Housing cows is only option for western farmer
Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30
What a difference a year makes. The month of September and beginning of October have been extremely wet in the west of Ireland. The month of October in 2015 was one for shorts and t-shirts on the dairy farm.
The plight of dairy farmers in the west of Ireland has not been fully appreciated. The incessant rainfall has resulted in ground conditions where cattle cannot graze. Farmers have now been left with no option but to house cows and feed round bales or pit silage.
Inevitably milk production will drop and with current milk price, farmers will not supplement with concentrates. There is a current mantra that dietary supplementation with concentrates is not economically justified. This is based on a scenario where dry matter intakes from grazed grass can support both milk production potential for the stage of lactation and the opportunity to achieve the ideal body condition score at the time of drying off.
The reality at farm level is far removed from this scenario. Both body condition score and locomotion scores are far removed from the optimal in excess of 80pc of herds visited in the past month.
Many farmers are taking the option of drying off cows early and rectifying hoof care issues when cows are housed. This is false economy when one considers the financial gain currently being made by some of our best dairy farmers.
On a recent farm visit to a dairy farmer near Kinsale, Co Cork, milk production stood at 18 litres per day, with milk solids of 4.8pc protein and 5.3pc butterfat. This Dairygold supplier received 34c/l for milk supplied in August.
This dairy farmer acknowledged that he is currently making a profit from milk production. He will manage to pay bills this year that would normally have been put forward to 2017 were milk price not to increase.
How has this farmer achieved such an excellent milk price in a subdued milk price environment? This entails a combination of genetic selection, excellent grassland management, controlled breeding management programme and judicious use of concentrates at various stages of the production cycle.