Building resilience - how streamlined work practices and contract rearing can insulate dairy farmers from milk price volatility
"If you're not changing, you're standing still and eventually going backwards." This philosophy is what drove dairy farmer Patrick Traynor's decision 10 years ago to expand his dairy herd.
Based in Corduff, Co Monaghan with his wife Mairead and four-month old daughter Siomha, Patrick originally started with 50 acres but over the years he has bought 30 acres to facilitate expanding the herd. He has also leased and swapped land to increase the milking platform.
Patrick is now milking 130 crossbred Holstein and Jersey cows in a spring calving system.
The reasons he was eager to expand were linked to wanting a better lifestyle and he admits that the changes he made to his farm were gradual.
"I did it as opportunities arose; 30 cows would've been average enough at the time but now that's quite small. I did it because I wanted a better lifestyle and wanted to be able to come to a point where I would be able to afford help and it wouldn't be a one-man job," says Patrick.
His milking operation is certainly no longer a "one-man job". Every spring a student from the nearby Ballyhaise Agricultural College in Co Cavan works on his farm during calving time, and he also gets help from his nephew and brother.
The biggest outside help comes from his contract rearer for heifers.
"The contract rearing is brilliant and saves me time. I'm not thinking of all the things I have to do. Instead I can focus on grass management and milking the cows," he says.