launch on the farm of Dairygold supplier Oliver Looney in Mallow, Minister Coveney said; “Dairygold’s suppliers have forecast increasing milk production by some 57% between 2011 and 2020. The Co-op has now put in place a well-resourced farm assistance programme to help ensure that Dairygold suppliers will be able to realise their expansion goals in a profitable and sustainable manner and I commend them for that.”

A number of key performance indicators have been set to ensure the programme meets its objectives. Among those measured are; soil fertility improvements, grass utilisation, EBI increase, milk protein increases, financial management improvements, and milk quality scorecard gains. It is also a key objective to see all suppliers signed up to the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme by the end of 2015.

Dairygold Chief Executive Jim Woulfe added; “The core objective of this programme is to work with the tremendous resource that is Teagasc to help our milk suppliers achieve their dairy expansion ambitions but do so in a manner that is sustainable for them, their families, their herds and the Society. We also recognise that our suppliers are at various different stages of development and we have designed the programme to demonstrate a variety of expansion scenarios. I would encourage every Dairygold supplier to participate in this programme which is focused on delivering real benefits.”

The programme will comprise four pillars of activity: Discussion Groups; Workshops and special interest events; Demonstration & focus farms and Communications.

The number of active farmer discussion groups will be increased from 65 to 70 while a series of workshops and special interest events specifically aimed at those currently not members of discussion groups will also be held.

Four demonstration farms will be used to show the expansion challenges arising across a variety of farm types while six focus farms will be used to demonstrate technical aspects of efficient milk production.

The demonstration farms will include a family farm with 60 cows going up to 90 cows; a new entrant with up to 90 cows; a family farm growing from 100 to 150 cows; and a large herd operation with a new entrant collaboration model. These will be used to demonstrate best practice in a number of areas including sustainable expansion.