Lakeland Dairies has launched a 28-page booklet containing recommendations, tips and case studies "aimed at making farm life easier" for its milk suppliers.

The booklet will be sent to the processor's suppliers in the coming days. The initiative is part of the third phase of the Lakeland/Teagasc Joint Development Programme.

The booklet uses "real life examples" from farmers in Lakeland's catchment area, and showcases the "best labour-efficient techniques".

The booklet takes a "calendar-style approach" to labour, looking at key areas that farmers can address at different times of the year.

It was compiled by Adrian McKeague and Owen McPartland from the joint Lakeland/Teagasc programme.

The purpose of the programme is, according to a Lakeland statement, to maximise efficiency and profitability for dairy farmers on a sustainable basis.

"As herd size has expanded in recent years, we wanted to showcase simple, time-efficient farming techniques - already working across our catchment area for our milk suppliers - with this booklet," said McKeague.

Total hours worked on a farm is an important element in planning dairy expansion and is often overlooked. An additional labour cost should be included into expansion planning.

Alo Duffy, chairperson of Lakeland Dairies, commented: "As herd sizes grow, so too does workload, which needs to be handled as efficiently as possible to avoid undue pressure for the farmer.

"The overall balance that needs to be achieved comes from knowing what is already tried and tested, implementing practical initiatives while taking time to plan out the farm’s activities and also getting advice and assistance," Duffy added.

His colleague, Lakeland CEO Michael Hanley, said: "Dairy farmers work long and hard, day in and day out. As they continue to grow their milk production, this raises important issues around the provision of labour to cope with this expansion. It’s one of the biggest challenges facing dairy farmers today."

According to figures from Teagasc, as many as 6,000 people will be required to fill on-farm roles in Ireland over the next decade, with many of those on dairy farms.

Over 93% of Lakeland suppliers have said they will stay in milk production for the future, with many of these planning to expand their milk production. Over a third of the processor's suppliers employ staff on their farms - 8% of them employ full-time staff and 28% employ part-time staff.