Milk output predicted to reach 9.5 billion litres by 2027 – Teagasc

Milk output in Ireland is expected to reach some 9.5 billion litres by 2027, according to the Teagasc 2027 Sectoral Road Map for dairy.

By the same year, national milk solids production (kg fat plus protein) will be over 751,000t.

The Sectoral Road Map was released today (Wednesday, November 25) during the Teagasc Dairy Conference, which began yesterday and is ongoing today.

By 2027, there will be approximately 17,000 dairy farms, with dairy cow numbers expected to increase to 1.65 million. The average herd size by that year will be around 100 cows.

The average amount of milk delivered per farm will increase to over 557,750L, at 3.6% protein and 4.4% butterfat. The number of replacement heifers born will be around 400,000, compared to a 2019 figure of 396,000.

Despite the generally positive trends in terms of performance and growth, the road map does highlight that the sector will continue to face challenges on the environmental side. Furthermore, milk price volatility is expected to remain a feature of the industry.

The road map document states that, while other models of land use and management will become more popular, it is “important that the family farming model of milk production is maintained”.

An increasing number of trained and skilled dairy farm operatives (including the farmers themselves) is expected to be necessary as time goes on, as will be increased integration between the dairy and beef sectors to “sustainably manage” increasing numbers of calves.

Environment

The increasing size of dairy herds will require an increase in land requirement, even after increased stocking rates are taken into account, according to the document.

The main challenges that the sector will face in terms of the environment will be reducing nutrient loss to water; reducing both greenhouse gas (GHG) and ammonia emissions; and improving habitats for biodiversity.

Teagasc predicts that the key actions that will have to be taken to address these issues are:

  • An overall focus on the improvement of nutrient use efficiency (in terms of both nitrogen and phosphorous);
  • A focus on grassland management to increase pasture utilisation and clover content, and to decrease nitrogen fertiliser use;
  • The implementation of measures to halt the decline of biodiversity;
  • The implementations of actions to reduce risk of ‘point source’ (farmyard) and ‘diffuse’ (land) losses of nutrient to water.

The document states that Teagasc will at some point be publishing a ‘blueprint’ for the ‘sustainable dairy farm of the future’.

The body will also continue to conduct research into nitrogen use efficiency, including examining soil health and the use of white clover and multi-species swards to replace chemical nitrogen.

Teagasc will also, the document says, “investigate options to reduce both enteric methane production and the carbon footprint of milk production”.

Genetics and dairy beef

The road map outlines that Teagasc aims to develop evaluations to facilitate the further development of both the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and the Dairy Beef Index (DBI). In addition, an index to assist the trade of dairy calves to beef farmers is set to be developed.

Teagasc says it will also look to increase both the usage of sexed semen and the genetic merit of beef sires used in the dairy herd.

The state body says it will also develop and evaluate technologies to monitor and improve animal welfare, animal health and product quality, while also monitoring and reducing antibiotic usage on dairy farms.

A sustainable dairy beef demonstration farm is also in the pipeline, according to the road map.