Kilkenny dairy farmer Sean Cummins said that while labour costs have increased, he views having on-farm labour as an investment is essential to the long-term success of his business.

Involved in a family dairy partnership that also employs one person full-time as well as part-time staff, he maintained that ensuring good relationships with contractors, vets and employees is an area where he would be slow to cut costs on.

Speaking at the first of the main stage talks, ‘Finding ways to cut costs’ at Dairy Day 2023, he said: “If you have the right people, treat them as well as you can, give them respect, they’re important to the farm if you want to have an efficient farm system.

"We expect to have a life outside farming and that’s fierce important after a hard year. Maintaining good working relationships with people who work on your farm is essential to the long-term success of the business.”

Costs rising

According to head of dairy advisory with Teagasc Dr Joe Patton, relative to 2019 and 2020, costs are up 8c to 9c/l, not accounting for labour.

“The difference in costs over the last few years, thery’re scary to be honest. Everyone thinks that fertiliser is the big one, but it's 2c/l of that rise while feed cost has accounted for double that.

“The price of fertiliser went up, but, as it was so expensive, the rate it was used went down. Based on profit monitor results, we’ve seen on average around 300kg extra feed was fed for maybe 5kg of extra milk solids.”

Cash is scarce

Despite the good year in 2022, agri manager with FDC Liam Hennessy said they are seeing farmers coming into them saying cash is scarce.

“We’re seeing that 80% of highly profitable farmers have an issue. They have the money made last year, but have it spent.

"Farmers are slow to take on debt when maybe it may make more sense to arrange longer-term finance.”

He added that longer-term loans would make more sense for farmers than short-term five- or seven-year loans.