Farmers working shorter week more efficient – study
Dairy farmers who operate a shorter working week are also more efficient farmers, a recent survey among the owners of some of the top dairy herds in the country has found.
The working week varied from 39 hours to 80 hours in the 500 farms studied, with an average of 65 hours being worked. The analysis found that output per labour unit was 50pc higher on the most efficient farms where the working week was 10 hours shorter than the overall average. The farmers are all members of dairy discussion groups with an average herd size of 95 cows, and the objective of the study was to identify means of reducing labour input on dairy farms without effecting efficiency or production.
"Dairy herd size has been relatively static over the last 10 years but is likely to grow rapidly in the years after quota abolition.
"Normally we think about cubicles, slurry storage, roadways and paddocks, when resources are mentioned, but labour (workload) is often overlooked and it will become a limiting factor on dairy farms," said Pat Clarke, head of Teagasc's Animal and Grassland Research Programme.
The farms studied operated 55 livestock units (LU) – the National Farm Survey shows the average at 40 LU – with 13.6 hours/day being worked, of which family members accounted for 2.7 hours and employed labour 1.9 hours.
The most efficient farmers had an output of 30,500kg of milk solids per labour unit, compared to an average of 20,000kg, but finished more than an hour earlier in the evenings than the average finishing time of 6.55pm.
Some of the key factors in achieving the shorter working time were: three times more usage of contractors for fertiliser spreading, 50pc more usage of contractors for slurry handling, more operation of once-a-day calf feeding, and investing in better facilities.