Ireland is the perfect place to produce dairy. Its temperate climate and plentiful rainfall means that Irish cows spend an average of 240 days and nights outdoors grazing on pasture. This makes Irish dairy one of the most sustainable in the world.
In 2021 Irish dairy farms produced over 8.8bn litres of liquid milk. The milk was then processed into over 1.6m tonnes of high quality butter, cheese, infant food, powders and functional ingredients and exported to 147 global markets. . Together with an agile industry that responds speedily to changing production requirements, Ireland’s reputation for premium quality dairy is enjoyed globally, with consumers and trade customers around the world benefitting from its assurances in quality, traceability and sustainability. This enables the Irish dairy industry to ensure a consistent, secure supply of premium quality produce that’s naturally nutritious and tasty.
Sustainable Irish Dairy
Our dairy farmers and producers not only adhere to the EU’s high food safety standards, but through their membership of Origin Green – Ireland’s leading edge national food quality and sustainability programme – they do so much more to serve the global market. As members of Origin Green the work of Irish dairy farmers and producers is measured and independently audited to drive continuous improvements across the supply chain in areas such as food safety, traceability, animal health and welfare, greenhouse gas emissions, and water and soil management. Irish dairy farmers who are verified members of the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) are also members of Origin Green.
Environmental considerations are playing more of a role in future supply outlook as Ireland, like many other nations, is examining options to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions across all sectors. Agriculture has a role to play in this and there is ongoing dialogue on the contributions technology and differing farming practices can play in these ambitions in Ireland. We are proud that Irish dairy farming is one of the lowest globally from a GHG emissions intensity perspective at an average of 0.97kg CO2 equivalents per kg output. This is a 7% reduction in the last 8 years, but we know there is a lot more work to be done in future to improve further.
Meet Our Dairy Farmers
Located in Tinahely, County Wicklow, brothers Joe and Michael Hayden run a family owned dairy farm. Being part of the Origin Green programme, the farm has been audited to meet the highest standards under the Bord Bia Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme.
All milk is produced using a grass-based system with a focus on the continuous improvement of soil fertility, milk, grass quality, and herd genetics. The Hayden family have invested significantly in the expansion of their farm and dairy herd in recent years. Changes on Joe and Michael Hayden’s farm include;
Farm area dedicated to the dairy enterprise has increased by approx. 20%.
Cow numbers have increased from 150 to 170.
The volume of fertilizer used has been reduced significantly from 65 tonne to 40 tonne due to improved nutrient management.
Excellent grassland management has facilitated a compound feed reduction.
Despite the increased stock numbers and the associated increase in production, the total farm emissions have only increased by 0.3%. This demonstrates that actions to mitigate increased emissions at farm level are very effective.
Watch this video to find out more!
What is the Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard for Irish Dairy?
Developed by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, our Grass-Fed Standard is the world’s first independently verified standard that provides verifiable proof of the grass-fed status of each dairy herd. Therefore, it provides assurance for what we have long known to be true: grass is intrinsic to the quality of Irish dairy.
Bord Bia’s Grass-Fed Standard brings a data-based assurance that dairy is sourced from dairy herds that enjoy a diet that’s on average 95% grass and grass-based forage and graze in open pastures for an average of 240 days a year. Only dairy from herds that meet this threshold can bear the Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard. Our standard uses data collected during farm audits as part of the Bord Bia national Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme – a voluntary scheme operating under Origin Green, Ireland’s national food sustainability programme.
Through the Standard, Irish processors will now be able to provide proof to support the claim that their dairy products come from qualified dairy herds.
Why was the Bord Bia Grass Fed Standard developed?
Consumers around the world are increasingly expressing a desire for dairy products that can be verified as grass fed and the market requires evidence to back the claim. Research from Ernst and Young shows that 50% of consumers globally now express a preference for grass-fed dairy. Almost two thirds (64%) of consumers are willing to pay more for grass-fed dairy, driven by its strong association with terms such as ‘natural’, ‘healthy’ and ‘premium’. The Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard provides rigorous assurance of Ireland’s commitment to producing dairy sourced only from pasture grazed herds.
For retail and food service customers of Irish dairy, the Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard is the newest expression of an enduring national commitment to excellence that makes Ireland one of Europe’s leading dairy exporting nations and the natural choice for consumers demanding the highest quality, grass-fed dairy.
The Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard for Irish Dairy has been developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders from the dairy sectors including the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Teagasc, Farmers, and dairy processors.
The Irish dairy industry is implementing this standard at processing level and verified product is planned for the market in 2021. For further details and to read the Bord Bia Grass-Fed Standard for Irish Dairy, please click here.
All grass-fed Irish dairy herds are fully traceable, with each calf given a distinct passport ID at birth, and always identifiable throughout their lives thanks to their unique double-ear tags. Each individual animal is also capable of being tracked at all stages through the national Animal Identification and Movement System (AIMS), a fully digitised traceability system operated by Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Ireland’s dairy processors additionally use state-of-the-art technology to ensure the traceability of the milk they utilise – from individual farms to processing – as they deliver to the exacting standards of their international customers.