Dairy-4-Future is an exciting €3.8 million EU Interreg funded project with a consortium of eleven partners from the Atlantic region of western Europe.
Project partners are involved from eight countries including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal (local organisations involved include CAFRE, SRUC, AHDB and Teagasc). The project partners have been supported by 21 associate partners across the five countries.
The Northern Ireland component of the project is lead by CAFRE with support from Lakeland Dairies and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU). The project will run for four years from 2018 until the end of 2021.
Dairy production is an important economic activity in the Atlantic Area. Dairy expansion is ongoing in the Atlantic Area, facing the challenges of market volatility and climatic hazards and the need for more efficient use of natural resources to improve competitiveness. From Scotland to the Azores, the Dairy-4-Future project aims to increase the competitiveness, sustainability and resilience of dairy farms through the development of innovative and efficient dairy systems and increased cooperation between research and development stakeholder groups.
An integral aspect of the project is the analysis of sustainability on 100 pilot dairy farms across the eight countries involved. Ten local dairy farmers from across Northern Ireland are involved. These farms are family businesses typical of the region, they are above-average dairy farms in terms of technical and economic performance, while at the same time being relevant to other farmers in the region in terms of farm size and cow numbers. The average number of cows per farm range between 31 in the Azores to 182 in Scotland, with a mean of 82 cows per farm in the Atlantic Area.
Key selection criteria for the pilot farms were:
- Top 10% for economic performance
- Good technical and environmental performances (Nitrogen balance, Carbon Footprint)
- Motivated individuals, prepared to travel to pilot farm visits in other regions
- Prepared to host farm visits both locally and from other project regions
- Innovative dairy farms, that are testing novel dairy systems or working in close collaboration with research and development