Teagasc fully recognises the additional challenges faced by milk producers in those areas of the country with heavier soils and more problematic climatic conditions, according to the organisation’s Professor Pat Dillon.

Producers in these areas need a better farm infrastructure, he said.

“Closer attention must also be paid to soil fertility and, in my opinion, farmers on heavier soils should have access to drainage schemes.

“This type of measure could be introduced in ways that have no impact on the environment or conservation value of land.”

Dillon was speaking at yesterday’s Teagasc National Dairy Conference in Mullingar. He said that average costs of milk production on Irish farms had fallen by 3.5c/L over the past two years.

“This has been the real response to volatility. We are also seeing significant improvements in milk component levels and farmers securing significant improvement in milk production per hectare.”

Dillon confirmed that these improvements had been secured on the back of dairy farmers adopting new technologies.

We are seeing this particularly with regard to animal breeding, grassland management and animal health-related practises.

Dillon said that overall efficiency levels achieved on Irish dairy farms had increased by 10%, again over the past two years.

“The penny has dropped with farmers that they must breed cows with improved EBI figures. Improved grassland management will pay a dividend in terms of more milk per cow and higher stocking levels,” he said.

“The need to further boost animal health levels is obvious.”

The Moorepark-based research leader pointed out that the biggest challenge facing the Irish dairy industry is that of finding the increased numbers of well-trained young people that will be required by the industry over the coming years.

“We also need to ensure that existing producers get the training they need to ensure that they are well positioned to adapt new technologies efficiently and in a timely manner.”