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Sunday 16 December 2018

See inside this 230-crossbred cow dairy farm with an EBI of €157

Shinagh Dairy Farm is achieving 11pc return on capital on leased ground

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Shinagh Dairy Farm was set up in 2011 as part of a collaborative project between the four west Cork Co-Ops - Bandon, Barryroe, Lisavaird, and Drinagh, in conjunction with Carbery and Teagasc.

The farm is located just outside of Bandon town in the heart of West Cork.

The farm is leasing 78ha off Shinagh estates, which is owned by the four west Cork co-ops, and is currently in year eight of its 15-year lease.

Shinagh Dairy Farm invested €820,000 converting the farm and stocking it. This included the price of reseeding the farm, of which 75pc was reseeded between 2010 and 2011, converting the wintering facilities, creating roadways and €210,000 that was spent on the 20-unit parlour, built in the middle of the grazing platform.

This investment was funded partially by the west Cork co-ops, which funded the farm €260,000 of equity by the west Cork co-ops and borrowed a further €560,000. The farm is paying the rent, labour, no single farm payment and now have accumulated €520,000 of cash.

Kevin Ahern, the Farm Manager is the only full-time staff working on the farm, but the farm does hire a student for three months for the calving and breeding season. Contractors take care of the winter feeding, fertiliser, baling and slurry on the farm, and all calves are contract reared.

Currently, the 230-crossbred cow herd stands at an EBI of €157, weighing more towards fertility with €64 devoted to this. The average calving interval is 370 days and some 93pc of the herd is calved down in the first six weeks.

“EBI is where we’re going with the breeding. We’re using fertile bulls and we’re chasing the milk solids all the time,” said the Farm Manager.

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The cows are set to produce 407kg of milk solids this year, amounting to 1,320kg/ha.

“For the future we’ll go steady as regards the numbers. We’ve banked a lot of money at this stage and there’s talks of maybe bringing on another labour unit, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

All of the milking platform is in one block and has a mixture of free-draining and heavy clay soils, which range from rolling to steep in nature.

The milking platform the is stocked at 3.21 LU/ha. The farm has grown almost 11t DM/ha this year, almost 3t behind last year’s growth. The cows are expected to be fed 1.3t of meal by the end of year and an extra 520kg of forage was bought in to fill the gap, compared to just feeding just 300kgs of concentrates in 2017.

“We’ve enough fodder now for a four-month winter. We acted fast and bought 40ac of silage, at the start of July and that’s what saved us.”

“More automation would maybe take a bit of pressure off the labour time all around the farm. The next step would be to get the feeders in the parlour, to slacken off the labour and free up some time.”

As of November 23, some 80pc of the farm was closed with an aim of fully closing the farm with an average farm cover of 750kg DM/ha, in order to have enough for early spring grazing, weather permitting.

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