Farm Ireland

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Ireland's most efficient dairy farmers are working nine-hour days

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Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Ireland's most efficient dairy farmers are working nine-hour days, according to a recent Teagasc study.

Between 2015 and 2016, 38 of Ireland’s most efficient spring-calving dairy farms took part in the Teagasc-led study called the “App Project”, which allowed farmers to log in their labour input details at the end of each month for a period of a year on a mobile app. The details were then analysed by Teagasc.

PhD student Justine Deming told the recent Positive Farmers conference that data from the study showed that dairy farmers were working on average nine-hour days when breaks and other enterprise activities were excluded.

“During crunch period farmers work on average nine hours a day and this is excluding breaks and other enterprise tasks.  You’re probably thinking to yourself that you’re working from 7am to 7pm but if you removed all breaks and other enterprise tasks this is what’s left over,” she said.

The study also showed that among these efficient farms, milking and cow care accounted for the majority of labour input, with milking accounting for 33pc of time and cow care 17pc.

Ms Deming pointed out that herd sizes in the study were split in to three categories: less than 150 cows, 150-250 cows and greater than 250 cows. She explained that the study showed as cow herd size increased, so did labour efficiency.

“The average herd size in the study was 195 cows and as herd size increased so did labour efficiency. Average farm labour efficiency was 21-hours per cows per year in category one and two but in the larger category three farms with more than 250 cows it was about 17.5 hours per cow per year,” she added.

The study also shows that there’s a seasonal pattern to labour demand on dairy farms with the highest labour input in the spring at 1,777 hours and decreasing to 885 hours in the winter.

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Ms Deming said that while these are figures for Ireland's top-performing dairy farms and not representative of a lot of farms in the country, she added that it's worth noting how far Ireland's dairy farmers have come and what can be achieved. 

“It’s worth noting that these farms have been picked out as labour efficient and we still have a long way to go but compared to studies in the past we’re moving in the right direction and it just goes to show what’s being achieved.”

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