The Greenfield Farm dairy project in Kilkenny may be coming to the end of its days. It is understood that the board of Glanbia has made the decision to end its involvement in the demonstration farm.

Glanbia is one of the three equal partners in Greenfield Farm, along with the host family, the Phelans, and the Irish Farmers Journal. This means any two partners effectively have the numbers to bring the project to a close should they wish. The Phelan family is understood to also want to bring the project to a conclusion.

Farm development

The farm was initially set up in 2009 and commenced milking the following year. Set up in the knowledge that the quota regime that had stymied both dairy expansion and new entrants to the sector would end in 2015, the farm was developed "to demonstrate best practice in the design, construction and operation of a low-cost, grass-based milk production system to Irish dairy farmers".

A dairy herd of 330 cows was established on 120ha, with the project envisaged to last until 2025.

Open days

Since being established, the farm has hosted national open days, weekly discussion groups, schools and published numerous reports on the progress and experience of setting up a farm from scratch on leased land.

Teagasc was involved in the project in the management and initial design role. There was initial sponsorship from FBD Trust, and milk quota provided by the Department of Agriculture. The farm loan was borrowed from AIB.

Justin McCarthy, Irish Farmers Journal editor, said: "The Irish Farmers Journal remains committed to the Greenfield dairy demonstration farm, which has delivered great learnings to the dairy farming community for the last 10 years.

"I believe the farm is ideally placed to deal with some of the new challenges an expanding dairy industry has to manage."

Glanbia chair Martin Keane, speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at the Glanbia plc AGM on Wednesday said: “[Greenfield Farm] has lived through that 10-year period and had fantastic results, proving the model capable of dealing with market variations.

“Overall, we in Glanbia feel the project was very well worth doing, we’re happy that thousands of farmers got a lot of information on performance.

“We feel the project has served its purpose and that this is an appropriate time to bring it to a close. There’s a new challenge now, in addressing issues like labour and sustainability.

A delegation of concerned farmers is to meet Keane on Friday to express their disappointment at Glanbia’s withdrawal.

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