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

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - LOUISE HO­GAN AND DE­CLAN O’BRIEN

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.

Ro­bots

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.

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