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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Dairy farmers must not ‘shy away from reasonable change’, conference hears

Reduced stocking rates, nitrates restrictions and Irish dairy’s social licence to produce are among the challenges facing Irish milk producers, an industry-leading conference has heard.

This year’s Fine-Tuning Irish Dairy Conference gathered an engaging mix of industry experts and leaders to discuss the challenges facing Irish dairy farming and conduct a radical assessment of the future of Irish dairying in this country.

The event – which took place on Thursday, June 8th, 2023 in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Little Island, Cork – is now in its fifth year and was sponsored by AXA Insurance, the National Dairy Council (NDC) and Enjoy, It’s From Europe.

Topics at the conference included the right cow for the future, machinery technology, coping with reduced stocking rates, animal welfare and nitrates restrictions and addressing climate change on commercial dairy farms.

The event heard that Ireland’s 17,500 dairy farmers produce high-quality dairy produce, which is exported to 191 countries with a €6.2 billion contribution to the economy.

Billy Kelleher, MEP

Opening the conference, Billy Kelleher, MEP, stressed the challenges facing the industry – and Ireland’s farming communities – today:

“The Irish dairy industry is facing many headwinds over the short to medium term.”

“With pressure coming due to the Nitrates derogation, the Industrial Emissions Direction and possible changes to the Animal Transport Regulation, the industry must be proactive in how it addresses them, and not shy away from reasonable change.

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“Dairy farmers are exceptionally innovative, creative and hard-working.”

“They can, if they put their minds to it, meet these challenges head-on, and continue to prosper and drive on our rural communities,” he told attendees.

Zoë Kavanagh

Meanwhile, Zoë Kavanagh, CEO of the National Dairy Council and spokesperson for the European Milk Forum, told the room that “farmers are the driving force behind quality products that people want to purchase”.

She went on to say that they are “a key part of a healthy, modern lifestyle – the demand for which just keeps increasing”.

“Yet, we, as an industry, what we are doing in the area of sustainability simply is not being recognised.”

The Fine-tuning Irish Dairy Conference, she added, provides a platform to highlight the need for Irish dairy to communicate with concerned citizens and reassure them that the sector is “fully committed to delivering an even more sustainable production system”.

Kavanagh continued: “The National Dairy Council wants to shine a light on biodiversity and environmental considerations at farm level, demonstrating how dairy producers provide premium food to domestic and international consumers.”

“Now, more than ever, it is important to show all the hard work and innovation that is happening within the Irish and European farming industry.”

Speakers at this full-day conference also included:

  • Karina Pierce, Professor of Dairy Production, UCD;
  • Michael Farrelly, Executive Director at the FTMTA;
  • TJ Flanagan, CEO, ICOS;
  • Denis Drennan, Deputy President, ICMSA;
  • Dairy farmers: Joe Deane, Victor O’Sullivan and Mike Magan.
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