Irish dairy farmers 66% of the way to Food Harvest 2020 targets

Irish dairy farms have hit a significant milestone in terms of the Food Harvest 2020 milk production targets, according to Teagasc’s Pat Dillon.

The Teagasc Head of Moorepark said that Irish farmers produced 6,399m litres of milk in 2015, 66% of the target set out under the Department of Agriculture’s Food Harvest 2020 plan.

Milk production increased significantly between 2014 and 2015, he said, jumping by 748m, while cow numbers only increased by 100,000 head.

Comparing this to the quota era of 2007-2009, the volume of milk produced on Irish dairy farms in 2015 is up by 1,467m litres or almost 30%.

Along with an increase in litres, Dillon said that the volume of milk solids produced on Irish dairy farms has also increased.

Between 2014 and 2015, the Teagasc Head said that the milk fat percentage on Irish farmers increased by 0.04% while the protein percentage jumped by 0.07%.

Speaking at a joint Bank of Ireland and Teagasc Dairy Information Seminar on Thursday, the Teagasc representative said that the Food Harvest 2020 target of producing 7,600m litres of milk by 2020 is achievable.

Already in 2016, he said, the volume of milk produced has increased by 5% compared to last year.

But to ensure that this target is achieved, Dillon said dairy farmers need to focus on improving the genetics of the national dairy herd.

Dillon cited independent research that showed that the EBI has delivered €631m of benefits to the Irish dairy industry up until 2015.

And, if farmers continue to use this breeding aid, the benefits from genetic improvement would be worth €1.13 billion to Irish farmers.

“The composition of milk is a critical point,” he said, with the 0.3% increase in milk protein seen on Irish farms between 2001 and 2013 worth €107.7m to the farmers each year.

He also advised farmers to try an increase the amount of grass utilised on their farms to 11t/ha as each extra tonne of grass utilised is worth €161/ha farmed.