'The top dairy farmers can handle 117 cows per man'
Farmers need to have efficient systems before they start into expansion was the clear message from Teagasc specialists at the farm walk in David Hannon's farm.
Pat Clarke highlighted the results from a Teagasc survey of over 800 farmers showing that the most efficient farmers tended to start the milking an hour earlier in the evening.
"Some farmers are afraid to start milking earlier in the evening because they feel that their cows will yield less.
"But all the research shows that your milk yield will be the same whether you leave a 12 hour interval or an eight hour interval. If you start earlier, you will finish earlier," Mr Clarke told farmers.
Other characteristics of efficient farmers included feeding calves once-a-day, heavier reliance on contractors, synchronising heifers and a shorter calving season, and more days at grass.
"The top 5pc of farmers spend half the amount of time per livestock unit compared to the average. That means that they are able to handle about 117 cows per man - double the average," he said.
He stressed the importance of simple systems such as spring calving to achieve both efficiency and scale. "Typical liquid milk herds have maybe 11 different groups of stock, while the spring calving operation might only have three," he said.
When asked how he coped with the workload of calving 160 cows in six weeks, host farmer Mr Hannon said that the system had evolved to cope well.