That was the question Cork dairy farmer Donal O’Reilly asked himself three years ago when he joined the Teagasc/Glanbia Monitor Farm Programme in January 2015.
Since then, Donal — who entered a formal Milk Production Partnership with his parents, Tadgh and Margaret, in 2009 — has expanded his herd to 180 cows and invested over €180,000 in infrastructure.
Speaking at a recent demonstration walk on his farm at Bishops Island, Donal said that he can work more efficiently because of the improvements, and that the better facilities entice good staff to his farm.
“The increased cow numbers mean I can afford a full-time labour unit on the farm. I now have two people working full-time during the week and one on weekends milking,” he said.
He said the investment he’s made to the set-up of the farm makes this a viable option.
“This year I installed an underpass costing €45,000 on the farm and it spares me an hour and a half every day they use it. Over half of the milking platform is on the other side of the road.”
Donal has a 20-unit Dairymaster herringbone swingover parlour and had a drafting system installed; he said the new set-up allows easy cow flow from the collecting yard, through the milking parlour to the cubicle shed.
He has also invested €82,000 in cattle housing, adding 140 cubicles in a new shed to 60 cubicles already fitted. Now he has the capacity for 200
cows and space for 30 more in a converted beef shed.
Further, he drained six acres this year on the milking platform to maximise future grass growth potential.
He also upgraded the water system and improved roadways and fencing, costing €39,000 on his farm. Paddock size was also increased to three grazings per paddock on the farm.
The agreed plan under the Monitor Farm Programme, co-ordinated by Kilkenny-based Teagasc business and technology advisor Richard O’Brien, is to have 200 milking cows, full-time labour and all heifers contract reared by 2019.
Next year, Donal plans to increase herd size to 190 cows, have all of his heifer contract reared and further increase grass grown to 16t DM/ha.