Farmview JULY 2018 Two-track farming Are we on a two-track agriculture system in Ireland? The simplistic answer is that there is a complete disconnect between the dairy sector and ‘the rest’. That assumption, however, hides some fundamental facts that make for a more nuanced situation. While larger scale, efficiently managed dairy units are making significant profits when milk prices remain above 30c/litre, the higher overheads on many of these farms quickly bite into profitability once the milk price falls below 30c/litre. Many of the larger scale units, especially those which have expanded since the removal of quotas, are carrying high leasing and labour overheads that cannot be reduced when prices fall. Uncomfortable facts Matt O’Kee e examines the disconnect between the dairy sector and other farming industries and points to the need for cooperation across all sectors Another uncomfortable fact to face up to is that, on average, dairy farms are operated more efficiently than non-dairy farms. Average figures, as ever, hide the extremes that are there in every sector. There are dairy farms with lax stocking rates, low milk volume and solids yields and poor grass production and utilisation. The same can be said across every grass-based sector of farming in this country. But, when we come back to the average figures, dairy farms grow and utilise more grass, have higher stocking rates and have higher outputs per hectare than the other livestock-based sectors. Not following the example It is not for want of example that these inefficiencies remain in place. The two farms visited by the Irish Grassland Association during its annual sheep and beef farm events (covered in the June issue of Irish Farmers Monthly) bear testimony to the fact that well managed drystock farms are capable of giving many dairy farms a run for their money in terms of profitability, output and overall productivity. Interdependency 18 The interdependency between dairy farms, drystock farms and tillage farms means that it is, or should be, in everyone’s interest that all sectors thrive. Dairy farms are dependent on tillage farms for a steady supply of grain-based feeds as well as a plentiful supply of straw for bedding and feeding. While, in theory, the grain element could be substituted with imported product, the importation of large quantities of straw would be both logistically impractical and prohibitively expensive. There is also a realisation across the industry that there