Between changes to the nitrates derogation, decisions around carbon emissions ceilings and pressure on water quality, dairy farmers have been getting it in the neck for the last few weeks. Will this affect the appetite to invest in dairy equipment on farms? I would say it is unlikely.
For one thing, dairy farmers are having a profitable year on the back of a number of profitable years.
Secondly, notwithstanding future environmental restrictions, the outlook for dairy remains positive in this country, with strong international demand for dairy foods, a weakening of global supply and Irish farmers have a good product to sell.
Finally, farmers have always invested to keep up with the times and with labour in such short supply across all industries, making sure milking is done as efficiently as possible is more important than ever.
Technology will, of course, play a part here, whether that’s in robotic milking or advancements in conventional milking to make things easier. Over the next 10 years, we will probably find more and more sensors doing jobs that farmers used to do themselves, such as identifying mastitis and milk quality.
We are already seeing a massive roll-out in automated heat and health detection devices.
How soon will it be before other sensors such as SCC, health, pregnancy detection, fat and protein, etc, are on standard milking parlours?
Some manufacturers are already offering some of these products but there is clearly great opportunity for growth in this area, particularly as a means of reducing labour input, generating important data and enabling skilled operators to run a greater number of cows.
Of course, this new technology will come at a cost and it’s important for farmers to remember that not all new technology is better. Sometimes, older, tried, tested and proven technology is a better buy.