Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been advised by the Food Vision dairy group to establish a voluntary dairy cow exit and reduction scheme, despite none of the three farmer organisations in the group explicitly backing the recommendation.

The reduction and exit scheme was rejected outright by Macra, while the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) reserved its position on the measure and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) reserved its position on the report as a whole.

The Department of Agriculture estimated that the income foregone for every cow culled is €1,770 for farms exiting dairy completely and €2,910 for farms reducing numbers.


However, these figures are not indicative of compensation that would be issued if the scheme were to be brought in, the Department stated.

The estimated emissions impact of a cow exit scheme was not provided in the report, given that overall emissions reductions would be dependent on scheme uptake and farmer participation.

The report's figures show that for every 100,000 dairy cows culled, an estimated 450,000t of CO2 equivalent would be removed from the inventory.

For this reason, and the need for further negotiations on the proposal, an estimated overall cost of such a scheme was not reported to the Minister.

It was also noted that an exit scheme would only be effective if the “breeding ruminants” culled on one farm were not offset by a subsequent increase on another farm.

A “similar scheme” as the one outlined in the report should be considered by “other ruminant sectors”, the stakeholder comment section of this measures states.

Nitrogen cuts

The group’s report recommended that the dairy sector reduces its chemical nitrogen by between 27% and 30% by 2030, with an interim reduction of between 22% and 25% to be achieved by 2025.

Again, this measure was rejected by Macra, while the IFA reserved its position on the measure and the ICMSA reserved its position on the report as a whole.

All CAN used by “grass-based dairy production systems” is to be switched to protected urea by 2025. This measure, the group stated, will be cost neutral, given that protected urea is a cheaper nitrogen source.

The sector should place a bigger emphasis on breeding efficient and lower methane-emitting cows by including a carbon sub-index in the EBI, Minister McConalogue has been told.

The report recommended enhanced integration between the dairy and beef sectors, while the establishment of “robust methodologies” to monitor greenhouse gas emissions at individual farm level have also been called for.

The measures were included in a list of 19 recommendations reported to the Minister. See this week's Irish farmers Journal for more.