Boom time for dairy farmers as incomes set to reach record levels in 2017


Dairy farm incomes are forecast to record strong growth this year, as the fortunes of other farming sectors continues to stagnate.

The national farm advisory body Teagasc says costs of production on farms have entered a benign period, with prices for feed, fertiliser and fuel well below the levels seen during the commodity prices boom earlier in the decade.

Aside from fuel prices, which are likely to average higher than in 2016, there are no signs of imminent production cost inflation in the agriculture sector in Ireland.

Irish farm milk prices have rebounded strongly over the last 12 months.

Having been at their lowest level since 2009, milk prices are now back to 33c/L and are providing the impetus for a continuing increase in milk production, which could be up by 7pc nationally in 2017 relative to last year.

With recovering milk prices, higher milk production and a static cost environment, average dairy farm margins could double in 2017.

Average dairy farm incomes are forecast to increase to between €75,000 and €80,000 in 2017, which would make it a record year for dairy farm income.

In the case of beef, the larger Irish cattle population is contributing to an increase in beef output this year, although slaughter weights are down slightly due to the increasing presence of dairy genetics in the national herd.

In spite of the weakness of sterling, which has an impact on returns from Ireland’s key beef export market, strong demand for beef at the EU level and growth in exports to non-EU markets should lead to a small increase in beef prices.

With little change in production costs, margins on single suckling farms will be largely stable in 2017, while margins on cattle finishing farms will be 11pc higher than in 2016.

On the sheep side, production in the EU and in Ireland is increasing in 2017, but this is being offset by a lower level of imports from outside the EU.

Lamb prices in 2017 are likely to average out at broadly similar levels to those observed in 2016, while costs are likely to remain relatively unchanged. In spite of the stable output prices and input costs, sheep farms should experience an increase in income due to improved farm productivity, which is forecast to boost both the volume and value of output at the farm level and lead to a small increase of 4pc in gross margin per hectare.

On the tillage side, yields are likely to be lower in 2017 than had been expected due to unfavourably dry conditions in the month of April.

On the flip side it looks like cereal prices in 2017 will be up slightly on last year.

Tillage farmers will also benefit from the lower fertiliser prices associated with producing the current harvest. Overall, tillage farm incomes are likely to be up slightly this year, mainly due to lower production costs.

By Ciaran Moran from the Farming section in the Irish Independent on Tuesday 1st August  

600 new dairy farmers since quotas ended

How to Control Parasites in Young Cattle

Glanbia is leading the charge, with 280 new milk suppliers since the watershed of April 2015.

More than 600 new farmers have entered dairying since quotas ended in April 2015.

A nationwide survey of co-ops by the Irish Farmers Journal shows a wide range in the number of new entrants, ranging from one to 280 new milk suppliers.

Glanbia leads the way, with 280 new milk suppliers since quotas ended. New entrants to the co-op must sign a milk supply agreement with Glanbia and Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) is mandatory. It has designated farm development staff who work with new entrants before they start to supply milk.

The next highest number of new entrants is with Lakeland Dairies, which has added 100 new suppliers since 2015.

Dairygold is not far behind, with 88 new milk suppliers to its roll call since 2015.

Kerry, Aurivo and Arrabawn are in a similar range, with 36, 29 and 28 new suppliers each.

The remaining co-ops – Drinagh, Barryroe, Bandon, Lisavaird, LacPatrick and Tipperary – have 10 or fewer new entrants since quotas ended.

As expected, the pace of dairy expansion accelerated once quota ended, with ICBF figures showing that 120,000 new cows were added to the national herd between June 2015 and June 2017.

Today, the national dairy herd is 40% bigger thanit was a decade ago.

Demand for dairy cows and heifers is strong this year, according to livestock agent David Clarke: “Trade is the liveliest it has been in a number of years. There is a lot of expansion and cows are scarce.

“The weather has been perfect, people are confident and they are holding on to cows.”

