The core item for discussion at the most recent Food Vision Dairy Group meeting centred on how to operate and compensate dairy farmers for a voluntary reduction of milking cows.

The analysis presented to stakeholders suggested that the compensation was somewhere between €3,500 to €5,000 per milking cow culled.

Furthermore, a feasibility study is to be carried out very shortly on how a so-called ‘cap and trade’ system or trading of environmental emissions between farms might operate in an Irish context.

The study is set to start in quarter three 2022 and will finish before the end of the year. It is understood that stakeholders close to the talks consider this very difficult in an Irish context, and ultimately favour those farmers with higher purchasing power.

Reducing the use of artificial nitrogen and using more protected urea were also hot topics for discussion.

The economic impact of reducing artificial nitrogen by between 10% and 20% on dairy farms suggests a reduction of between 5% and 10% in farm profitability. The availability of protected urea was seen as a very real concern.

Feed additives

Notes from the meeting suggest the target is for all milking cows to be given feed with methane reducing additives by 2030.

The cost of this has never been speculated in public but the minutes of the Food Vision report suggest this could cost in the region of €75 to €100 per cow per year.

Genotyping all calves was also discussed as a breeding option to improve the environmental quality of stock.

ICBF estimates suggest that at €20 per calf the nominal cost is in the order of €44m, with a much higher return by breeding animals with much better methane efficiency traits.

The Food Vision Dairy Group, chaired by former director of Teagasc Gerry Boyle, met again last week, but a planned meeting this week was postponed.

The group has been meeting regularly over the last number of months. The Food Vision Beef and Sheep Group only started meeting recently and is chaired by former Teagasc economist and current UCC Professor Thia Hennessy.