Posted on Thursday 27 August 2015 by Ulster Business

Dairy cow numbers reach record high

Northern Ireland’s farmers are rearing a record number of dairy cows, according to latest government statistics.

There were 311,500 dairy cows in June, an agricultural census carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has shown, a 6% jump in the same time last year and an all-time high.

The news comes as farmers complain that processors are paying unsustainably low prices for milk from the farm, with many blockading supermarkets in protest.

The current ex-farm price of around 19p a litre but dairy farmers claim their production costs reach 30p and above.

A drop in demand for milk and milk products from countries such as China combined with the dissolution of the quota system which had previously kept a lid on milk supply are said to be behind a recent drop in the price of milk.

The increase in the number of dairy cows here over the last year will back the view of agricultural commentators that the removal of the quota system will allow new entrants to the industry and unchecked expansion of incumbent herds.

Elsewhere in the world of Northern Ireland agriculture, production is also climbing, as the data below from DARD shows:

Dairy cows up 6 per cent to 311,500

Beef cattle up 2% to 260,300

Cereals up 2% to 35,000 hectares

Sheep up 2% at 930,700

Pigs (sows) up 5% at 37,900

Poultry: laying birds up 8% and broilers (for meat) up 5%

Potatoes down 7% to 3,900 hectares

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