Teagasc will work with dairy farmers to “accelerate” the green and digital transformation of dairy farming towards more sustainable systems.
That is the commitment stated in its 2027 Sectoral Roadmap: Dairy launched today, Wednesday, November 25th, by Liam Herlihy, chairman of the Teagasc Authority.
The report includes market and policy issues; potential shape and size of sector in 2027; environmental and land-use implications; along with research, advisory and education actions.
Teagasc is predicting that by 2027, dairy cow numbers will increase to 1.65 million.
It forecasts that milk output will increase to almost 9.5 billion litres and national milk solids production (kg fat plus protein) to over 751,000 tonnes by 2027.
It is envisaged that there will be approximately 17,000 dairy farms, with the average herd size growing to just over 100 cows.
The state agency has pinpointed a number of actions in its sectoral roadmap.
Its research actions include:
- Refining the sustainable dairy production model and publish a sustainable dairy farm of the future’ blueprint;
- Adopting and demonstrate environmental sustainability best practices on all Teagasc research, demonstration and college farms;
- Develop and test technologies to increase N use efficiency, which includes improvements in soil health and the use of white clover and multi-species swards to replace chemical N;
- Improve the precision management of grassland at farm level, while simultaneously delivering a reduction in the use of chemical N fertiliser;
- Investigate options to reduce both enteric methane production and the carbon footprint of milk production;
- Develop genetic evaluations to facilitate the further development of both the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and the Dairy Beef Index (DBI). In addition, develop an index to assist the trade of dairy calves to beef farmers;
- Increase both the usage of sexed semen and the genetic merit of beef sires used in the dairy herd;
- Develop and evaluate technologies to monitor and improve animal welfare, animal health and product quality, while also monitoring and reducing antibiotic usage on dairy farms;
- Exploit precision-farming technologies that facilitate increased sustainability;
- Lead an industry-wide campaign to deliver the People in Dairy Action Programme;
- Develop an integrated, sustainable dairy-beef demonstration farm.
Advisory and education actions:
- Encourage farming practices which deliver better environmental outcomes (e.g., nutrient management planning, precision grassland management, protected urea, low emission slurry spreading and liming) without undermining farm performance;
- Promote resilient and sustainable dairy farming systems;
- Deliver targeted advisory campaigns, e.g., Grass10 Phase 2 campaign, Signpost programme;
- Expand Teagasc discussion group network;
- Collaborate with milk processors and with other industry stakeholders, e.g., AHI and ICBF, to promote best practices and support innovation by Irish dairy farmers;
- Promote management approaches which both encourage the optimal use of animal health products and minimise the use of antibiotics in dairy herds (in line with the One Health Strategy);
- Develop a programme to promote and support contract rearing of both dairy replacements and dairy beef progeny;
- Provide fit-for-purpose, relevant education programmes and awards, including the development of an apprenticeship-based programme in dairy farm management;
- Develop a coherent lifelong learning and continuous professional development programme for dairy farmers;
- Build the capacity of our advisers and teachers to effectively engage with our clients and students.