Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 25 September 2018

'Contractors are not banks': Maintaining good relationships with contractors key to improving cow and grass management

A greater emphasis on making high quality silage would pay huge dividends
A greater emphasis on making high quality silage would pay huge dividends
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Maintaining good relationships with contractors is key to improving cow and grass management, two of Ireland’s most efficient dairy farmers told the Irish Grassland Association conference this morning.

Laois dairy farmer David Kerr told farmers that they need to appreciate contractors and pay them on time as they can significantly reduce farmer workload and improve overall farm efficiency.

“There’s a lot of messing going on when it comes to payment. Contractors are not banks. I pay them by standing order and pay the balance at the end of the year. You need to ensure they’re getting paid. If you treat these people with dignity, they’ll give it back in spades,” he said.

“The contractors drive the system on my farm and have worked here for 10-25 years. They’re spreading fertiliser for 10 or 11 years. It used to take me two days with my spreader but the guy I have does it all in four hours. Appreciate them, there’s enough money to go around.”

Mr Kerr also added that trusting relief workers is important so that farmers can have a work/life balance and take a break from the farm.

“Relief guys know the farm just as well I do, they don’t need any maps. They’re all part of the team. If you don’t trust them, you’ll have no life at all,” he said.

Pic: Kevin Ahern and David Kerr
Pic: Kevin Ahern and David Kerr

Kevin Ahern, who has been managing Shinagh Farm, a 230 cow cross-bred dairy herd outside Bandon Co Cork, works 250 hours a month on the farm. Despite these long hours, Kevin said he always manages to start and finish at the same time in the morning and evening and would urge farmers to do the same thing.

“I live 38 miles away from the farm. I need to finish before seven if I want to see my kids in the evening. You need to be able to switch off from the farm, so I like to start milking at seven in the morning so I can be finished early in the evening,” he said.

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Mr Ahern added that the farm doesn't have a pre-breeding heat detection system as he feels spending time outside identifying which cows are bulling is the best means to maintaining good fertility in your herd.

“I spend five hours a day in the paddock looking for cows that are bulling. We’ve a 98pc fertility rate which technology can’t guarantee,” he said.

“You can see it in their body condition when they’re in heat. We concentrate on the first three weeks of the breeding system and spend five hours a day in the paddock to try catch a cow bulling, a heat missed could lose you €250 per cow according to Teagasc, so you can’t take any chances.”

If you have students working on your farm, Kevin advised that farmers need to remember that they were “once students themselves” and should give them proper experience.

“We get students, and any casual worker we have would be a student who worked with us before. You need to give them proper responsibility. The student is the next generation of farmer. You need to give them authority.”


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