Farm Ireland

Saturday 23 June 2018

'Contract rearing has definitely allowed us to streamline the operation'

Joseph Dunphy, Teagasc’s Tom Coll and Kieran Henry
Joseph Dunphy, Teagasc’s Tom Coll and Kieran Henry

Dairy farmer Joseph Dunphy, who runs a Frieisian-Jersey crossbred herd of 270 cows in Easkey, Co Sligo with his father Joseph, said they had been considering it for some time before they finally decided to send their heifers out to a contract rearer.

"We were running three groups of animals on the one platform. It was difficult to manage more cows and the young stock. We decided it would be a great benefit to have someone rear them, put them in-calf and drop them back in-calf," said Joseph, who is also working as an educational officer with Teagasc.

He then encountered Limousin breeder and contract rearer Kieran Henry through the discussion group.

"He was a qualified AI technician which was a bonus but I got the impression from him that he knew what he was doing. He was measuring grass, weighing and meeting the target rates.

"It has definitely allowed us to streamline the operation as we are only managing two groups as opposed to three and it will allow us to stock a couple of extra cows," he said, with the farm operating a 95ha milking platform and another 17ha for silage and calves.

"It took more of the pressure off around the weeks of April and May - bulling time. As we expand we wanted to make sure that we're not making things more difficult and the system stays simple."

With 56 heifers currently with Kieran, the Dunphys are planning on sending him another 60 next year. "We got on very well with the submission rates and the in-calf rates," he said.

Joseph explained that he had no qualms about sending the stock to Kieran as he knew from the attention to detail with the suckler cows that he would replicate that with the heifers. "It is important to him as well as if he wants to make a go of it then he has to do it well," he said.

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All the details were ironed out between the pair beforehand as they used a Teagasc contract rearing template but tweaked it to fit both their circumstances. "We went for a simple system where we supply the vaccinations and then Kieran will administer them. We pay him by the day per animal and that is how it works - it is a regular income for him as well," he said.

However, communication is key as both sides must be kept informed as the year is progressing. "I think there is going to be an increase in this as it can compliment a beef or sheep enterprise. It might give a steadier income."

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