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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Nov 1974

Vol. 275 No. 7

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Milk Production.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the position regarding the supply of liquid milk for the coming winter having regard to possible feed shortages and excessive production costs such as those for animal feeding stuffs.

Supplies of milk for the liquid trade should be adequate to meet requirements in the coming winter.

The high seasonal cost of producing winter milk for that trade has been taken fully into account in the increased price now payable to producers for liquid milk supplied up to the end of next March for sale in the Dublin and Cork areas.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there has been mention of a danger of a shortage of milk in the Dublin area during the coming winter?

I am not so aware. The position is that the price of milk got from producers in the Dublin and Cork areas has been increased by 11p per gallon, or 42.3 per cent, and I think that should take care of the winter period.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that one does not increase milk production overnight; by increasing the price one does not get an increase in production the next week.

I am aware that 37p per gallon is a sufficient inducement to ensure that adequate supplies will be provided.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that recent statements in the papers indicate that there could be a shortage in the Dublin area? Is he not so aware?

I am not so aware.

It is about time the Parliamentary Secretary found out.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the action he is taking to improve the quality of dairy herds; and if he will state his ultimate goal in this respect.

Measures to improve the quality of dairy herds include the comprehensive progeny testing of AI bulls, the milk recording scheme and the importation of high class breeding stock and semen.

The aim is to encourage the breeding under Irish conditions of the highest quality stock for both milk and beef production.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that, because the service of bulls standing in AI stations costs more than the resultant calf produced by that insemination, the use of inferior bulls is increasing at an alarming rate and, as a consequence, the quality of our dairy herd must be suffering? Has he any suggestions to make on how to combat this problem?

I am not so aware. The Department are taking good care to safeguard the quality of our herds.

This is not so. There are rumours to the effect that the use of scrub bulls throughout the country is very widespread at present because it is no longer an economic proposition to use insemination or to use good bulls, because the cost of the insemination is greater than the value of the resultant calf?

If the Deputy is aware of the use of scrub bulls at present, as a former Minister for Agriculture he should send us a list of the names involved so that we can take appropriate action.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware of the great falling off in insemination this year?

The Parliamentary Secretary is not so aware—he is a credit to the Department!

If the Parliamentary Secretary or any of his officials went into any of the sale yards at present, they would see the number of inferior quality young cattle being sold, very much inferior to those being sold, say five or six years ago?

The position is that cattle being sold at marts here at present fetch higher prices than cattle sold in the Northern part of our country and higher prices than——

That is a very sorry boast.

I think cattle prices——

The next question, please.


asked the Minster for Agriculture and Fisheries why the projected 10 per cent increase in milk production predicted for 1974 did not materialise; and if he will state the consequences for the industry.

The shortfall in milk production this year, as compared with earlier expectations, was due mainly to adverse weather conditions.

Our dairy farmers have however acquitted themselves very well in achieving a level of creamery milk supplies which falls little short of the record quantity, 600 million gallons, supplied to creameries last year. It is already evident that the total supply of milk to creameries this year will be the second highest on record and is likely to be within about 4 per cent of last year's figure. At the substantially higher prices being paid for milk, this year's receipts by farmers from the sale of milk will create a new record.

On the manufacturing side of the dairy industry, this year's relatively small decrease in intake of whole milk has been accompanied by a partially offsetting increase in the rate of use of skim milk for manufacturing purposes. The throughput of the industry is therefore only slightly lower than that of last year. Prices ruling for dairy products have risen appreciably this year, and it is to be expected that the value of this year's output of dairy products will prove to be well above that of any previous year.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that many of the bigger dairy complexes are in serious financial trouble at the moment because of the failure in the anticipated rates of growth in milk intake? Far from there being any growth there was a very sharp drop in milk supplies this season. The reason is not entirely as the Parliamentary Secretary has stated.

Will the Deputy please put a question?

A formidable contributory reason is the fact that people are getting out of the dairying business because of the uncertainty of the trade and the fall in profitability——

The Deputy should avoid making a speech.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary in a position to say if any special measures will be taken to assist dairy complexes that are in financial difficulties as a result of the maladministration of the Government?

As the reply indicated, last year there was a record supply of 600,000 gallons of milk to creameries. This year it has been down by an estimated 4 per cent. I am pleased to announce we have an unlimited market for milk products——

In spite of the Labour Party.

It is likely that the price of milk to creameries will increase by as much as 20 per cent next year. I was pleased to be present at the launching of the "More Milk Campaign" by the Bord Bainne co-operative. Dairy farmers can be certain, so far as the foreseeable future is concerned, of a much increased price for milk as well as a guaranteed market.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that the reason the target has not been reached is due to the fact that an extra 130,000 cows were slaughtered this year as compared with 1973?

