Smaller dairy farmers will not be able to generate an adequate income from dairy farming alone, and will have to probably supplement their income with off-farm income, in the coming years.

Speaking at an Oireachtas committee meeting on dairy expansion, the head of Teagasc’s Dairy Knowledge Transfer Tom O’Dwyer said that Teagasc may redefine what a smaller farmer is as the average herd size goes from 65 to 85 cows.

The definition of a small dairy farmer will change in the coming years, as the average herd size increases from 65 head to 85, he said, and that smaller dairy farmers will have to supplement their farm income to provide an adequate income.

However, he also said that Teagasc “absolutely recommends” better before bigger and skill before scale and that expansion should not be on the minds of many dairy farmers.

“We are not promoting more cows at all costs. There is a large cohort of farmers that have no place to be thinking of more cows.”

He also said that the exit from dairying has been matched by the number of new entrants, while advice on the perils of dairy expansion is interwoven across the communications platforms Teagasc uses to reach its dairy farmers.

“We have 6,000 dairy farmers in our dairy discussion groups.”