How many cows can one person sustainably manage?
With increasing cow numbers it is essential that workloads are sustainable to ensure a resilient farm business into the future, according to Teagasc.
It says that, additionally, a growing industry means there is a need to attract people to the industry and to achieve this dairy farming must be an enjoyable and rewarding career that offers a good work/ life balance comparable with other careers.
To ensure a good work/life balance it essential that farmers focus on adopting labour efficient farm systems and by evaluating, changing or adopting current work practices if necessary.
But, when discussing labour efficiency, a question is often asked: how many cows can one person manage?
At its recent dairy open day at Ballyhaise, Teagasc staff said that the first point to make is there should be no such thing as a one-person farm.
Every person needs a break from work and so every dairy farm business should have people available to offer the farmer time away from the farm, regardless of scale, it advises.
This may be family members or paid relief help, but cows per person are influenced by two things:
- How many hours of work does each cow require during the year?
- How many hours is the person willing to work?
Based on the national average herd size (75 cows in 2016), average labour efficiency nationally is estimated to be 40 hours per cow per year.