Irish dairy farmers ‘face average debt of €75,000’

Strengthening the business is important for resilience, according to Teagasc’s Dr. Brendan Horan, who was speaking at the Moorepark ’17 open day in Teagasc Moorepark, Co. Cork, yesterday, July 4.

Horan also noted that the average milk price has increased by 4c/L (cpl) in the last decade. However, milk price volatility has increased “three-fold” over the same period.

Opening proceedings for the day was Teagasc’s Dr. Pat Dillon, who gave a brief overview of the Irish dairy industry before the group moved on to the next station.

Dillon spoke of the presence of debt in Irish dairy farms, pointing out that €75,000 was the average burden. He added: “However, we are now one of the most competitive countries out there in terms of milk composition and quality.”

Pat Dillon speaking at the Moorepark open day


Ireland’s major improvements in the last couple of years include: milk fat; milk protein; and EBI (Economic Breeding Index). Milk fat has increased over the last couple of years from 3.8% to 4.1%.

Horan mentioned how the average herd size has also grown from 58 to 70 cows in a short space of time.

What might come as a surprise to many, however, is that the average debt level has in fact declined on a “per kg of milk solids (MS)” basis.

Management influences profit

Horan explained how the value of your milk cheque can be improved through better decision-making, adding that there was “further scope for further improvements”.

A six-week calving rate and EBI can also directly influence productivity levels, according to the Teagasc Grassland Science Principal Research Officer.

Where do we improve?

Horan finished his presentation by highlighting where improvements to farm business success are most likely to come from.
  1. Soil fertility – it is important to be able to “power out grass”. Horan labelled this a “low-cost investment”;
  2. EBI and contract-rearing – investing in EBI is very “important” and perhaps contract-rearing should be looked at more;
  3. Labour – people are “really important” to the success of the business;
  4. Extra feeds – we need “more of these on our farms”.

Other stations that proved popular on the day included: ‘Making dairy farming attractive’ by Padraig French; ‘Feeding the herd’ by Michael O’Donovan and Michael Egan; and ‘The perfect cow’ by Donagh Berry.