• Application of data envelopment analysis to measure technical efficiency on a sample of Irish dairy farms

      Kelly, Eoin; Shalloo, Laurence; Geary, Una; Kinsella, Anne; Wallace, Michael (Teagasc, 2012-12)
      The aim of this study was to determine the levels of technical efficiency on a sample of Irish dairy farms utilizing Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) and to identify key management and production factors that differ between producers indentified as efficient and inefficient. DEA was used in this study to generate technical efficiency scores under assumptions of both constant returns to scale (CRS) and variable returns to scale (VRS). The average technical efficiency score was 0.785 under CRS and 0.833 under VRS. Key production characteristics of efficient and inefficient producers were compared using an analysis of variance. More technically efficient producers used less input per unit of output, had higher production per cow and per hectare and had a longer grazing season, a higher milk quality standard, were more likely to have participated in milk recording and had greater land quality compared to the inefficient producers.
    • Can’t See the Wood for the Trees: The Returns to Farm Forestry in Ireland

      Breen, J.; Clancy, D.; Ryan, Mary; Wallace, Michael (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2010)
      The period 2007-2009 witnessed considerable variability in the price of outputs such as milk and cereals and this was compounded by a high degree of volatility in the price of inputs such as fertilizer, animal feed and energy. Previously, Irish farms have used the returns to off-farm employment as well as agricultural support payments such as the Single Farm Payment (SFP) and the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) to protect their living standards against low and uncertain agricultural market returns. However, the downturn in the Irish economy has led to a reduction in the availability of off-farm employment and also the discontinuation of REPS. This may lead to an increase in afforestation on Irish farms, as forestry offers greater certainty through the provision of an annual premium in addition to the SFP. However, the decision to afforest represents a significant long-term investment decision that should not be entered into without careful economic consideration. The aim of this paper is to use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis method to calculate the returns to forestry under alternative opportunity costs associated with conventional agricultural activities being superseded. The returns to forestry are calculated using the Forestry Investment Value Estimator (FIVE). These returns were then incorporated in the DCF model along with the returns to five conventional agricultural enterprises, which would potentially be superseded by forestry. This approach allows for the calculation of the Net Present Value (NPV) of three forestry scenarios.
    • An economic analysis of the Irish milk quota exchange scheme.

      Hennessy, Thia; Lapple, Doris; Shalloo, Laurence; Wallace, Michael (Institute of Agricultural Management, 2012-03)
      In Ireland, the trade of milk quota is subject to regional restrictions and a large variation in quota prices between regions has caused some controversy. This article investigates this issue by analysing the functioning of the Irish milk quota exchange market. For this purpose, the economic value of milk quota is estimated using an optimisation framework. The estimated values are then compared to milk quota prices paid at the exchange market. The analysis reveals that quota is undervalued in the border, midlands and west and south-west regions, while milk quota is overvalued in the east and south regions. This implies that farmers in certain regions overpay for additional quota, while other farmers secure good value for their quota investments. The paper concludes by discussing that the identified regional differences are only partly explained by economic and production factors.
    • An Examination of the Implications of Milk Quota Reform on the Viability and Productivity of Dairy Farming in Ireland

      Hennessy, Thia; Shrestha, Shailesh; Shalloo, Laurence; Wallace, Michael; Butler, Anne Marie; Smyth, Paul (Teagasc, 31/12/2008)
      The aim of the project was to produce quality, scientific based policy advice on the most efficient means for the transfer of milk quota between dairy farmers. The main objective of the project was to identify milk quota transfer mechanisms that would ensure the viability of the maximum number of farmers in Ireland while still supporting an internationally competitive agricultural sector. During the course of the project the Irish Department of Agriculture introduced a new milk quota transfer scheme. The milk quota exchange scheme was launched in November 2006. At this stage the objectives of the project were altered to be more policy relevant. Rather than exploring the efficiency of various milk quota transfer models, the aim of the project was redirected to explore the efficiency of the scheme as it was operated in Ireland. The rationale for this change was to provide relevant and timely feedback to policy makers on the operation of the new scheme. While the MTR agreement guaranteed the continuation of the EU milk quota regime until 2014/15, it also made provisions for a review of the milk quota system to be conducted in 2008. Clearly any changes to EU milk quota policy would have implications for farmers in Ireland. A second objective of this project was to explore some policy scenarios that may transpire from the milk quota review and to estimate the implications for farmers in Ireland.
    • Factors associated with profitability in pasture-based systems of milk production