He quoted prices of €1,300 to €1,500 for freshly calved first, second and third lactation cows, with in-calf heifers starting to trade at €1,000 and upwards.

Clarke added that he is seeing “quite a few” new entrants putting in a robot for 60-cow herds, while the next step up appears to be 80 to 120 cows.

The biggest new entrants are large-scale 300- to 400-cow herds, such as the two Kehoe family tillage to dairy conversions in Co Wexford.

‘I took a break from dairy farming and returned more motivated than ever’


Taking a break from dairy farming can make a person return more focused and motivated than ever, according to the recent winner of the Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year award.

Shane Fitzgerald, who recently took home the award, is from Portlaw in Co. Waterford and he farms alongside his father.

The 26-year-old dairy farmer is currently milking 165 cows on a 250ac farm, which is made up of both owned and rented land.

Fitzgerald, who studied at Kildalton Agricultural College, believes it is imperative for any young farmer to take a break to travel or to even work on another farm, in order to broaden their horizons.

Any young farmers that I talk to, they all say ‘don’t rush home too soon’. Try and travel if you can; try and broaden your horizons.

Having attained a business degree at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and having completed the Level 6 Advanced Dairy Herd Management programme in Kildalton, Fitzgerald has made the most of the opportunities provided to him.


Shane Fitzgerald pictured alongside the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed; Chief Executive of FBD Insuranc, Fiona Muldoon; and Director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle

He travelled to Canada as part of an exchange programme while he was at WIT; spent time in the US on a J1 visa; and also worked in New Zealand during his time in Kildalton.

“It doesn’t have to be anything to do with agriculture, it hasn’t done me any harm. I’ve got away and I’ve taken a break from farming”.

I was more focused and driven when I came back, after getting the break. Maybe if you stay at it too long, you could get driven into the ground too young and you could lose interest.

“It was probably the best thing for me – I came back more motivated and focused. I knew what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Since then, I’ve driven on,” Fitzgerald said.

Don’t rush home too soon

The advice to spend some time away from the family farm applies even more so for young people whose parents may only be in their 40s or 50s, he said.

“They’re not going to hand over too much responsibility too soon. If you end up staying there, you could be 40-years-old yourself before you get the farm.”

You’re going to be there long enough; there is no point rushing back. In 10 or 15 years time you could have regrets about why you didn’t travel or see the world.

Family Farm

At the moment, Fitzgerald is keen to expand his own dairy operation in Co. Waterford.

We are planning, hopefully, over the next five years to get up to 200 cows; that’s the aim. We would still be keeping our heifers and cutting our own silage.

“We would be aiming to stock our land out to the max. The five-year plan was to get to 200 cows by 2019.

“We’re trying to maximise what we have, we’re not renting any more land or buying more land. We’re just trying to do all the basics right,” he said.

Importance of education

According to Fitzgerald, he has his mother to thank for advising him to enrol in a business degree at WIT.

“Farming at the time wasn’t stable; there was no guarantee that you could make a livelihood out of it. I decided to a business course in WIT, I did that for four years.”

“That was well worth doing because if I didn’t do that, I may have gone straight to Kildalton. I wouldn’t have been as mature or as focused as when I came back this time.

“I was really focused, I had all my plans written down. I worked hard towards that for the past couple of years,” he said.


The newly-crowned Student of the Year highlighted the importance for any farmer to write down the goals they’re working towards, even if they never reach them.

“It makes it more likely to achieve them if you have them written down. If anyone has the interest and the passion they can achieve anything – nothing is impossible.”

In the future, the young dairy farmer intends to keep this practice up and to continue looking for ways to improve his knowledge.

“I always try to keep learning and improving. I try to get to as many farm walks and discussion group meetings as I can – you’ll always learn something.”

“I’m trying to work smarter basically and to be more efficient – not work as long hours, but still have high profits and results. It’s all about striking a balance,” he concluded.

