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Making a sustainable splash

Article appeared in issue 6, 2022


One of the biggest developments in the Irish dairy industry in 2022 was the acquisition by Glanbia Co-op of the Irish dairy-processing assets of Glanbia Plc. and, significantly, a new title – and identity – for the co-op, now aptly named, Tirlán 

Tirlán, an Irish-language word meaning ‘land of abundance’ now displaces Dairygold as the largest dairy co-operative in Ireland, with turnover for 2022 expected to exceed €3bn. Tirlán’s milk pool accounts for one-third of Ireland’s entire dairy production and the three billion litres produced on the co-operative’s 3,500 dairy farms are used to supply its milk-processing facilities across Ireland. 


As a co-operative, Tirlán is 100% farmer-owned, with 11 high-tech processing
facilities, 52 agri-branches and over 2,100 employees.


Sustainability incentive 

 One of the innovative environment-facing initiatives adopted by Tirlán recently is the introduction of a sustainability payment to its farmer suppliers. This three-year programme, which commenced in advance of Tirlán’s conception, is being financed by €54m from the former Glanbia Co-op’s funds.   

Under the initiative, known as the Sustainability Action Programme, Tirlán’s milk producers must commit to introducing a range of environment and animal welfare-enhancing practices on their farms.  
From 18 options, milk producers must choose seven for implementation on their farms. Some of the options include the introduction of clover-rich swards; milk recording; planting of native Irish trees and hedgerows; fencing off watercourses; renewable energy generation; and improved livestock breeding practices.  

The focus of the sustainability payment is to promote carbon reduction on farms; improve air quality; increase biodiversity and soil health; protect water sources; and heighten animal health and welfare standards, especially through the application of preventative health measures in animal-management practices.  

Living Proof 

This focus on sustainability among Tirlán’s farmer producers is all part of its overall sustainability strategy called Living Proof. This is a comprehensive sustainability strategy that will see the organisation – encompassing its producers and milk-processing units – pledge to achieve a 30% absolute reduction in carbon emissions from its processing sites and a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with each litre of milk produced by 2030. It is also committed to delivering on the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to show its commitment to reducing GHG emissions by implementing the best science and technology available.    

Joint venture  

The next two years hold further exciting prospects for Tirlán, following the resolution of planning objections that delayed the development of a cheese-manufacturing facility in the southeast of Ireland. A joint venture between Dutch company, Royal A-Ware, and Tirlán has commenced and is expected to complete by spring 2024. When operational, the facility will use 450 million litres of milk produced by Tirlán suppliers to produce 50,000 tonnes of European-style cheeses annually including gouda, edam and emmental for sale across the EU. This is part of Tirlán’s ongoing product-diversification strategy to counteract disruption to its UK cheddar-cheese exports in the aftermath of Brexit.    

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