Irish dairy farmers are getting more heifers on the ground as they prepare to boost production after the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.

Farmers are currently producing 5.2bn tonnes of milk from 1.1 million cows, of which 85% is exported, said Irish Farmers Association national dairy and liquid milk committee executive secretary Catherine Lascurettes.

Speaking at the Semex conference in Glasgow, she said the Irish government sees dairy farming as a way to kickstart the country’s ailing economy – the political target is to boost production by 50% by 2020.

“Farmers are planning to grow their production and we have a politically supportive government – dairying is the farming sector that returns the best income,” she said.

“The number of heifers under two years old is rising quite rapidly in preparation for expansion. However, there’s a real risk of superlevy between now and 1 March 2015.”

Processors and dairies were investing in new facilities, including powdered milk plants, and the plan is to target markets in the East, including China, India and Russia, she said.

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