4 August 2000


SURVIVING a milk price of 17.6p/litre on an Irish family farm means producing 80% of milk from grazed grass with 80 cows/labour unit.

This would help keep costs to 7p/litre, before family labour and finance, said Teagasc researcher Pat Dillion.

A typical Irish farm producing 182,000 litres of milk needed to make at least £16,000 from the dairy enterprise, he added. However, he admitted that for a good family living and reinvesting in the farm other enterprises or off-farm income were also required.

Teagasc – the Irish advisory service – had set targets to show how this could be achieved with overheads of 3.16p/litre and variable costs of 3.87p/litre (see table).

Keeping common costs down meant low building and machinery costs. But another crucial factor was keeping the right number of cows to fill the farms milk quota, he said.

Many producers kept extra cows with the hope of securing extra quota. But this had then not proved possible under the Irish quota regime and had increased costs without lifting income, he said.

Achieving low variable costs required meeting three key objectives, added Dr Dillon. "In the long-term, the target must be to manage 80 cows with just one labour unit.

"It was also necessary to graze cows for a long season from early March to late November; and by calving 90% of the herd in February and March they would spend most of their lactation producing milk from grass.

"Spring calving cows at Solohead are producing 23 litres off grass alone now." But achieving this level of performance at grass required grass budgeting and good perennial ryegrass swards. &#42

Many producers keep too many cows for their quota, increasing production costs without lifting farm income, says Pat Dillon.

Variable costs


Concentrates 0.88

Fertiliser 1.23

Contractor 0.7

Vet and med 0.44

AI and bull 0.44

Total 3.87*

* Figures dont add due to rounding.

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