      Hanrahan, Liam; McHugh, Noirin; Hennessy, Thia; Moran, Brian; Kearney, R.; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier, 2018-03-07)
      The global dairy industry needs to reappraise the systems of milk production that are operated at farm level with specific focus on enhancing technical efficiency and competitiveness of the sector. The objective of this study was to quantify the factors associated with costs of production, profitability, and pasture use, and the effects of pasture use on financial performance of dairy farms using an internationally recognized representative database over an 8-yr period (2008 to 2015) on pasture-based systems. To examine the associated effects of several farm system and management variables on specific performance measures, a series of multiple regression models were developed. Factors evaluated included pasture use [kg of dry matter/ha and stocking rate (livestock units/ha)], grazing season length, breeding season length, milk recording, herd size, dairy farm size (ha), farmer age, discussion group membership, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, fat %, kg of milk fat and protein per cow, kg of milk fat and protein per hectare, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated costs of production per hectare differed by year, geographical location, soil type, level of pasture use, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, breeding season length, and capital investment in machinery, livestock, and buildings per cow. The results of the analysis revealed that farm net profit per hectare was associated with pasture use per hectare, year, location, soil type, grazing season length, proportion of purchased feed, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, dairy farm size, and capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow. Pasture use per hectare was associated with year, location, soil type, stocking rate, dairy farm size, fat %, protein %, kg of fat and protein per cow, farmer age, capital investment in machinery and buildings per cow, breeding season length, and discussion group membership. On average, over the 8-yr period, each additional tonne of pasture dry matter used increased gross profit by €278 and net profit by €173 on dairy farms. Conversely, a 10% increase in the proportion of purchased feed in the diet resulted in a reduction in net profit per hectare by €97 and net profit by €207 per tonne of fat and protein. Results from this study, albeit in a quota limited environment, have demonstrated that the profitability of pasture-based dairy systems is significantly associated with the proportion of pasture used at the farm level, being cognizant of the levels of purchased feed.
    • PastureBase Ireland: A grassland decision support system and national database

      Hanrahan, Liam; Geoghegan, Anne; O'Donovan, Michael; Griffith, Vincent; Ruelle, Elodie; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence (Elsevier BV, 2017-04-15)
      PastureBase Ireland (PBI) is a web-based grassland management application incorporating a dual function of grassland decision support and a centralized national database to collate commercial farm grassland data. This database facilitates the collection and storage of vast quantities of grassland data from grassland farmers. The database spans across ruminant grassland enterprises – dairy, beef and sheep. To help farmers determine appropriate actions around grassland management, we have developed this data informed decision support tool to function at the paddock level. Individual farmers enter data through the completion of regular pasture cover estimations across the farm, allowing the performance of individual paddocks to be evaluated within and across years. To evaluate the PBI system, we compared actual pasture cut experimental data (Etesia cuts) to PBI calculated outputs. We examined three comparisons, comparing PBI outputs to actual pasture cut data, for individual DM yields at defoliation (Comparison 1), for cumulative annual DM yields including silage data (Comparison 2) and, for cumulative annual DM yields excluding silage data (Comparison 3). We found an acceptable accuracy between PBI outputs and pasture cut data when statistically analyzed using relative prediction error and concordance correlation coefficients for the measurement of total annual DM yield (Comparison 2), with a relative prediction error of 15.4% and a concordance correlation coefficient of 0.85. We demonstrated an application of the PBI system through analysis of commercial farm data across two years (2014–2015) for 75 commercial farms who actively use the system. The analysis showed there was a significant increase in DM yield from 2014 to 2015. The results indicated a greater variation in pasture growth across paddocks within farms than across farms.