Fine-tuning Irish Dairy: What are the key challenges facing the sector?

A dairy conference for some of Ireland’s top dairy farmers was hosted by Irish Farmers Monthly today, Wednesday, April 3, bringing together more than 150 farmers and industry leaders to discuss challenges currently facing the dairy industry.

Entitled ‘Fine-tuning Irish Dairy: Family, Finances and Farm Management’, the conference was held at The Limerick Strand Hotel and sponsored by AXA Ireland and MSD Animal Health.


Speakers at the event highlighted the fact that Irish dairy farming has moved into a new era, utilising advanced technologies across livestock breeding, grassland management, farm finance and animal health protocols to deliver efficiencies and profitability.

Apart from price volatility, Brexit and EU trade negotiations, other key challenges facing Irish milk producers were identified.

These include potential production restrictions based on carbon inputs, difficulties sourcing competent labour and managing larger scale herds.

Commenting on the event, Irish Farmers Monthly editor Matt O’Keeffe explained: “The challenges facing Irish milk producers are significant.

“They include labour shortages and managing scale. This conference shows dairy farmers a range of practical, scientific and technological options to improve the management of their herds and farms, drive efficiencies and increase profitability, while improving the environmental impact of their farming activities.”

L-R: Christy Doherty, head of farm, AXA Ireland; Rebecca Markey, CEO, IFP Media; and William Minchin, MSD Animal Health. Image source: Don Moloney

Meanwhile, education is key to improving efficiency in the dairy industry according to Matt Ryan, agri-consultant and dairy editor of Irish Farmers Monthly:

“This conference brings together the cream of dairy farmers to debate, discuss and fine-tune the future of the industry in a changing environment.”

Christy Doherty, head of farm at AXA Insurance, also commented, saying: “The lack of competition in this market has meant a lack of innovation and value for farmers.

We have completed in-depth research to understand what farmers want and we have built the AXA products to meet those needs.

“We have opened a specialist Farm Centre in Athlone with a dedicated agri-specialist telephony service. We will also assist customers through our nationwide brokerage system, through our online service, and in our branch network,” Doherty added.

Fergal Morris, managing director, MSD Animal Health, said: “The Irish dairy industry is recognised as one of the most sustainable dairy industries in the world.

Our dairy industry is recognised as having one of the lowest carbon footprints and it is one of the lowest users of antibiotics due to a combination of maximising milk production from grass, excellent management and world-class genetics.

“MSD Animal Health is a world leader in the production of vaccines for the prevention of diseases, including the main infectious causes of diarrhoea, respiratory disease and infertility.

“Vaccines can be used to reduce mortality and increase production resulting in lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”