Surge in demand for dairy worker permits
Almost all permits available for dairy farm assistants from outside Europe have been issued by the Department of Business.

There has been a surge in demand from dairy farmers for work permits allowing for workers to come to Ireland from outside Europe.

In May 2018, 50 permits for dairy farm assistants from countries outside the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) were made available by the Department of Business.

By the end of 2018 just 11 of these permits had been issued, though number have risen sharply since the start of the year.

In response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s John Deasy on 18 April, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys confirmed 49 of the permits have now been issued.

Farmers are required to pay permit workers a minimum of €22,000 a year based on a 39-hour week.


Employment permits were also introduced on a pilot basis for meat factory operatives and horticulture workers.

There has been major demand for permits from processors. Having been initially granted 250 permits, factories were given several increases, with 1,500 now available. A total of 1,339 permits have been issued so far.

Uptake has been much slower for horticulture permits. Just 91 of the 500 available permits have been issued.

In total, 1,479 of the 2,050 permits have been issued.

Pig farmers

Deasy queried whether the unused permits could be allocated to pig farmers. Minister Humphreys said the permits were not transferable and the role of pig farmer is currently on the ineligible occupations list.

The Minister elaborated, saying: “A submission was made to the most recent review of the occupations lists on behalf of the pig farmer occupation. However, available research does not indicate a shortage of labour in the sector.

"It is proposed that the sector provide more information, in particular detailed evidence of efforts to recruit from within the EEA for consideration during the next review.”

Read more

Just 11 permits granted for non-European dairy workers

Factories to double non-EU workers

Loss of nitrates derogation would undermine progress
The rapid expansion in the output of Irish dairy farming was a response to a Government plan for the sector, the IFA dairy chair says.

Any loss of the nitrates derogation would be a betrayal of farmers, IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan said at a meeting in Carlow on Tuesday.

“It was the Government who oversaw the blueprint for dairy expansion back in 2010,” he said. “It called for a 50% volume increase in dairying, and we delivered.” IFA environment executive Thomas Ryan said farmers had “a legitimate expectation” that the current nitrates directive, put in place until 2021, would not be altered before then. He urged farmers to forward submissions to the consultation process before Friday’s deadline. IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney called on the Department to adopt the positive mindset present in the Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (SSAP), which he described as “collaborative and voluntary”.

A new leptospirosis vaccine now available
A new lepto vaccine in the Irish market has given farmers who found themselves without vaccine a chance. Tommy Heffernan discusses the options

Over the last number of months farmers will be aware of shortages of lepto vaccines in the Irish market. Leptospirosis is endemic in many herds, which means the bacteria is present. It is my long-held view that the disease can affect both you and your cows. This vaccination is a must for Irish farmers and their herds.

The disease can cause high temperatures, milk drops and abortions at cow and herd level. The risk period was thought to be at grazing time, but potentially is an all-year-round issue/risk. It can also be shed in urine, affecting humans making it a zoonotic disease.

For farms who haven’t vaccinated yet this year, they can now use this vaccine as part of their herd control plan

With the current two vaccines on the market out of stock, farmers now have an option to purchase BioBos L, a lepto vaccine brought into Ireland by co-operative animal health and Glanbia.

Glanbia vet Shane McElroy has verified that the Biobos L product meets the required quality, efficacy and safety standards to protect animals from the bacterial disease

For farms who haven’t vaccinated yet this year, they can now use this vaccine as part of their herd control plan. Heifers require two doses to begin with while cows and animals previously vaccinated will only require one shot.

Should I wait for my own product to come back into stock?

Each farmer can find out when the two existing products will be back in stock. Every month that passes increases the risk and realistically if the gap between doses is greater than 16-18 months then you need to consider starting primary dose of two shots again.

So if you can't get other alternatives in the next six weeks, a discussion must be had around the alternative product on the market.

Should I vaccinate while breeding?

The advice from Glanbia is to vaccinate now during breeding, their question is: why wait and increase the risk? I think this risk is farm specific and, where possible, farms can vaccinate or some could wait until main bulk of breeding is done for another month.

As time goes on the risk does increase, but the risk is lower in closed herds that have the previous vaccine administered. Heifers are of course priority right now and can be vaccinated straight away.

Each farm needs to talk about the timing of vaccines with their own vet who can decide the risk and best options for your herd.

Long-term farms need to decide what brand they move forward with, it seems with lepto vaccines you can move between brands in situations where supply issues arise.

However, this is a complication most farmers would be happy to do without.

Award-winning Monaghan dairy farm to open gates for farm walk
Dairy farmers and those thinking of entering the sector have been encouraged to visit the McKenna farm, winners of the 2018 Milk Quality Awards, on 12 June.

The McKenna family farm in Co Monaghan, winners of the 2018 Quality Milk Awards, is to host a farm walk and seminar on 12 June 2019.

Organised by the National Dairy Council (NDC) in association with Teagasc, Ornua and Lakeland Dairies, the farm walk will follow a seminar focusing on food and sustainability.

Members of the public are invited to visit the 105-cow dairy farm run by Darran and Denise McKenna from 1.30pm.

Teagasc dairy knowledge transfer specialist Tom O'Dwyer urged farmers to avail of the opportunity to visit the farm: “The McKenna farm is great example of a top-class dairy farm and all dairy farmers and those thinking of entering the sector should come along on 12 June to see the farm for themselves and meet the family.”


Investment in the farm began in 2007, when sheds, parlour and tunnels were constructed to allow the fifth generation farming in Derrygasson build cow numbers from 60 to 105.

On the farm walk, groups will be led around the McKenna farm to cover the following topics:

  • Farm performance, both current and historical.
  • Producing high-quality milk with low SCC and TBC.
  • Sustainable milk production while caring for the environment.
  • Reduced antibiotic use – the case for selective dry cow therapy.
  • Sustainability seminar

    The morning’s seminar will include speakers Dr Marianne Walsh, who is senior nutritionist with the NDC, and award-winning chef and owner of Kai Restaurant in GalwayJess Murphy.

    Jess said: “Food waste is one of the world’s biggest sustainability issues, but [is] easily preventable with the introduction of food education.

    "Not only would this help individuals become more adventurous with what they’re eating, it would help save their hard-earned money.

    “The area of land needed to grow the food that ends up in landfill is larger than the size of China.

    "We have to focus on increasing awareness and education, [they] will be key to tackling this global issue."

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