Ireland is a world class milk producing country, and farmers deserve a world class milk testing system which should ideally be centralised, but most of all independently accredited to the best international standards.
Currently, milk is in most cases being tested by the same organisation which purchases it. This creates a potential problem, at least of perception, of vested interest.
However, pressure by IFA over the last two decades has helped achieve major improvements in the standards of testing, and of prompt communication of results to help with on-farm management decisions. Well publicised surveys by IFA in Limerick and Cork in the mid 2000’s have helped persuade the Government to monitor testing standards at co-op level, have generally raised awareness and helped to massively improve standards in this area.
Continued activity by IFA, which had encouraged the central independent milk testing organisation NMR in the UK to become involved in Ireland, helped bring about the Progressive Genetics/NMR joint venture independent laboratory IML in Bailieborough.
Most co-ops now operate excellent, world class testing regimes, but the lack of independent accreditation in most remains an issue for farmers.
IFA continues to lobby for independently and fully accredited, centralised milk testing which must form part of the industry’s consolidated development.
Such a system would not only deliver high quality on-farm management information in real time – as it already does at co-op level for many farmers – it would also help monitor, breed out and eradicate animal diseases at national level.
In the meantime, farmers who have concerns about their milk testing results can engage with their co-ops using the IFA split sampling procedure, agreed many years ago with all co-operatives.