Top vet: Farmers need training on antibiotic use

Farmer training on antibiotics is key to ending drug misuse on farms, an animal health expert has warned.

Although the use of antibiotics in Irish livestock is among the lowest in Europe, Conor Geraghty, food animal chair of Veterinary Ireland, says upskilling farmers is necessary to drive further change.

Speaking at a major veterinary conference, organised by MSD Animal Health at the RDS in Dublin, Mr Geraghty called for formal training to be added to the Government’s Knowledge Transfer programme.


“Farmers have to do training courses to spray nettles at the back of their farm but they can use antimicrobials without any training, so training is an important next step.

“We need to update the way we are doing it and make sure we are doing it correctly because you fall into habits over the years.

“It should be brought into the next half of the Knowledge Transfer, and everyone should attend workshop training on the responsible and safe use of medicines,” he said.

This call was supported by Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, who also addressed the conference, which focused on Sustainable Irish Food production in 2025.

“The issue of sustainability of the food supply chain, a key issue for consumers and producers, is very high on the political agenda of the European Parliament,” she said.

“For Ireland as a major food producer, improving our sustainability is not just desirable, it is essential. This requires us to look at all aspects of the chain, what inputs are used, including the use of veterinary medicines.

“It requires us to not only make claims about our sustainability but to provide proof of those claims as today’s consumer is increasingly demanding this.”

Ms McGuinness said antibiotic resistance remains “a major global threat”.

She highlighted the current review of veterinary medical legislation at EU level, which is still in the legislative process but is due to be introduced over the next three years.

The review examines the authorisation, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, drug safety and use of veterinary medicinal products over their lifetime.

A recent EU report shows Irish farmers use one-eighth the amount of antibiotics used by farmers in Spain on a per animal basis – the Spanish are the highest users of antibiotics in the EU.

Vet Fergal Morris from MSD Animal Health, who spoke on the potential impact of new EU legislation, said that the use of preventative vaccines on Irish farms, which has more than doubled in the past decade, has set a “solid platform” for healthier animals which require less antibiotic intervention.

Indo Farming, 30 May, 2017.

Mental health a priority on all farms

Farming is up there as one of the most stressful jobs, working long hours, pretty much 7 days a week, 365 days a year. With that in mind, farming blogger Mark McConnell looks at the importance of looking after your mental health.

Farming is more than just a job, it’s a way of life. It’s a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation. Recently, one farmer said to me when speaking about handing his farm to his son; “you wouldn’t wish farming on your worst enemy at the moment”. This sums up how things are at the moment in the farming world and it is very hard not to get down and stressed by all the negatives that are coming at farmers.


I am a farmer myself and in my work as an agricultural advisor I talk to farmers every day.  There are a huge amount of pressures facing farmers on a daily basis and a lot of them the farmer can’t influence. We have the constant bad weather, the poor prices for outputs and high prices for inputs. The regulations that are constantly coming down the line and the threat of an inspection at any time. All of this is never too far from the farmers mind.

With all these negatives in mind, you could ask “why do they do it?”  The answer is for the love of the land, animals and the heritage that was passed down from their father and mother.  However, parents are now more reluctant to pass the farm down in the hope that the child will go to college and gain a better life for themselves.

For us die hards that won’t give up and keep drudging through the muck in the winter and summer, what can we do to improve and keep our mental health strong?

The farm may seem like most important thing to any farmer but if the farmer themselves is not in good health, mentally as much as physically, then the condition of the farm will start to slip. Keeping your mental health in it’s best condition and regularly doing what you can to look after it, is like regularly servicing your car or tractor – it will work better for you if you keep it looked after.

If you go out to a farm (and I have been in many yards over the years) you can tell very quickly the person who is of good state of mind and mentally happy. If the yard is a mess then this can sometimes reflect that the person’s mental state is a mess. If your mental health is strong and you are in a good place with yourself, when these external pressures come at you, you will be better equipped to deal with them and move on.

