A glimpse of Ireland’s dairy industry

Ireland relies heavily on agriculture, specifically dairy, to strengthen its economy. Let’s take a closer look at the industry.

Tom Clesham is a dairy farmer in Cong, Ireland. He recently made the transition to dairy after raising commercial beef for several years. He says that the Irish are supportive of dairy.

“I suppose Ireland has held in fairly high regard for our produce and it’s grass-based, and I suppose it’s more environmentally friendly, rather than say like big barn systems and feeding a lot of grain and things like that,” Clesham states.

He says that Ireland’s milk comes from grass-fed cows, which sets them apart from the rest of the world.

“I suppose we’re unique in a way that most of our milk, or nearly all of our milk, really is produced off the grass,” he explains. “That’s the most profitable way to producing milk over here is from grass, and like I suppose that is the way I suppose that Ireland would market ourselves is that it’s grass-produced from small family farms, really.”

Ireland is roughly the size of Indiana, so large dairies are hard to come by. Clesham says that animal welfare is an important topic in the country.

According to Clesham, “Most dairy farms are small family-owned dairy farms, and we all have sort of, even though it’s a bull calf, he’s probably not worth very much, even if he’s sick or something, you’s still call the vet for him, even though that might cost you more than what he was worth. We’re all into our animals here in that regard... and they brought in new regulations to Ireland and things to protect your calves and their welfare. Like, I suppose, now you’re not allowed to sell the calves until they’re over ten days old: that’s just to make sure their navel is dry and the calf is reasonably hardy. That stops, you know, two, three-day-old calves from going into markets and things like that.”

Carbon emissions is a topic that is just now circulating in the country: “I’m not an expert on it, so there’s a little bit of false, I suppose, folks being led slightly astray with regards to what it is like because I think carbon emissions really is, if you think of Ireland, say alright, there might be a certain amount of cows on the land here, but there’s also huge swathes of land which you know absorb carbon as well.”

Clesham says that he can easily say that he has more trees on his farm than cows.