The last 12 months have brought about fairly substantial changes to the dairy scene in Ireland. Peak milk restrictions in the Glanbia region, plus a new cap on greenhouse gas emissions for the whole sector are likely to mean a big slowdown in dairy herd expansion over the coming years.

Does this mean investment in dairy equipment will be on the back foot?

That’s unlikely, because while investment in new dairy conversions will probably wane, existing dairy farms will require constant investment in equipment and upgrades.

Also, farms will still get bigger as herds amalgamate and this also requires investment in larger and more efficient milking equipment.

The decision by the Government to exclude dairy equipment as an investment option under the new CAP will, however, be a major loss. Previously, farmers could avail of 40% or 60% grant aid under TAMS, which was a huge help for farmers with their investment in improving milking equipment.

Given the maximum investment ceilings, it was proportionately more beneficial to smaller- and medium-sized farmers.

This week, we discuss some of the common issues with poor hygiene in milking parlours, leading to high thermoduric or TBC counts. All of this stems from the fact that chlorine is no longer used as a cleaning product and while, in general, the move to chlorine-free has been successful, there are individual issues.

We also take a look at solar panel heating systems for producing hot water on dairy farms. These panels are all the rage now and the fact that they are associated with hot water systems is simply because heating water is a good way of using, and thus storing, the energy generated by the sun’s rays instead of using expensive battery packs.

John Crowe travels to Co Louth to catch up with two well-known farmers who have recently installed a large rotary parlour on their farm.