Winter milk producers need a premium of 15c/l to stay viable, according to IFA liquid milk chair Keith O’Boyle.

While historically farmers milking cows through the winter have received a 7c/l premium, O’Boyle warned that this can now no longer cover their costs.

“Over the last couple of years, our costs have escalated outrageously. We need our premium to be revised and looked at and we need to sit down with our processors.

“Concentrates now are running over €400/t and, historically, they were €250/t. We have high labour costs, be it to pay someone or even yourself.

“Christmas Day and all year long, you’re milking cows and, unfortunately, we are not getting paid for it,” he said.

O’Boyle said that in order to supply milk over the winter, farmers dry cows during the summer, the “cheapest time possible to produce milk off grass”.

The IFA liquid milk chair also insisted that the cut to Ireland’s nitrates derogation has left winter milk producers at a “crossroads”, as many of them are in derogation.

“Realistically, if you sit back and do the figures, your autumn calving herd would be the first cow to leave the yard, because they’re not the most economically viable.

“If we don’t get paid to carry these cows, ultimately, they’re the cows that’ll have to go out the gate,” he warned.

With just 1,280 winter milk producers remaining and numbers falling, O’Boyle said consumers need to ask themselves if they want Irish milk on their shelves over the winter.

“Do we want to support our own farmers and local areas and pay them sufficiently, just to cover costs?

“Or do we want to just forget about it?”