5 practices to reduce your work load this spring

Stock photo
Stock photo
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Many dairy farmers are working with an unsustainably high number of cows, according to a Teagasc Dairy Specialist.

Moorepark-based Stuart Childs says it's critical for farmers to implement some practices to reduce farm labour hours to cope with the pressures of the spring calving period.

He says although there is roughly the same number of farmers in Ireland today as there was in 2010, we’ve reached 1.4m dairy cows, a third more than in the same year, according to the Moorepark based Dairy Specialist. He said many of these farmers will soon be working an unsustainably high number of hours during the busy spring period.

A survey conducted by Teagasc researcher Marion Beecher showed farmers estimated that in spring 2018 they worked 86 hours per week, which equates to 12.4 hours per day and took less than one day off during March.

Only eight farmers of 349 farmers surveyed had not implemented any labour-saving practices at all, whereas 341 farmers had introduced at least one labour saving practice on the farm.

1.      Delegate work

According to Pat Clarke of Teagasc, the hardest hurdle in outsourcing jobs such as slurry spreading to contractors can be getting your head around the idea of actually doing it.

“Don’t underestimate the challenge of changing the way you do things. But during the high-pressure springtime most farmers will be much better off time-wise if they get contractors to do jobs such as spreading slurry, spreading fertiliser, and even feeding their cows,” he said in a discussion with Marion Beecher.

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2.      Outsource machinery work where possible

The survey also show 75pc of farmers were contracting out slurry spreading, almost 40pc were using contractors to spread fertiliser, and just 6pc were using contractors to feed their cows. About a third had adopted once a day milking for an unspecified amount of time and a similar number were feeding calves once a day from 14 days old. One in seven had a dedicated night-time calve, according to the survey.

3.      Measure and plan hours worked on the farm

Marion Beecher highlighted the importance of planning and measuring whether farmers are actually reducing the workload.

“It’s important to start with your end goal in mind and work back,” she says. “If you target finishing at 6pm, it takes two hours to milk then you will need to start milking at 4pm

4.      Consider OAD milking at the start of calving

Marion also admitted although milking once a day will reduce milk solids produced, it will also reduce the working hours required each day.

5.      Look at your calf management plan

Calf management has a huge potential in reducing the hours spent working for every farer, according to the Moorepark based Researcher.

“Getting away from single-calf pens to adequately-sized group calf sheds, having the calf shed close to milking parlour, and selling calves at 14 days will all reduce workload in the spring,” according to the farmers adding that contract rearing calves is another area suggested by the Researcher to explore, in order to reduce farmers work load.

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