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Tuesday 28 March 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Getting to Know: Irish dairy farmers share their stories of sustainability
Dairy farmer Niall Moore from Co. Waterford describes his life on the farm and the efforts being made by the Irish dairy sector to be more sustainable.

“WHAT WE’VE BEEN doing on the farm has just been trying to make it far more sustainable over the last few years, working a lot on trying to reduce our carbon footprint on the farm.”

Niall Moore hails from a farm in Annestown, right on the coast of Co. Waterford. We caught up with Niall to learn more about his sustainable farming practises and how Irish dairy farmers in general are focusing on sustainable farming production.

It’s fair to say that farming is in Niall’s blood, with five or six generations of farmers in his family. His grandfather bought the current family farm in the 1940s, making Niall the third generation on the farm, and his kids, who help out around the farm, the fourth.

Niall is well used to life on the farm and the long hours that entails, but deeply enjoys his work.“I love nature and that’s something I’ve inherited from my father and grandfather.”


Since he began farming in his childhood, the industry has undergone massive changes, especially with the increased use of technology. Niall recently switched to a robotic system to milk his 130 cows, which makes life easier for himself and for the cow.

With the robotic system, the beauty of it is that the cow decides what she wants to do, and when she wants to do it. They mightn’t come to milk if maybe they’re feeling a bit sick, maybe they’ve come to be milked and for some reason the robot didn’t attach. If they go over a certain number of hours, 11/12 hours, the software will highlight that and then we can go and check it out and see if there’s anything untoward there.”

Niall also utilises a gated grazing system that keeps the cows moving and makes sure they go to pasture at different areas of the farm. These changes are aimed at improving animal welfare. “It’s the cow’s life and we don’t interfere too much with it,” says Niall.

Niall’s day begins at 6 am and looking after the robotic milking system is the first task of the day. After that, he walks through the farm to check that the cows are all okay before going home and getting his kids up for school. Different seasons mean different jobs to be done around the farm, such as pasture management in the summer months.

It’s not only the technology on Niall’s farm that’s changed in recent years. Commenting on an expansion, Niall said, “We had about 60 or 70 cows in 2012 but with the abolition of quotas we expanded, we didn’t go to a huge level, we expanded to a level that gave us a family income that was sustainable for the family.”


Being sustainable goes hand-in-hand with farming for Niall. “The ethos I have grown up with and with the vast, vast majority of farmers is, you’re looking after the farm and the environment so you can hand it on to the next generation.”

The efforts made by farmers like Niall, such as switching to low-emission slurry spreading and breeding more efficient cows, are often dismissed, with dairy farming, in particular, scapegoated. “One issue we have is that if you turn on the 6 o’clock news, and there’s an environmental piece, the first picture that comes up is usually a cow.”

What people forget is that we’re providing an essential resource. One of the most nutritious products that’s produced naturally on this planet is milk and it’s a miracle product in some ways. We all think of cheese, butter, and milk, but from infant nutrition right up to someone in a hospital that’s critically ill, even a critically ill patient is getting their fat and clinical nutrition derived from dairy.”

Niall has incorporated sustainability into all facets of farm work, with many of the initiatives aimed at reducing the ratio of carbon produced to milk produced. Ireland has the second-most efficient system in the world, producing 0.9 kilograms of carbon for every 1 kilogram of fat/protein, far better than many European countries, which produce 2.4 kilograms of carbon per kilo of protein.

“We tick most boxes for sustainability at this stage,” says Niall, who is looking at installing a photovoltaic solar panel system on the roof to become self-sufficient in terms of energy.

I think things need to be looked differently in this country – instead of a national debate it needs to be a global one. We’re producing a natural, wholesome and nutritious product, with 1/3 the carbon footprint of almost anywhere else.  How does it make sense for us to reduce production, and have the shortfall made up elsewhere?”

Interested in learning more about sustainable practices in dairy farming and farmers like Niall? Visit the National Dairy Council’s site for more information around dairy in Ireland, as well as recipes and helpful blogs.

The National Dairy Council is an Irish organisation telling the story of nutritious, responsibly-produced Irish dairy.