Farm Ireland

Wednesday 24 January 2018

'Dairy farmers should be clearing €1,000/ac profit,' says Ballyhaise boss

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Dairy farmers in the northern half of the country should be aiming to clear €1,000/ac of net profit a year.

This was the clear message from Teagasc's dairy seminar in Ballyhaise, Co Cavan last week, where more than 350 farmers turned up to hear the latest advice.

Ballyhaise's herd manager, Donal Patton, also told those attending that dairying could be just as profitable in the border area compared to the best areas in the south, but management would need to be a little better. "We can grow the exact same amount of grass, but the peak is higher so it's even more important that farmers get their cows to calve compactly in January, February and early March," said Mr Patton.

Net profit for the 120-cow herd at Ballyhaise last year was €116,000.

Impressive presentations were also given by Teagasc's liquid milk researcher, Joe Patton. He stressed the importance of farmers focusing on the annual milk yield of cows instead of their total lactation or 305 day yield.

"There are no herds in either Cavan or Monaghan with annual yields per cow of more than 1,650 gallons," he told farmers.

"Many farmers may have 2,000-gallon cows but none have herds that are doing it year in, year out on a 365-day basis."

Mr Patton highlighted the lack of profitability of low fertility cows, with research which showed that low fertility cows took a year longer to reach their fourth calving. In addition, the survival rate of low fertility cows into the forth lactation was half that of the high fertility cow.

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"If you want to increase herd milk yield, don't focus on the milk yield index. Concentrate instead on the fertility index, and the milk will follow," he said.

In both Ballyhaise and Johnstown Castle, the breeding policy for the herds insists on bulls with a minimum EBI for fertility of €100. Mr Patton also presented figures that showed the feed costs for cows calving during January, February and March were almost €200 lower than cows calving in August and September.

In conclusion, Mr Patton said that on the most profitable farms, there was very little difference between winter milk and spring milk production systems.

"The vast majority of the milk is still produced according to the grass growth, with just a better quality silage required to keep 20pc of the winter milk herd milking through the winter. "

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