One real downside to a farmer being stressed is not being able to focus on the work at hand, which can end up being the cause of farm accidents and fatalities.

According to the recent IFA Let’s Talk campaign, a good way to try and prevent this from happening is to:

  • Recognise the symptoms of stress,
  • Identifying the causes, and
  • Taking steps to reduce and manage it.

By doing these three things, you will improve the quality of your life and make your farm a safer place to work.

This recent IFA incentive shared the following advice to help spot and manage stress

What is stress?

Anyone can suffer from stress. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand that makes you feel threatened or upsets your balance in some way. When working properly, stress helps you to stay focused, energetic, and alert. But beyond a certain point, it can stop being helpful and start causing damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and your quality of life.

What causes stress?

Many different things can cause stress. The very nature of farming means that a lot of our daily lives are not under our control, for example changes, in weather or commodity prices. Other common causes of stress include: bureaucracy, paperwork, complexity of farm schemes, cross-compliance inspections, reduced incomes, financial problems, work load, responsibility, health and safety on the farm, feeling isolated and relationship difficulties.

Signs of stress

Every person has a different reaction to stress, here are some of the more common warning signs that it’s time to manage your stress and consider getting help

Coping with stress

There are many things you can do to help yourself, from changing the way you look after yourself – your diet, exercise, leisure and sleep patterns – to changing the way you think about yourself, your relationships and the farm.

  1. Talk about it.
    Talk to a trusted friend, family member or neighbour. Make an appointment to see your GP. Expressing what you are going through can be very therapeutic, even if there is nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.
  2. Manage your time better.
    Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you are stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you do not overextend yourself, you can reduce the amount of stress you are under.
  3. Set realistic goals.
    Be selective and use your energy to do the most important and achievable tasks. Set realistic goals and do not blame yourself if you do not reach all of them, there is always next time.
  4. Focus on the positive.
    When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
  5. Eat well.
    Eat a variety of fresh foods in a balanced diet. Some foods actually cause increased tension, for example, coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol and soft drinks. These are often the foods we crave when we are stressed so be aware and try to limit your intake of them
  6. Exercise regularly.
    Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for exercise and find something you enjoy: sport, swimming, walking, dancing or cycling.
  7. Make time for relaxation.
    Even stopping for ten minutes a day to breathe slowly and deeply can help. Spend time on your own – reading, walking, or listening to music.
  8. Put a bit of fun and laughter in your life.


The above extract was taken from the IFA Let’s Talk – Dealing with Stress campaign.

There are some excellent places to start looking on line for help with your mental health if you feel that you want to improve it and make it more stronger or if you don’t feel happy and can’t understand why and you want to stop feeling like that check out the following websites to make a start

There are also some great organisations out there like GROW and AWARE were you can attend meetings on a weekly basis and they are all free of charge.

Mastitis – prevention is cheaper than cure!

Environmental mastitis is caused when bacteria from the cow’s surroundings enter the udder via the teat canal and cause infection.

This is the only way that environmental bacteria can enter the udder and it therefore, stands to reason that the only way to prevent environmental mastitis is to prevent bacteria from entering the teat canal.

How do we do this? With Boviseal internal teat sealant.

Sealing teats provides the only means of preventing bacteria from entering the udder and it is therefore, vital that farmers continue to seal.

As this x-ray shows, teats infused with Boviseal are completely sealed and it is physically impossible for bacteria to enter.

Boviseal teat sealant seals over 70% of Irish dairy cows annually and has a unique, patented formulation. It is proven to reduce mastitis in the dry period, in the first 100 days post calving and in the following lactation and it has been shown to give a 300% return on investment in an Irish-farm study.cow-teats

What many farmers do not realise is that, carried out correctly, the use of Boviseal will help prevent mastitis cases in the first 100 days post-calving.

