Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said the proposed dairy cow reduction scheme will be rolled out in 2024, with 2022 being used as the reference year for cow numbers.
While those details appear to be set in stone, many more remain to be clarified, including the payment on offer and the finer terms and conditions for those farmers who elect to cut down on cow numbers or exit production completely.
The Irish Farmers Journal asked farmers for their opinions on the proposed scheme. Here’s what they told us:
Suckler farmers omitted
“The suckling farmer is being discriminated [against]. It’s an ideal opportunity for suckling farmers to retire from breeding and rear dairy-bred calves.”
– Liam Barrett, Limerick
“We have a scheme to cull cows and we have banding, which both try to reduce the stocking rate, and then we have another scheme to help young farmers go into dairy. A pilot three-year programme was initiated here in Wexford where farms in an area were visited and the same problems identified. After three years of sorting out problems; cow lanes, yard runoff, diverting clean water, riparian zones etc, it was shown that coliform levels and nitrate levels reduced dramatically with no reduction in stock levels.”
– John Whelan, Wexford
Why should I reduce?
“I spent 15 years buying milk quota, nearly 100,000 gallons, so instead of milking 12 cows, as when I left school, by the time quota ended, we were milking 90. Why should I have to cut back? When quota ended, lads doubled and trebled their numbers, and more. Some new entrants started with 400, and now have over 800. Are small family herds like ours really doing so much harm? With those 90 cows, we have nearly finished putting our three children through college, with absolutely no grant aid, so they can get as far from farming as possible. I see it all around me, no successors coming on. From when I was small, all I ever wanted to do was farm, but regulations and bureaucracy have turned farming into a daily nightmare, with no common sense. Most farmers do their best, to leave their farm in a better place. I’ve done away with my cows drinking out of the river, and have installed solar pumps and water collection instead. So why should small producers like ourselves have to cut back?”
– Ken Foster, Cavan
“I think it’s a dreadful decision to cull our dairy herd. Any measures Ireland implements will make no difference on a global scale. We can do a much better job with management of slurry and fertilisers. I am completely in favour of cleaner air and water. This is what we should concentrate on.”
– Paul Burke, Dublin
“I intend to apply for the scheme as I am currently considering retiring from dairying.”
– Seán Horan, Kerry
“Excellent idea as long as it stays voluntary. It gives options to elderly farmers to retire with a bit of dignity. I’m planning on reducing from 120 to 100 cows to reduce pressure on farm a bit and focus more on clover to reduce inputs.”
– Kevin Doohan, Sligo
“Continued constraints surrounding environmental pressures are going to squeeze cow numbers without the need for a financial reward to support any scheme.”
– Michael Brady
“I think it would be great. I personally would apply, as I have expanded over the last decade for a lot more work, and earnings have been stagnant due to both inflation and higher costs. Dairy farming is a treadmill that is hard to get off.”
– Robert Gore