Dairy farmers thinking of expanding need to be efficient first, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney told the Teagasc/ICOS dairy conference ‘The End of the Beginning’.

“We need efficient farms before we get larger. We are not in the business of supporting inefficient farms.

“Farmers get that and I hope the banks get it too.”

He also said that the ‘story’ of dairy expansion has the potential to offer a very positive offering for Ireland and must be monitored weekly and monthly.

“This is bigger than simply agriculture. The three biggest investments that Enterprise Ireland has ever made have been in agriculture in the last few years. Dairy within the food industry, has huge promise.”

Thia Hennessy said that since the introduction of milk quotas, the number of dairy herds has dramatically reduced while an almost 50% increase in the output per cow was seen in Ireland.

New Zealand output tripled in the same time since Ireland was curtailed with milk quota, but this level of output would not have happened in Ireland, she said.

The land market, she said, in New Zealand does not have the same issues around price and the low levels of transition as exist in Ireland.

Closer to home, Trevor Donnellan told the conference that EU dairy production has massive variations. “A relatively small number of countries produce 70% of EU milk production.”