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ICOS Dairy Committee Chairman, Peter Fleming, ICOS President, Jerry Long and ICOS CEO, TJ Flanagan with guest speakers at the ICOS / UCC Training Event on the Sustainability Challenges facing the Irish Dairy Sector

On 17th November, Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed TD launched a public consultation into a new climate and air roadmap for the agriculture sector to 2030 and beyond called “Ag Climatise”.

The consultation document notes that the All of Government Climate Action Plan launched earlier this year seeks to address the gap of 101 MT of CO2 between the emissions produced by the Irish economy and the 2030 targets assigned to Ireland by the EU and under the Paris Climate Agreement. The Climate Action Plan outlines specific targets for each sector including a target for agriculture to reduce its emissions by 10-15% by 2030 from 20.2 MT to 17.5 to 19 MT.  

Another important environmental issue relates to reducing ammonia emissions, with virtually all (99.1%) of the ammonia emissions in Ireland produced by agriculture sources. Ireland must also meet challenging EU ammonia reduction targets in 2020 and 2030.

The consultation document sets out a range of ambitious targets for the sector. Below are selection a of the most important actions for dairy farmers and co-ops:

  • A target of 60% of all slurry spread by LESS by 2022; 75% by 2025 and a longer-term ambition of 90%. It should be noted that farmers in derogation will have to apply all slurry by LESS in any event by 2021.
  • Aim to have 50% of CAN sales replaced by protected urea by 2022 and prohibit the use of normal urea on grassland by 2025.
  • Increase rate of national genetic gain in dairy EBI from current €10/cow/year to €15/cow/year.
  • Increase the number of dairy herds in milk recording from current 50% to 75%.
  • Require incorporation of clover (and mixed species) in all grass reseeds by 2022.
  • Develop a charter with animal feed manufacturers on crude protein content of livestock feed.

Meanwhile, over 50 co-op directors and senior management gathered in UCC on 21-22 November for a hugely informative training event on sustainability. Some of the key take-away messages from the event are as follows:

  1. We have a good, positive story to tell in relation to our environmental credentials. However, there is a continuous need to demonstrate difference in the global marketplace as other dairy producing nations have proven adapt at stealing our clothes in relation to a grass-based message.
  2. Early action is needed in relation to the implementation of the 4-5 key actions in the MACC curve. We cannot afford to wait to 2030. Key measures around low emission slurry spreading and protected urea require action as quickly as possible.
  3. There is a big journey ahead for agriculture but the sector can meet the challenge. Co-ops have a key role to play in bringing milk suppliers along the journey through education, demonstration farms, advisory supports, sustainability programmes etc
  4. Messaging around climate change for farmers needs to be simplified and communicated in a farmer friendly manner.

The “Ag Climatise” consultation is open until 10th January. Further information can be found via the following link:


Eamonn Farrell – Agri Food Policy Executive