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Winter Milk

Winter Milk Producers

Winter milk producers constitute a vital sub-sector within a highly seasonal Irish dairy industry. Year-on-year these farms meet demand for a consistent daily supply of quality fresh milk to the domestic market. They also provide winter volumes for manufacture of specific products. In 2018, there were approximately 1800 registered liquid milk producers in the state. They supplied just over 14% of national production (1.1bn litres), of which 45% (490m litres or 6% of total national production) was used for domestic consumption. It is estimated that a further 600 - 800 farms nationally produce winter milk under various non-registered price incentive schemes.

Viability of winter milk production

There are significant challenges to the future viability of winter milk production, within and beyond the farm gate. Abolition of EU milk quotas has prompted some to re-assess the optimal production system for their farms. Potential changes to international market conditions increases risk of price volatility. Securing quality labour is also a major issue. Nonetheless, Teagasc benchmarking data show that the more technically proficient winter milk producers continue to operate profitable and sustainable farms. The challenge for research and extension is to develop best practice and promote greater uptake of key technologies among winter milk producers in general.

Managing winter milk herds

Many aspects of herd management are common to winter and manufacturing milk farms alike - e.g. soil fertility, animal health, cost control. The key defining feature of winter milk herds however is a requirement for at least a proportion of autumn calving to guarantee sufficient milk production across the winter period.  This brings specific questions in terms of forage quality and herd nutrition, calving pattern and fertility, and young stock management.

More information on winter milk 

National Winter Milk Open Day 2023 - Futureproofing our Winter Milk Systems - Johnstown Castle September 6th 2023

Feed quality and genetics delivering for the winter milk herd at Johnstown - Dairy Edge Podcast May 2022

Breeding Targets for Winter Milk Herds - Teagasc Daily December 2021

Feed plan for winter milk herds - Teagasc Daily November 2021

Setting up the winter diet for freshly calved cows - Teagasc Daily October 2020

Comparing Calving Patterns For Winter Milk Systems (pdf) - Moorepark Open Day July 2019 

Improving Profit and Sustainability on Winter Milk Farms - Booklet and boards from the Johnstown Castle Winter Milk Event September 2019