That is not the reason. We all know that this year the weather was much against us. The milk producers need not worry because we are looking after their interests and there is a promising future for them.

What about the 130,000 cows that were killed?

I am calling Question No. 5.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if there was a major cut-back in inseminations in the liquid milk areas last spring; and, if so, its likely effects on the availability of liquid milk this winter.

In the Dublin and Cork district milk board areas, inseminations were down by 11 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, in the period January to June as compared with last year. This decline which applied generally throughout the country is not likely to have any effect on the availability of liquid milk this winter.

The Parliamentary Secretary has given us figures of 11 per cent and 15 per cent but he has also said there will be a 20 per cent increase in milk production next year——

In the price of milk.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary state the reason for the fall off in artificial inseminations?

The answer to that would probably be obvious to any Deputy other than the one concerned.

It is not obvious to me. May we have an answer to the Deputy's question?

The answer is self-evident. It is obvious that the number of cows available for insemination was down by 11 per cent and 15 per cent.

Is it not evident that there will be a further dramatic and serious drop in milk supplies to the dairy industry next year with a consequential financial loss for these undertakings? What does the Parliamentary Secretary propose to do about it?

That is not so. In the immediate past the number of inseminations increased in several stations.

The number always increases in October. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that this is the season when normally the greatest number of inseminations are made so that cows will calve in April and May. The number will be down 15 per cent as compared with last year.

The percentage has increased as compared with last year.

I am calling Question No. 6.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will make a statement concerning the decision that Irish skim milk powder must be sold into intervention in future; when this decision was made; the agency that represented Irish interests; the language in which the associated documentation was circulated; whether the proposal was conveyed to him and to his Department some time beforehand; and, if so, his recommendation.

It is not correct to say that a decision has been made that Irish skim milk powder must be sold into intervention in future. What happened is that under a regulation of the European Commission, which came into operation on 16th October, 1974, and which expired on 31st of that month, community traders were enabled to purchase for export, on favourable terms, skim milk powder held by intervention agencies.

Under normal procedure, Commission regulations are considered in draft by the appropriate management committee. The text of this particular draft regulation, in the French language only, was placed before the Management Committee for Milk Products for their recommendation on 7th October. No prior notification of the proposal had been given. The measure was strongly opposed by the Irish representatives on the committee who are officers of my Department but the voting against it was not sufficiently strong to secure its withdrawal. The question of continuing the regulation, with possibly some variation of its terms, is currently under consideration by the Commission. The Deputy may be assured that this country will continue vigorously to oppose any Community measure which militates against the normal private trading in dairy products or which encourages their sale into intervention.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House if the regulation has been withdrawn?

The period expired on 31st October. There is a meeting being held today——

Is the regulation in force now?

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the quantity of milk supplied to Irish creameries in the period 1st January to 30th September in 1973 and 1974.

Deliveries of milk to creameries amounted to 534.83 million gallons in the period 1st January to 30th September, 1973, and 515.75 million gallons in the corresponding period of 1974. We expect it will be much higher in the corresponding period of 1975.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House on what he bases his expectation that the supply next year will be much higher in view of the fact that an extra 130,000 cows have been slaughtered, many in calf?

For the first time we have definite statements by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and other selling agencies such as the Bord Bainne co-operative that there is an unlimited market for milk products in the foreseeable future, that the price is likely to be increased in 1975. Farmers need not worry about the future so far as prices are concerned——

The cows are gone.

The same situation will not arise as happened with the small cattle where the price changed very much from 1973 to 1974. I expect that both Deputies Crinion and Gibbons regret the advice they gave last year and that they will be slow to make prognostications in the future.

The Parliamentary Secretary has not replied to my question as to what is the basis for his assertion that milk supplies to creameries will increase next year.

I am satisfied that many of the 75,000 farmers participating at present in the beef incentive scheme, which was sold to them by the people opposite, will switch to dairying again and that as a result milk supplies will be increased. That is one way in which I hope an increase in supplies will be achieved. Deputy Gibbons had little faith in the dairying industry and endeavoured to induce farmers to switch to beef production.

There has been a deterioration in the dairying industry during the past two years.

The only deterioration that has occurred during the past two years is the deterioration in the standard of the Opposition.

In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks regarding a decrease of 15 per cent in artificial inseminations——

The Deputy is referring to Question No. 7.

——and since he has blamed the weather for the decrease in milk production this year, is he predicting that the weather next year will be great and that consequently there will be an uplift in milk production? The Parliamentary Secretary is speaking a lot of nonsense.

I have no intention of replying to nonsensical questions.

There are 130,000 cows being slaughtered——

Question No. 8, please.