Teagasc dairy research scientist Donal Patton believes that the banks have a key role to play in supporting the growth opportunities that can be availed of by Irish dairy farmers, once milk quotas come to an end next year.

Speaking at the Dairy Conference at the Virginia Show, he said they must look at the bigger picture when it comes to meeting the needs of producers. “The reality is that most Irish dairy farmers will gain much more from an investment in their farm infrastructure than they will from the purchase of a new tractor.

“Improving farm road networks and soil fertility are key drivers for the Irish dairy industry. And this is a message which the banks must take on board. To date they have been very loathe to support expenditure on improved drainage and the acquisition of inputs such as lime and additional phosphate fertiliser. This must change.”

He also said that dairy farmers must be prepared to radically change their thinking as they look to the future. “Many producers, I know, are addressing the challenges of improving efficiency and upping the scale of their enterprises. The reality is that both issues go hand-in-hand. Farmers must look at improving both of these facets of their dairy farming businesses at the same time.”

Significantly, Donal Patton pointed out that dairy farmers in Cavan can be every bit as efficient as their counterparts in Cork, when it comes to procuring optimal levels of milk output form grazed grass. “The starting point on all farms is that of assessing the current output of the business and working through the potential for growth in the future,” he said.

“Dairy farmers must target to secure between 10 and 14 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare from their swards. After that, the focus must be placed on the cow type that is bred on each farm and its relevance to the harvesting of grazed grass in the most efficient manner possible. And in this regard, the option of looking at cross breeding programmes should be looked at with an open mind. All of the research carried out both here in Ireland and internationally points to the benefits that can be accrued from a well-planned cross breeding programme.”