About Dairy Farming in Ireland

World Leading Dairy Industry

The Irish Dairy Industry is a thriving industry with a national dairy herd of 1.14 million cows producing over 5.4 billion litres of milk. During your dairy farm tour it is possible to see first-hand Ireland's renowned reputation for sustainable grass-based production systems that enable Ireland's dairy farmers to produce high quality and nutritious dairy products.

Ireland's Dairy Farmer's operated for three decades under a milk quota system sanctioned by the EU (European Union). This quota system ceased on April 1st 2015. Now due to the abolishment of the quota system, Ireland is on target to produce 50% more milk by the year 2020. As part of your dairy farm tour, Irish farmers can talk to you about how they worked under the milk quota system and how they plan to expand operations to produce more milk now the quota system has been lifted. All of this must be done without diminishing the quality of the milk which will also be explained on your dairy tour.

Robotic milking on an Irish Dairy Farm
One of Ireland's 1.14 million dairy cows.

Marketing and Sustainability

Dairy farming tours of Ireland can also include an overview of the relationship between Irish dairy farmers and the Irish Dairy Board (IDB) now known as Ornua after rebranding. Ornua sells and look after the marketing on behalf of the Irish dairy farmer.

Ireland has the most sustainable dairy farming system in the world as our dairy products are produced from the milk of grass fed cows. Irish cows graze on rich green grass for up to 300 days a year! Regular rainfall means irish soil is naturally irrigated and void of water stress. Two thirds of the land in Ireland is in use by agriculture, and as part of the dairy tours of Ireland you can set foot on the luscious green grass of which makes up 80% of the nation's farmland.

Feeding Practices on Dairy Farms

On your dairy farm tour your group can learn about the management of grassland and see the typical dairy cow diet:

A typical Irish dairy herd diet consists of grass whether fresh or conserved. Unlike most countries, the Irish dairy herd is housed outdoors nearly all year round only moving indoors when grass growth halts in the winter months. Therefore a farmers ability to manage the grassland is vital for success and achieving a productive dairy herd.

At Agri Tours Ireland, during your dairy farm tour you may be able to witness the two main types of grazing systems in practise in Ireland.

  • A Rational grazing system is the most widely used and consists of a paddock system where the dairy farmer has typically 20-25 paddocks meaning cows get fresh grass every day.
  • A Zero Grazing System is also practised where all the feedstuffs are brought to the dairy cows.

Dairy Farm Grassland Management

On your dairy tour you can discuss the best practise on grassland management with expert Irish farmers including:

  • Controlling a grazing system, which includes having grass that is short, leafy, digestible and appetising.
  • An average dairy cow consumes 12 tonne of herbage per year. An Irish farmer must estimate the amount of herbage needed for the year
  • Maintaining correct amount of stock. In Ireland average herd sizes are small at roughly 70 cows but understocking can be just as big an issue- understocking leads to wasted grass as well as unappetising and indigestible grass. Overstocking can be a problem too and leads to overgrazing and therefore insufficient herbage supply
  • On your dairy farm tour of Ireland, Irish farmers could highlight to you the importance of applying the correct amount of fertiliser at the right times to reach the desired herbage requirement.

Silage, maize and concentrates are part of a dairy cow's diet whether as winter diet or as a supplement to grass. A visitor's experience of this aspect will depend on the time of year that your dairy tour of Ireland takes place.

inspecting dairy cows being milked
dairy farmer inspecting his grass fields on a quad bike.

Dairy Associations of Ireland

Dairy Gold

The leading farmer owned Dairy and Agri Co-Operative. Currently producing 1,150 million litres of milk per year from it's 3,000 milk suppliers.

Dairy Gold Logo More About Dairy Gold

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