Beef Versus Dairy- In Ireland, Hands Down- It's Dairy that is Most ProfitableSun, 26 Feb 2012 12:59:45 CST
Dairy is the most profitable segment of Irish agriculture- at least that's the opinion of Dr. Padraig French, the head of the Livestock Systems Research Department for the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. The numbers seem to back him up, as the bulk of the dairy products that are produced in Ireland are value added and exported into the European market and beyond. Expecially lucrative is the infant formula market- Ireland produces more of that than anyone else in the world.
While both the beef cattle business and the dairy industry are heavily dependent on exports to thrive- Dr. French believes the beef industry has a much harder time making a consistent profit- as it is much more of a margin business. When it comes to the amount of grasslands that are dedicated to livestock- beef is clearly the leader, with 60% of the land in beef production, 25% to dairy and the remainder in sheep.
French says that the key to the dairy business is that Ireland is one of the world's cheapest places for milk production- because of the fact that grass will grow 270 to 300 days a year across the southern half of Ireland, where most of the dairy is concentrated.
There are challenges in producing milk in Ireland- and the big one has been the quota system, which has limited production. The quota system ends in 2015- and the dairy industry is gearing up for as much as a 50% rise in overall production by 2020. French says there are three key ways that he sees that happening- increasing the amount of milk per cow by going to a slightly longer lactation season, improving grasslands and increasing the number of pounds (or kilos) of forage produced- especially in times outside of peak forage production in May and early June- and finally, pushing beef cows off some southern Ireland lands and replacing them with more dairy cows. That third point goes back to the level of profits that can be made in the dairy sector versus the beef sector, which French and others contend is considerable.
As for the beef industry, he believes there is more upside in increasing efficiencies for beef cattle producers- understanding that what Ireland does best is growing grass- nearly all year long.
Farm Director Ron Hays had a very interesting conversation with Padraig French about the dairy and beef business in Ireland- and you can hear it by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
We have pictures from the 2012 OALP International Study Tour up on Flickr- you can see the full set- including several from our visit to the Animal and Greassland Research and Innovation Centre in Moorepark, Fermoy, Ireland- just click here for that set of pics.
All of our stories from the 2012 OALP travels are up in one section of our webiste- to review all of those- click here for our OALP International Study websection.
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