Irish dairy farms produced, on average, 11,087L/ha of milk in 2016, according to Teagasc National Farm Survey. This is a 3% rise on 2015 levels when the average quantity of milk produced stood at 10,755L/ha.

Data taken from 303 dairy farms – a representative sample of the 15,735 manufacturing milk suppliers nationally – showed that the top-performing dairy farms produced 7,031L more milk per hectare than the bottom third of farms.

Dairy farmers in the top 33% produced 14,675L/ha in 2016; the bottom third only averaged 7,644L/ha.

According to the 2016 National Farm Survey, the quantity of milk solids produced per hectare was also higher in 2016 than the year before.

Cows averaged 424kg of milk solids in 2016 – a 5% increase on the quantity produced during the year previous.

Another improvement highlighted by the data was the drop in Somatic Cell Count (SCC). The average SCC on dairy farms in 2016 was 168,000 cells/ml – a reduction of 7% year-on-year.


Significant variation in performance

Gross margin per hectare was almost three times higher for farmers in the top 33% than those in the bottom third, the survey has revealed.

The top dairy farms in 2016 were generating an average gross margin of €2,734/ha.

Farmers in the middle and bottom thirds had gross margins of €1,713/ha and €990/ha respectively.

A noticeable difference in stocking rate was shown between the three groups. Top producers were carrying 2.54 cows per hectare, while those in the bottom 33% had a much lower stocking rate of 1.63 cows per hectare.

The data also showed more efficient use of concentrate feed by the top-performing dairy farms.

Top producers fed, on average, 25% less concentrate per litre of milk produced than farmers in the bottom third.

Net margin per litre of milk produced varied considerably in 2016 across the top, middle and bottom groups. The top-performing farms produced a net margin of almost 10c/L and those in the bottom third only produced a net margin of 3.37c/L.