Incentivising young farmers into the dairy industry will continue to be a big challenge and more should be done to encourage them – that’s the view of Ronan O’Connor, area development officer with the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Speaking on the latest Farmland programme, produced by Agriland Media Group, O’Connor said that some of the requirements being introduced in relation to environmental goals are not incentivising young farmers and new entrants to the sector.

He outlined that the cohort is facing numerous challenges around labour shortages and tighter cuts around methane emissions. O’Connor warned that care should be taken not to deter young people from dairy farming.

He said:

“I think that we need to be very careful on how we work with young farmers and how we keep them interested in the industry, because at the end of the day, we want to continue seeing farm families in rural Ireland.

“We are great food producers here, we have to keep incentivising young farmers and protect the family farm right into the future,” he added.

You can watch the full interview with Ronan O’Connor by clicking the video below.

However, on a positive note, O’Connor also noted that young farmers have been quick to embrace new technologies and infrastructure that can increase efficiencies on-farm.

“They are all up to date on that which is brilliant and that will help in the whole environmental issue because they will get the best out of each cow and the best out of every acre of land,” he said.

Group for young farmers

O’Connor has also been working to establish a new group for young dairy farmers within the ICMSA over the past two years, and a number of meetings have taken place in the southeast already.

Despite being delayed by lockdowns and restrictions, a branch of the group has already been established in south Tipperary, where more than six meetings have been held, as well as a farm walk, which took place in Thurles.

The group, which meets every four to six weeks, aims to offer an opportunity for young farmers and new entrants to the sector to meet others in their community and discuss policies as well as any challenges they are facing.

O’Connor said that he began looking into the idea before the Covid-19 pandemic and felt there was great enthusiasm for such a group among the community.

“I gathered a few together within the area and it’s been a success so far. [The walk] was brilliant, we had a chat about the importance of farm organisations and how they can work for a younger level,” he said.

O’Connor outlined that he is currently working on establishing branches in counties Kilkenny, Offaly and north Tipperary, and added that it could go even further, down the line.

“There’s great drive for it there and I would like to expand it to most counties in the country but we’ll have to see how it gets on,” he concluded.