A new development programme launched by one of Northern Ireland's biggest milk processors will help the region's farmers maximise efficiency and profitability.

Lakeland Dairies' new Dairy Development Programme will work in close association with the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

It includes technical advice on: grassland management; milk solids; dairy herd fertility; quality management; and sustainable expansion.

Local research

Working alongside CAFRE Business Development Groups (BDGs), the new programme is designed to help farmers improve on-farm efficiency, leading to sustainable and profitable growth in their farming businesses.

The Dairy Development Programme will use the findings of locally-based research that is relevant to the needs of Lakeland Dairies’ milk-supplying farmers in Northern Ireland.

As part of the programme, a dedicated dairy specialist, Niall McCarron will work with Lakeland milk suppliers in an advisory capacity.

He will also provide a planning and technical service to potential new entrants to milk production.

The programme will include a variety of workshops, farm walks and open days exploring dairy farm structures and management practices for milk suppliers.

Sustainable expansion

The new programme was launched on the farm of Lakeland supplier Alan Irwin, Fintona, Co. Tyrone.

Alan Irwin farms outside Fintona in Co. Tyrone, milking 200 cows. Cows calve all year round and the current herd performance is 7,000L a cow with butterfat at 4.0% and protein at 3.46%.

Irwin plans to expand the herd over the next five years with an aim of milking close to 300 cows by 2023.

Speaking at the launch, Lakeland Dairies chairman, Alo Duffy said: "I’m delighted to see this important initiative being launched because it’s essential for dairy farmers to be able to make decisions based on solid expertise and advice and that is exactly what our programme is supporting. We welcome the association with CAFRE in the Lakeland programme."