Despite all the talk of headwinds facing the sector, demand for dairy equipment remains strong with milking machine suppliers reporting good interest among farmers looking to upgrade their facilities.

This indicates that farmers see good opportunities in the dairy sector and with global supply set to fall but demand to grow, it’s easy to see why.

In this special Focus on milking equipment, we visit two family farms who have made significant investment in milking equipment. In Kilkenny, the Lynch family have decided to return to dairy farming after a 20-year absence but this time they’re milking with a robot.

A GEA automatic milking unit was installed late last year just in time for the first of the cows to calve. With busy off-farm enterprises, the Lynchs are happy with their decision to go for automated milking because it allows them to manage the dairy herd at a time that suits them. Read about their story on page 42.

Meanwhile, in Cork, I had the pleasure of visiting the Dunne farm near Castlemartyr in the east of the county. The chance to buy more land and a new generation joining the business has meant that the Dunnes were able to grow the herd and the farmyard with it.

The end result, as detailed on pages 44 and 45, is a serious achievement with top-class facilities finished to the highest of standards. This is clearly a long-term project and while many might baulk at the capital expenditure involved, it is effectively a once-in-a-lifetime investment in a business that is profitable and sustainable.

On pages 40 and 41, I take a look at some of the issues when it comes to choosing milking facilities for larger farms.

Economics is one thing, but quality of life is another huge issue, particularly when it comes to recruiting labour. The interesting angle here is that, sometimes, smaller parlours on larger farms are better from a labour efficiency and return on capital point of view.