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Farmers having been 'milking on' past Christmas and making tonnes and tonnes of butter

It’s been an exceptionally productive period for Ireland’s dairy farmers.

Image: RollingNews.ie

NEW STATS RELEASED this week revealed a big jump in the amount of produce from the Irish dairy industry of late.

How big? Well, almost 18,000 tonnes of butter was produced in November, a 12.2% increase on the same month the previous year.

In October the figures were even more striking, with over 20,000 tonnes of butter produced from a 16.1% increase.

All this butter of course means more milk, and a similar spike is observed in the amount of milk being delivered to creameries and pasteurisers.

States for November put this at 469 million litres, a 23.1% spike on the same month in 2017.

Overall, there’s been an average of 666.6 million litres of milk being delivered each month to Irish creameries.

The figures are of course good news for dairy farmers, but what has been the cause of such an upsurge.

According to Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, it’s down to a number of factors.

Firstly, a difficult start to the year meaning farmers were perhaps behind on cash flow, and secondly because the milder winter allowed farmers to “milk on” later than usual.

“It was difficult year, for farmers there was a huge cost of production, fodder was scarce, a lot was used during the summer,” McCormack says.

We had a very good autumn for grass growing, and fellas milked on. Cows were in good nick as a resultant of the maintenance diet they got during the summer, and farmers needed to milk on for cash flow.

“I think the culled cow price was probably poor as well, so fellas milked on with the cows they traditionally would have sold them.”

There may not be a massive margin out of it but hopefully it will contribute and obviously the solids were good for butter, fat and protein because cows were still getting grass. I mean there were cows pictured on social media out grazing on Christmas Day.

McCormack says Irish butter is a “lucrative brand” and that hopefully the recent spike shows that demand is recovering, although he admits dairy farmers do have “a bit of fear in their eyes over Brexit”.

There has also been some questions recently about the government’s role in Ireland’s expanding dairy and cattle sector, given the country’s failure to meet climate change commitments.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was even forced to clarify comments he made this week about a decision to cut down on his own meat consumption.

Asked whether government policy has also contributed to the recent spike in dairy production, McCormack says that the agriculture sector was an important part of Ireland’s recovery.

“There were aspirations out there and Tánaiste Coveney, when he was Minister for Agriculture, it was obviously a historic time the abolition of quotas. There was Food Harvest 2020, Food Wise 2025 and we’ll deliver on Food Harvest 2020 this year.”

“There was a drive out there and in particular during the recession that agriculture was the one old chip that came good.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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