Milk output racing two years ahead of Food Harvest targets
Production hits a record 7.5 billion litres and set to grow another 5pc this year
THE dairy sector looks set to power ahead with expansion after hitting the 7.5 billion litres production milestone two years’ ahead of the Food Harvest 2020 target.
Milk supplies surged in December and are predicted to grow by around 5pc this year.
A record 7.5 billion litres was collected last year — a 53.5pc rise on the 4.9 billion litres target envisaged by the Food Harvest 2020 blueprint for the sector.
Teagasc Moorepark’s Pat Dillon said the increase in solids was absolutely “massive”. Solids had risen by 63.5pc since the 2007-2009 baseline with a 4.3pc rise recorded over the last year.
The statistics show 7.5 billion litres was collected last year with solids of 4.14pc fat and 3.48pc protein. This compares with an average of 3.82pc fat and 3.33pc protein on the Food Harvest baseline.
Meanwhile, leading milking machine manufacturers are reporting a massive growth in sales for 2018-2019.
Edmond Harty of Dairymaster said they had a very busy start to their year, which runs from November to October, with activity up around 30pc in the season to the end of October.
Niall McGauran of the Lely Centre in Mullingar was equally bullish, maintaining that the company “had never been busier” and he forecast that sales would increase by around 60pc this year.
Mr Harty said the increased investment on dairy farms was a ref lection of bigger cow numbers and a shortage of labour.
He pointed out that the increase in cow numbers from around one million to 1.45 million since 2010 had been mirrored by a similar lift in milking machine size to around 20-24 units.
Mr Harty said milking machine specs were also being driven by the need to increase milking speeds and milking performance.
Cluster removers were now standard on milking machines, while the shift towards selective dry-cow therapy was driving demand for features such as ‘cluster cleanse’ which sanitises each cluster between cows, he explained.
While sales of rotary parlours have increased in Ireland, Mr Harty said the Co Kerry-based operation is also dealing with a sharp lift in demand from Germany, Russia and China.
A greater acceptance that robots work very well in an Irish spring-calving, grassbased system has helped drive sales, according to Mr McGauran.
He said another 250 robots will be added this year to the 850 already operating across the 32 counties.
Mr McGauran said 70pc of the new robots were going to existing dairy farmers, while 30pc have been purchased by new entrants.
Lely’s biggest customer in Ireland has six robots working on a 450-cow herd. Generally, two robots will do 120-140 cows.
Mr McGauran added that a shortage of suitable labour was one of the main reasons for installing robots, along with improved herd management — through such features as automatic heat detection. The TAMS grants were also a “massive help”, he admitted.