The Irish dairy processing industry is a key component of the economy on the island providing much needed employment spread across rural areas.

Our industry processes over 7.5 billion litres of milk, across 30 sites and is supplied by 18,000 family farms, many of whom are owners of the primary businesses. Many of these businesses have an all island presence

Since the abolition of quotas, we are driving to be a global leader in the development of a high value environmentally sustainable dairy industry based on our extensive grass based dairy system.

Dairy Industry Ireland established Dairy Sustainability Ireland at the end of 2016 to provide industry leadership to the issue of sustainable dairy practices that would help the Climate change agenda in a positive manner.

A Rationale for positive Climate Change Measures:

It is clear that the discourse on Climate Change and Sustainability had caused a disconnect between stakeholders. Negative messaging & forced environmental and climate change actions have increasingly become seen pejoratively by the majority of farmers and many key companies. This project set about providing real solutions to show that; positive environmental outcomes for all, along with improved farmer Incomes & overall company sustainability -are not mutually exclusive of each other and can indeed work with each other to create win wins. Dairy Sustainability Ireland is a pro-active industry led, whole of sector and whole of Government partnership which is working to develop and implement new approaches to dairy farm sustainability at both economic and environmental levels. A Dairy Sustainability Ireland Forum was established containing all 14 members of Ireland’s dairy processing industry, including the Specialised Nutrition companies, these were joined by all the main farm organisations, and finally there where then augmented by the key agencies of the state of relevance, including; DAFM, Department of Housing (Responsibility for Water), the EPA, Bord Bia, Teagasc & the Local Authorities.

Dairy Sustainability Ireland Aims & Launch:

With detailed technical work along with stakeholder building and consultation having occurred over a year, the initiative then was publicly launched in October 2017 with Minister Creed and DII Chair Jim Woulfe (CEO of Dairygold).

This phase 1 of the project focusing on Soil fertility, Water quality improvement & Farmyard management is currently being rolled out nationwide through the dairy industry’s farm advice service and with the support of Teagasc.

These actions are fundamental foundation stones to addressing climate change issues at farm and factory level.

Early Evolution of Initiative:

With Ireland needing to react to challenges from the Water Directives & possible loss of the Nitrates Derogation coming from the EU it was decided at the end of 2017 that the components of Dairy Sustainability Ireland would fully support the government’s set up of the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) in tandem with the Departments of Housing & Agriculture. DII Chair Jim Woulfe launched the initiative with Ministers Eoghan Murphy & Michael Creed in government buildings in December 2017. Currently a governance and action plan being rolled out where the Dairy Industry is to commit advisors to work with dedicated government personnel in Teagasc & the local authorities around the country to achieve on the ground solutions.

Dairy Industry Ireland Members have committed to:

  • All of the processing dairy companies at all levels, will fully support this new Sustainability drive to achieve improved on farm sustainability outcomes.
  • This work will be supported up the supply chain by the specialised nutrition Dairy Industry Ireland members.
  • DII members will provide and fund 10 Sustainability Advisors to work within a shared Partnership strategy and governance in the new ASSAP program.
  • The Sustainability Advisors will work cohesively and in an integrated way with the Teagasc team.
  • All of the sustainability advisors will be trained with the Teagasc team by Teagasc to the same standard.
  • The Sustainability Advisors will support an internal change program within the Companies as part of this new Program.
  • All dairy industry personnel in direct contact with farmers will be trained in this new approach.
  • Work within the Partnership, to develop a new Communications Strategy to support on-farm Sustainability & Climate Change Best Practice.
  • Co-op communication channels with their suppliers and supplier network structures will be utilised to drive the new strategy.

Outcomes:

• The current company Farm Pilots for Nutrient Management Program best practice will be expanded to all Processing Dairy Companies in 2018.

• 2 New Pilots will be established with DAFM, Teagasc, and the EPA, to understand and devise best practice in Critical Source areas– to break nutrient pathways.

• The processing companies will actively promote the implementation of the New Nitrates Action Programme to all farmer suppliers.

• The Co-ops will seek that all dairy farms implement best practice in NMP by 2021.

• The Co-ops will support the development of new approaches and best practice re the broader Sustainability & Climate Change Agenda.