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Dairy Research at the Agricultural Research Forum

The Agricultural Research Forum features all the latest agricultural research from the major research institutes on the island of Ireland each year. More than 200 delegates from Teagasc, University College Dublin, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Northern Ireland, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Public Works, Queen’s University, Belfast, National University of Ireland, Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick and Athlone Institute of Technology are attending the two-day annual Forum in Tullamore.
“This is an exciting time for Irish agriculture with buoyant product prices, rapid increase in exports and strong world demand for food products,” said Michael Diskin, Chair of the Organising Committee.  “Most of the studies reported on at the forum are focussed on issues that are highly relevant to the agriculture and food industry in Ireland,” he explained. Today at the forum delegates attended sessions on Soils, Environment and Greenhouse Gases, Animal Reproduction, Fertilizer and Nutrient Use, Animal Nutrition, Systems and Economics and Animal Health and Welfare.

New Entrant Dairy Scheme
In advance of EU milk quota abolition in 2015, the Irish government had decided to allocate one quarter of the annual 1% increase in milk quota between 2009 and 2015 on a permanent basis to new entrants to dairying. Two hundred and thirty new entrants successfully received 200,000L of milk quota in the initial three years under the New Entrant Dairy Scheme.
Roberta McDonald presented a paper on the make up of the types of farms and farmers entering the scheme. The Teagasc, University College Dublin and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) analysis studied the quota applications submitted to DAFM. The analysis found that a young and highly educated group of new farmers are using the scheme to enter the Irish dairy industry with the majority converting from beef and mixed enterprise farms. “Ninety-three percent of new dairy entrants have at least two years of formal third level education and intend to expand to a herd size of 70 cows producing 655 kg milk solids/ha as relatively large scale and efficient milk producers post EU milk quota abolition.”
“The results provide a further indication that quota abolition is likely to result in an amplified polarisation of milk production intensity in traditionally intensive milk producing areas in the south of Ireland,” concluded Roberta.

Productivity changes on Irish farms
Eoin Kelly at Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research & Innovation Centre, Moorepark, presented an analysis by Teagasc and University College Dublin of productivity changes on Irish dairy farms between 1996 and 2010. “Productivity growth over the 14-year period was 10% or on average 0.7% per year,” said Eoin. “There was a positive productivity on Irish dairy farms during this period, which was mainly driven by technology changes. Increased productivity was associated with reduced percentage of land rented and with greater levels of quota. Milk price and increased subsidies were also associated with productivity changes.”

Perinatal mortality
Perinatal mortality in cattle is defined as calf mortality shortly before, during or shortly after parturition. Reporting on a joint Trinity College Dublin, Teagasc and Irish Cattle Breeding Federation study, Deirdre Purfield, TCD, concluded that,
“The prevalence of perinatal mortality is still quite high in Ireland but the incidence is still, nonetheless, low in the absence of dystocia. However, genetic variation clearly exists for traits which influence perinatal mortality suggesting that, if exploited, the incidence could be reduced.”

The forum continues in Tullamore tomorrow with a major session on Grassland. There will also be sessions on Arable Crops, Forestry, Milk Production and Technology and Animal Genetics. The peer reviewed summaries will be available on www.agresearchforum.com