The plan, which aims to combine opinions of national and international experts such as vets, farmers and processors, is expected to focus on improving milk quality and mastitis control, according to developer, the Teagasc Dairy Production Research Centre.
Based on a project pioneered at the University of Wisconsin, a team of researchers led by John Mee will adapt that the US initiative’s industry focus on strategic management changes, accountability and regular re-assessment to the Irish market.
Teagasc says that meeting demand from processors and consumers for high quality milk output is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers input costs rise and labour time falls.
The research body claimed that while the practice of farmers consulting with other figures across the dairy production chain was nothing new, previous approaches in the country to improve farming techniques had been fragmented.
“At present, the farmer may seek help and advice on milk quality issues from several sectors of the industry, but with very little collaboration between these advice sources,” stated Teagasc. “Each of these stakeholders has particular strengths and skills; combining these skills on a team could maximise their impact.”
Teagasc, which acts as the agricultural and food development authority in the country, claims that average bulk tank somatic cell counts (BTSCC), used as a measure to define milk quality, have increased annually over the last decade.
Somatic cell count (SCC) relates to the presence of leukocytes, or white blood cells, in the milk, where the count of these bodies rises directly in relation to the presence of pathogenic bacteria that has been linked to mastitis.
“In Ireland, BTSCC have risen annually by 5,000ml since the start of this decade,” stated Teagasc. “Farmers are losing financially through penalties imposed due to milk quality issues, such as SCC, bacterial content and residues and direct costs associated with clinical mastitis cases.”
In an attempt to allay these concerns and prevent further financial penalties related to milk quality issues, the team of researchers will also focus on additional means of ensuring milk hygiene.
Teagasc says that twenty farms will be involved in an initial pilot project, which will include preparatory training sessions on better prevention of milk quality issues,
The project is currently recruiting for farmers to take part in the nine-month trials, and is being funded through dairy levies.