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Teagasc Dairy Conference - ‘Turning Challenges into Opportunities’

Teagasc Dairy Conference - ‘Turning Challenges into Opportunities’

Major challenges have emerged for Irish agriculture and indeed the wider economy during 2022. Most immediate have been the consequences of war in Ukraine, including rapid input price inflation, plus uncertainty around supply chains for fertilizer, fuel and feed.

It is against this background that the Teagasc National Dairy Conference 2022 - ‘Turning Challenges into Opportunities’ took place yesterday, Tuesday, 6 December in Cork. The conference is repeated again on Thursday, 8 December in Mullingar, for dairy farmers in the northern half of the country. 

Chairman of the Teagasc Authority, Liam Herlihy said; “A relatively strong milk price this year has protected farm margins to a fair extent against these cost pressures, however dairy farmers are all-too-aware of the risks that market volatility can bring to their business over the longer term.”

Teagasc Dairy Conference - ‘Turning Challenges into Opportunities’Pictured (L to R): Kevin Twomey, dairy farmer Cork; Conor Galvin, CEO Dairygold; Prof. Mary Flynn, FSAI; Liam Herlihy, Teagasc Chairman and Dr Joe Patton, Teagasc Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference on 'Turning Challenges into Opportunities' in Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork. Photo O'Gorman Photography.

Conor Galvin, Chief executive of Dairygold Co-op spoke about how demand for dairy is still increasing globally. There is some correction taking place in the market now, but the price is still significantly above the ten year average price. 

Dr Mary Flynn from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, said that there is a need to educate consumers on nutrition, right up from primary school level. People know that milk is a good source of calcium, but they may not know that dairy is also an excellent source of high quality protein. 

One of the important sessions at the conference was outlining how farm productivity can be maintained and improved in grass based production systems that are less reliant on chemical nitrogen fertilizer. The roles of white and red clover on grass farms in fixing nitrogen were presented, with input from dairy farmer Michael Gowen on how he is implementing this on his own farm. There is growing adoption of proven measures at farm level such as using protected urea to lower emissions and reduction of chemical N through use of clover.

Producing higher quality calves from the dairy herd was the theme of the afternoon session. The recently-launched EBI carbon sub-index, and updated beef measures that include reduced days to slaughter, are positive developments on the journey to lower carbon systems. 

The potential of the dairy beef index to improve beef merit in calves coming from the dairy herd was also outlined, which has important economic and sustainability benefits. The discussion at the conference explored how this technology can be implemented to the mutual benefit of dairy and beef farmers.

The recently launched Teagasc Climate Action strategy was presented including the three pillars of that strategy;

  1. A Signpost Advisory Programme 
  2. A Sustainability Digital Platform where farmers can benchmark their own carbon number 
  3. A Virtual National Centre for Agri-food Climate Research and Innovation

The full conference proceedings are available at:  https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2022/national-dairy-conference-2022.php

To register for the Conference in Mullingar tomorrow, Thursday, visit https://www.teagasc.ie/news--events/national-events/events/dairyconferencemullingar.php