Almost one in every three dairy farmers have yet to confirm their average cow milk yield to the Department of Agriculture, with only a week left to do so under the extended banding deadline.

Those who do not submit an average yield value through the ICBF system will be placed in the highest nitrogen excretion band under new cow banding rules introduced this year.

These 5,000 farmers have until next Friday, 31 March, to submit milk data which will determine their cow/ha stocking rate under new banding rules.

So far, only about 2% to 3% of farmers are entering the lowest nitrogen excretion rate of 80kg N/cow, according to head of the Department’s nitrates division Ted Massey.

There have been more herds than expected entering the middle nitrogen excretion band of 92kg N/cow and fewer-than-expected submitting yields which put them in the highest band of 106kg N/cow.

Up to the end of 2022, all dairy cows were assumed by the Department to have an excretion rate of 89kg/head across the board.

16,000 farmers

Massey stated that this could partly be put down to there being “no real incentive” for a farmer who knows they are in the highest band to report this, as they will enter it anyway if they do not make a submission.

“We wrote to all dairy farmers with a milk supply contract in 2022 and that was a little over 16,000 farmers,” the official told private farm advisers at the Agricultural Consultants’ Association (ACA) AGM on Thursday.

“Talking to ICBF yesterday, around 11,00 have confirmed their band to date. And in that, almost three-quarters are in the middle band.

“That’s a little bit higher of where we thought it would be based on Teagasc modelling and the high band is a little bit lower than where we thought it would be - around 12% of those who have confirmed are in the high band.”

Derogations slow

Farmers have also been slow to apply for nitrates derogations, with “no significant increase” in applications received by the Department on numbers received by this time in the application schedule in previous years.

Only around 1,000 applications have been made – over 6,000 were received in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available.

The derogation will close to application on 14 April and this will not be extended, ACA members heard.

This is despite the Department believing that banding would lead to a higher demand for derogation from the 170kg N/ha stocking rate limit as herds in the middle and upper bands hit this limit with fewer cows.

Read more

Department extends deadlines to submit banding and derogation applications

Department confirms changes to nitrates banding

Nitrates rules and banding could cut dairy profits by 29%

Minister to seek ‘flexibility’ around derogation stocking rate D-day