Milk quality produced on NI farms continues to edge up year on year, with statistics published by DAERA showing butterfat rose 0.05% in 2022 to average 4.15%. Protein was up 0.01% to sit at 3.31%.

Butterfat has steadily increased over the past decade, rising from 4.01% in 2013 to current levels. During the same period, protein has seen a more modest increase from 3.24%.

With the average cow in NI yielding just over 7,900 litres in 2022, milk solids per cow is approximately 607kg compared to 539kg/cow back in 2013.

The improvement in solids will partly come from improvements in genetics and nutrition. But in recent years, there have also been moves from processors to incentivise higher milk solids via their payment systems.

Other regions

However, milk solids in NI remain well below other key dairy regions.

In the Republic of Ireland, butterfat and protein averaged 4.28% and 3.55% in 2022.

While the spring-calving, grass-based systems in ROI differ from the flatter calving profiles in NI, the same cannot be said about dairy farms in the Netherlands, where high-input, high-output herds dominate.

For 2022, the Dutch national herd averaged 4.42% butterfat and 3.55% protein. The average cow yielded around 8,600 litres, which works out at 706kg milk solids/cow.

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