Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Want to add €700/ha to the profits of your dairy farm?

Expert cites 'biggest research beakthough' in decades

Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Dairy farmers could drive profits by an extra €500/ha to €700/ha by introducing greater crossbreeding in their herds and introducing more clover into grass swards.

Well-known Cork dairy farmer Michael Murphy described the improved performance which crossbreeding and clover delivered as the "single biggest research breakthrough" he had seen in 50 years working in the sector.

He said the developments had the potential to "turbocharge returns" from Irish dairying, and increase operating margins to €2,800/ha for the very best farmers at a milk price of 32c/l.

"For most people a 30pc lift in profits, or €500/ha, is attainable. But up to €700/ha is possible for the top operators," Murphy maintained.

He said that for a 100ha unit this equated to an annual lift in profits of between €50,000 and €70,000.

Murphy was speaking ahead of Positive Farmers Conference which takes place on Wednesday and Thursday (January 11 and 12) of next week at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Little Island, Cork.

He said the increased profits that crossbreeding and clover could provide for farmers would be central to the presentations and discussions at the two-day event.

"I am not making these claims lightly. There is very strong back-up evidence from research carried out by Teagasc on which the figures are based," Murphy insisted.

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He said the research findings - mainly from Moorepark and Clonakilty - would be teased out at the conference.

Feed conversion

While the Cork dairy farmer accepted that more targeted breeding of Friesian-Holsteins had closed the gap in terms of performance on crossbreds, he maintained that the latter remained more fertile and easier to manage.

However, he argued that the stronger feed conversion potential of crossbreds as compared to traditional Friesian-Holsteins was a more important factor in their superior performance.

"Feed conversion has been overlooked in the dairy industry, but it is a critically important area and one where there is a very large difference between crossbreds and Friesian Holsteins," Murphy pointed out.

Just 6pc of the national herd is crossbred and Murphy accepted that changing their breeding policy was a major decision for farmers.

However, he said it would be "madness" for farmers to "turn a blind eye" to the possibility of improving operating profits by €500 to €700/ha.

"Finding an outlet for crossbred bull calves can be a challenge, but this has to be balanced against cows with better milk solids, better health, better fertility and better feet," Murphy said.

"In addition, crossbreds are easier to calve and have around 16pc higher conception rate to first service," he said.

In terms of clover, he said paddocks could be over-sown in the spring. However, he admitted to concerns regarding the performance of clover on heavier soils.

A mix of Irish and international speakers will take part in next week's Positive Farmers Conference.

Kevin Lane of Ornua will look at the global dairy market outlook.

Teagasc dairy specialists Brendan Horan and John Maher will look at grass utilisation and stocking rates, while Kevin Ahern and John McNamara from the Shinagh Farm near Bandon will outline how they improved compact calving results.

Robert Troy from north Cork will discuss approaches to slashing the spring workload. Tadhg Buckley of AIB will give a presentation on how farmers should deal with banks. More information is available from or Mary O'Keeffe at 087 645 7987.

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