Project code: D-15-03

Duration 2.5 years commencing January 2003

Team and Leader Dr. Sinclair Mayne, Dr Duncan Anderson and Mr James Murphy

Organisations Involved ARINI and The Queens University Belfast

Background and Summary

The Northern Ireland dairy industry is currently going through a major crisis as a result of very depressed milk prices. Furthermore, current predictions suggest milk price will remain at this level for some time and that there will be more volatility in milk price in the future. Given this scenario, it is clear that milk producers need to re-examine optimal milk production strategies for their individual farm. 

A whole farm dairy model has been developed. This model enables optimum dairy production systems to be identified. Optimum systems can be identified for producers with a range of resources i.e. land, capital, labour and milk quota and across the range of climatic conditions which prevail in Northern Ireland, i.e. Ards Peninsula to west Fermanagh.

This proposal aims to further develop this model and to detail strategic plans for Northern Ireland dairy farmers. Such plans will enable Northern Ireland dairy farmers to choose development paths with confidence, and to survive and prosper with milk prices in the range of 16 to 21 ppl. This milk price range was recently predicted in the Outlook for Agriculture in Northern Ireland to 2010 and the Impact of the Elimination of Export Subsidies, published by Queens University, Agri-Food Policy group (2002)

The objectives of the present study are:

To use a recently developed "Whole farm dairy model" to investigate optimal milk production system(s) which should be adopted by the Northern Ireland dairy industry in a situation of sustained low milk price. The research programme will also investigate possible strategies to adopt to move to optimal systems from their current production systems.


Development of whole farm model completed, December 2002. Optimum systems across a range of scenarios identified July 2003. Strategy for adoption of optimum systems, i.e. how to move from current system, September 2003. Consultation and validation of model outputs Nov 2003 to Jan. 2004. Sensitivity analysis of models February 2004. Going public with model outputs June 2004.

Final report to be submitted to AgriSearch October 2006


1. Identification of goals for individual milk producers (handled by means of case study)
2. A clear vision of where the industry is heading (in terms of technical development which should be adopted)
3. A means to assess current development plans and perhaps suggest appropriate modifications of these.