Cow grazing on grass

Our grass-fed cows

24 June 2020
Sustainable Story

When it comes to our herds, our cows spend most of the year outside grazing on acres of rich and plentiful grass. Due to our temperate climate with abundant rainfall, in winter they move inside and enjoy a diet of grass ensiled from the fields’ during summer, supplemented by a small amount of extra nutrition on carefully managed diets.

Ireland is extraordinarily fortunate in its natural capacity to grow quality grass. Our location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean means we have a moderate climate, with plentiful rainfall that creates lush green grasslands where our herds are free to graze for most of the year.

Our farming families supplying around three billion litres of milk do so on farms where cows graze outdoors for most of the year. Tirlán treasures this grass-fed pool of milk, putting it through a rigorous testing regime that sees it undergo multiple tests between the farm and the table, guaranteeing high quality.

Grasslands comprise 80% of Ireland’s agricultural land, with an annual growth rate that exceeds the European average by more than a third. Our grass-based production is the most cost-effective, welfare-friendly and efficient way to feed dairy herds.

The Irish dairy system has an important role to play in supplying nutritious, sustainable dairy to populations both at home and abroad. Ireland has the lowest emissions per kilogram of milk solids produced in the EU, and one of the lowest on the planet according to third-party scientific reports.

At Tirlán, we are conscious of how fortunate we are to have this resource literally under our feet, and we do all in our power to protect and nurture it.

Family Farms

For our farmers, agriculture is not only a way of life, but an enduring family tradition. Our farmers represent a mix of young, highly skilled entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans – stewards of the land who see dairy farming as both a fulfilling lifestyle and a viable business.

They share deep bonds with their herds, with sustainability and animal welfare always top priorities. Our farms are Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW (A Greener World), an independent non-profit farm-certification programme, which certifies that animals are raised outdoors on pasture on independent farms, using truly sustainable, high-welfare farming practices.

We work with our farmers to nurture the land and encourage regenerative farming practices. Our technical advisory team place a strong premium on soil health to promote healthy environments where plants can thrive.

Kieran-Hearne_Rathgormack farm

Diligent grassland management can make a highly significant difference to our milk suppliers’ profitability. Of the many grass varieties, dairy farmers tend to cultivate those that offer exceptional nutritional value and easy digestibility for cows. They also add clover to the mix for nutritional value and to aid the natural nitrogen balance in the soil. To keep our pastures fresh, we encourage our farmers to test their soils every three to five years, add the recommended nutrients and reseed as appropriate to replenish grass variety.

In conjunction with skilled farmers, Tirlán has developed detailed Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) for their lands. While ensuring the responsible use of nutrients, these maximise grass production, which in turn helps to nurture the healthiest herds that produce the highest-quality milk.

Truly Grass Fed Cheese and butter

Truly Grass Fed – an Irish-American tale

Tirlán has many international successes to its name. These owe much to our grass-fed herds and dairy products. In the United States, Tirlán’s Truly Grass Fed brand is recognised for taste and quality and its range of products is finding an ever-expanding niche in the US market.

The Truly Grass Fed product range, including cheddar cheese and creamy butter, are building a solid reputation based on their delicious taste and the quality of Irish grassland. Customers of Truly Grass Fed products are made aware of the quality of Irish family farming, the outdoor environment in which cows are maintained, the minimal processing involved and the clear line of traceability from farm to finished product, and the sustainable, low-carbon nature of the production process.


Studies show that the nutritional quality of milk is enhanced from cows that are grass fed versus those that are grain fed*.

Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs)

CLA naturally occurs in milk; however, milk derived from grass-fed cows has twice the level compared to grain-fed milk**.

Omega Fatty Acids

Grass-fed milk has a more optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids***. Milk from grass-fed systems has a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids and a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids,*** which is favourable when compared with milk from grain-fed systems.

Beta Carotene

You can thank beta carotene for the rich golden hue often associated with products derived from grass-fed milk.

Learn more about Truly Grass Fed

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* Effect of pasture versus indoor feeding systems on raw milk composition and quality over an entire lactation

**Benefits from O’Callaghan et al 2016 and 2017; Journal of Dairy Science

***Quality characteristics, chemical composition, and sensory properties of cheese from cows on pasture versus indoor feeding systems. (Benefits from O’Callaghan et al 2016 and 2017; Journal of Dairy Science)