Trial work has shown that over 50% of E Coli mastitis cases in the first 100 days of lactation entered the udder during the dry cow period when teat seals were not used. Some of these will be the acute cases around calving which can result in death if not treated promptly by vets with intravenous and oral medication.

Furthermore, the use of Boviseal also allows the gland the opportunity to deal with existing infections to ensure reduced SCCs and fewer chances of clinical mastitis the next lactation.

Subclinical Mastitis and The Cost of Poor Quality Milk

While prevention is always better than cure, inevitably treatment for some cows will be required.
These cows still need to receive both Boviseal teat sealant and an appropriate antibiotic dry cow therapy at dry off.

Subclinical mastitis causes high somatic cell count (SCC) in cows. High SCC cows produce both less milk, and lower quality milk than their low cell count cohorts and profitability is impacted as the farmer is penalised for high cell counts.

From a treating mastitis point of view, any cows with a cell count of over 150,000 have to be assumed to be suffering from subclinical mastitis and should receive a dry cow antibiotic in addition to Boviseal.cows-walking

There is good evidence to suggest that the use of dry cow therapy is more likely to result in the cure of existing subclinical mastitis than the use of lactating cow therapy.

The dry cow antibiotic must be specified based on which one will best treat the pathogens present in the herd and not on the basis of what is on special offer, or what has been used in previous years.

Farmers should sample at least six cows in the weeks prior to drying off for culture and sensitivity, and discuss their mastitis rate, SCC and goals with the vet before he or she can recommend which antibiotic policy and which tubes to use.


This is essential to ensure that an antibiotic tube with the best antibiotic type to eliminate the existing pathogens can be used.

In low cell count herds, the vet may advise a move towards Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT), whereby cows with a high SCC count receive carefully chosen antibiotic tubes and Boviseal, and those with a low SCC receive Boviseal alone.

The move towards SDCT is important as we endeavour to responsibly reduce our use of antibiotic use in the face of increasing resistance.

However, a move towards SDCT should only ever be carried out on the advice of a vet and will be determined by a number of factors, which take into account data from both the herd and the individual cow.

Farmers also have to be aware of the risks of unintentionally introducing environmental contamination and a good aseptic technique for insertion and careful monitoring of cows post dry off has to be practiced.

Sponsored by Bimedia, published on Agriland 12 September, 2016

Ireland gets 11m in new EU dairy package

milking machine

The European Commission has unveiled €500 million aid package for the EU Agriculture sector with particular emphasis on the dairy sector.

The package includes a €350 million conditional adjustment aid measure to be implemented by Member States – from which Ireland will receive €11.1m – and a €150 million EU wide measure to support voluntary reduction in milk production.

The European Commission also announced the extension of public intervention for Skimmed Milk Powder and private storage aid schemes to February 2017.

The package also includes provision for advance payment of key farm support payments.

The payment of up to 70% of direct payments and 85% for area based RDP payments from October 16 is to provide further relief to farmers experiencing liquidity issues, according to the Commission.

The package contains three main elements:

  • A EU-wide scheme to incentivise a reduction in milk production (€150 million)
  • Conditional adjustment aid to be defined and implemented at Member State level out of a menu proposed by the Commission (€350 million that Member States will be allowed to match with national funds, thus potentially doubling the level of support being provided to farmers)
  • A range of technical measures to provide flexibility (e.g. on voluntary coupled support), cash-flow relief (e.g. through an increase in the amount of the advances for both direct and area-based rural development payments) and reinforce the safety net instruments (by prolonging intervention and private storage aid for Skimmed Milk Powder).

The precise details of all the different measures will be finalised in the coming weeks, in consultation with Member State experts. Commenting on the package Minister Creed said he welcomed the fact the Commission has taken a two-pronged approach to dealing with the issue.

“Ireland’s views in relation to supply management are well known and we did not want today’s package to be focused exclusively on production discipline, although there were strong demands for that from some Member States.

