Is there a role for high input/high output dairy systems in Ireland?
Last week I had the privilege of attending the UCD Lyons research farm with a discussion group from Limerick.
One would have to be impressed by the way the herd is managed and the level of performance being achieved, but is there a role for this system in an Irish dairy context?
The Lyons UCD trial herd was established to investigate the potential of an alternative higher input system of milk production to the grass-based model being advocated by Teagasc. The reasons for establishing the trial include: (i) concerns about increasing dairy numbers and environmental emissions; (ii) facilitating farm expansion post EU-milk quota removal for land limited and fragmented farms; and (iii) lack of available skilled labour on farms to deal with expanding animal numbers.
Both the UCD Lyons system and the Teagasc system have many similarities and the following principles are common to each: high grass utilisation, high EBI herds and compact spring calving systems. The main difference between the two systems is regarding the level of input and output.
Lyons UCD is feeding 1,500kgs of concentrate/cow and selling 600kgs milk solids/cow, whereas the Teagasc model is based on 400kgs concentrate and selling 475kgs milk solids/cow.
There are pros and cons to both systems. The UCD system is likely to give greater returns in a good milk price year, whereas the Teagasc model may prove more profitable on a low milk price year.
The Teagasc model is based on the farmer taking two months off from milking duties in December and January whereas the UCD model is based on every cow milking for 305days, regardless of calving date, which inevitably starting the milking machine every day of the year.
So which system is more profitable? Profit monitor data will generally tend to suggest that both systems can be equally profitable when run at high levels of efficiency.