Northern Irish Lakeland suppliers optimistic for future growth

Lakeland Dairies’ milk suppliers in Northern Ireland are confident for their future in dairying, according to the results of the Northern Irish arm of the survey undertaken by the co-operative.

95% of Lakeland milk suppliers say they will stay in production for the future, including expansion already completed to date.

This is pretty much in line with their counterparts in the Republic, where a comparable 93% was recorded, following the release of the southern survey results earlier this week.

Also Read: Expansion firmly on the minds of suppliers in new Lakeland survey

In addition to farmers who have grown their output, half of Lakeland milk suppliers said they will further expand their milk production by approximately 3% in each year to 2022.

Lakeland Dairies sources over 600 million litres of milk annually from over 700 high-quality family farms in Northern Ireland, the farmer-owned co-op has said.

With a portfolio of 240 different dairy products, exported to 80 countries internationally, the co-operative’s Global Logistics Centre and foodservice manufacturing site is located at Newtownards, with butter and powder facilities also located at Banbridge, Co. Down.

The Lakeland Dairies survey asked the co-operative’s Northern Ireland milk suppliers about their intentions across several key areas including their future plans, age and succession intentions, herd size and output, land, buildings and livestock planning.

Results

In terms of the results, it was found that 90% of Lakeland milk suppliers in Northern Ireland are full-time dairy farmers.

Over a third of all Lakeland milk suppliers are under the age of 45, and a further third are between 45 and 54 years of age. This compares to about 25% of suppliers under 45 south of the border. 11% are under 35 years of age in the North.

By 2022, Lakeland milk suppliers say that they will increase cow numbers on the farm by 11% and milk output from the farm will increase by 14% to approximately 1.26 million litres.

Almost two thirds of all milk suppliers said they have identified a successor to take over their dairy business. A substantial 77% of successors are under 35 years of age and the vast majority of these have already undertaken training ranging from Greenmount qualifications to a primary Degree in Agriculture.

The average area of land that Lakeland milk suppliers own is 139ac plus a further 103ac of rented land  to total 242ac.

Of this, an average of 105ac is available for grazing by the dairy herd. More than half of all Lakeland suppliers said they may have access to more land to rent or purchase in the next five years.

Farm practices

In terms of farm practices, nine out of 10 Lakeland milk suppliers have milk recording facilities in place, with about 40% actively milk recording.

80% of milk suppliers have tested their soil in the past three years and a half of all milk suppliers are in discussion groups.

Approximately half of all Lakeland Dairies’ milk suppliers use nutrient management plans and production costing as part of their dairy farming.

On average, the number of dairy cows on the co-op’s supplying dairy farms is 142 with a further 49 replacements also on the farm. Almost two-thirds of milk suppliers calve all year round.

Also Read: Lakeland suppliers offer insight into farm management in new survey

Many supplier dairy farms employ staff on either a full-time (21%) or part-time (36%) basis. Some 43% of milk suppliers do not employ any labour on the farm, other than the family’s own inputs.

Lakeland Dairies’ Chairman, Alo Duffy welcomed the findings of the survey:

“A thriving co-operative dairy industry is essential to support Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers and the wider community through the promotion of economic growth and rural development.

Lakeland Dairies has invested substantially in processing capacity over the past eight to 10 years. This will enable us to process all milk sent to us by our suppliers over the next three to four years and onwards.

“The overall competitiveness that we are pursuing will ensure that Lakeland Dairies has the capacity to promote the future success of dairy farming in Northern Ireland long into the future.”