Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Dairy farmers could see profits jump by 40% - if they're prepared to act'

Any dairy farmer offered a 40pc boost in his income, would likely pinch himself to ensure that it was not a dream, and then ponder "where is the catch?" that every producer in the country hasn't copped on to it.

Boosting return by an additional €860/ha by increasing the profit per cow by €950 per annum, which would be a "massive difference" on any dairy farm, is a reality that can be attained, and is there to be tapped into, according to one of the most progressive dairymen in the south of the country. 

West Cork-based dairy farmer, Michael Murphy, is a partner in a large commercial dairy farm in Ireland and is a director of substantial dairy farming businesses in New Zealand and the USA who, for the past 45 years, has been a strong practitioner and proponent of grass based milk production and co-founder and director of the Positive Farmers Annual Conference which is now attracting a 'sell out' of in excess of 500 places with many travelling from abroad, in particular the UK each year.

His message to the recent conference was that turbo charging profits from dairy farming in Ireland is possible for many of the country's progressive dairymen provided that they are open to change the breed of dairy animals in their herds and the grass mix in the pasture.

He pointed out that reliable Teagasc research has now mapped the path to an increase of up to 41pc in profit on the top dairy farms by introducing cross breeding into the herd and clover into the sward.

The difference is that a Holstein-Friesian cow profit margin of €2,090 can be turbo boosted to €2,950 when animals crossed with Jersey are introduced and grass + clover sward is fed, increasing profit margin per hectare by €860.

Michael Murphy described it as "potentially a big breakthrough in dairy farm profits", if farmers are prepared to act.

"There is a massive difference to be achieved, which can add to our competitive advantage, but only if we act on it"

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He outlined that research on the Ballydugue Farm (Moorepark) show x-bred cows were considerably more efficient at feed conversion, producing 15.8pc more than HF animals on the same diet.

Reproductive performance was also better for the x-bred cows at 74.8pc pregnancy to first service versus 60pc for HF.

At Clonakilty x-bred cows were 13.6pc more efficient in feed conversion on grass, while on a grass + clover pasture the cross bred produced 27pc more kg MS per kg body weight.  The average yield for x bred on a grass + clover pasture was 5,802 kg compared to 5,200 kg for HF on grass pasture.

Results from experiments running for three years on the longevity of x bred versus HF have still to be evaluated but nationally the trend is for an average of 3.2 lactations for high yielding HF cows, versus 5 lactations for x bred.

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