“So the fact that 70% of today’s package has been directed to adjustment aid is very welcome. In relation use of these funds, I have argued strongly that the maximum possible flexibility needs to be given to Member States.

“While we still await full details, which we will examine closely, the flexibility indicated by the Commissioner to provide liquidity support to farmers is welcome,” he said.

Minister Creed commended Commissioner Hogan for delivering this package concluding that “€500 million is a significant package in the context of competing demands for funding within the EU at this time and underlines the Commissioners capacity to deliver for the Agriculture sector within the EU”.

Summer Flies. Time To Take Control Of Costly Summer Mastitis & Pink Eye

Whether your main enterprise is dairy, beef or sheep, flies are more than just a nuisance to your livestock and are often the vectors for disease that can result in reduced productivity and profitability, as well as animal welfare issues.

Summer FliesThis means that fly control over summer is vital. By reducing flies’ contact with livestock, we can better control key diseases such as Summer Mastitis, Pink Eye and Blowfly Strike. These common fly-borne diseases will reduce animal productivity and your profit margin, so it’s vital that we take a proactive approach to prevention. The good news is that we can introduce simple protocols to reduce the impact of summer flies- let’s take a look at how you can take back control

Summer Mastitis in particular is a disease which causes huge stress and expense for Irish farmers. Painful and debilitating, summer mastitis is a fly-borne disease resulting in the infection of the non-lactating mammary gland which affects dry cows, young calves and heifers.

Where animals are affected by summer mastitis, veterinary intervention will be required as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be needed. However, prevention is always better than cure as, in reality; most affected quarters will not recover.

Taking Control

Now is the time to act to reduce the risk on your farm. In most cases, successful prevention of fly-borne diseases is very reliant on the repelling the adult fly. Fly control is vital to prevent the disease from spreading from cow to cow. Fly control ear tags, insecticides, pour-ons and weekly application of stockholm tar can all play a role in fly control. Pour-ons (Dectospot, Spotinor, Ectospec) have zero milk withdrawal in cattle and can be used during both pregnancy and lactation.

7 Tips to Help Prevent Fires Around Farm Machinery

7 tips to help prevent fires around farm machinery

7 tips to prevent fires around farm machineryLast week in the Bansha area of Co. Tipperary local fire services were called out to a fire involving a tractor and trailer carrying 30 hay bales. The fire happened Tuesday afternoon and caused the road to be closed for several hours by the Gardaí. The summer months always prove the busiest time of year for farmers with work involving machinery increasing significantly.

Here are some useful tips to reduce the risk of your tractor or machinery catching fire.

  • Keep machinery clean and free of combustible materials, particularly engine compartments where machinery fires often start.
  • Make certain exhaust systems including manifolds, mufflers and turbochargers, are free of leaks and in good working order.
  • Follow instructions when installing and operating farm machinery and follow maintenance schedules.
  • Replace worn electrical components, bearings, belts or chains.
  • Keep appropriate fully charged fire extinguishers on tractors, combines, and near all farm machinery.
  • Welders and cutting torches should only be used in clean areas at least 35 feet away from any flammable and combustible materials. Welding curtains should be used.
  • Store vehicles and machinery, which present special hazards, in buildings separate from those used for other purposes.

The safest way to deal with fire is to prevent it according to the Health and Safety Authority.

Fire Extinguishers: Do you know how to work yours?

Many farmers own small fire extinguishers in case of an emergency, and if you don’t it is highly advisable that you do, but how many of us would be able to use them without first reading the instructions?

Remember the phrase P-A-S-S if you attempt to put out a small fire with an extinguisher.

P is for pull the pin of the extinguisher (or with some units, Press the puncture lever or release the lock hatch);

A is for aim low or point the unit’s nozzle at the base of the fire;

S is for squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent;

and S is for sweep from side to side. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until it appears to be out.

Never turn your back on a small fire, even if it looks as if it is out. Be prepared in case it flashes again.