The dairy farmer of the future must be organised to provide an enjoyable working environment that will also be profitable and sustainable, almost 500 delegates attending the Positive Farmers Two day Conference at Cork have been told today.
Robert Troy who operates a successful grass-based dairying business in Newtownshandrum, North Cork explained that a well laid out farm with good daily routine planning and efficient use of contractors has delivered an enjoyable experience on a 400 cow farm being managed in conjunction with his wife, Mary with the minimum of full time labour.
"I believe that the farm should be so that some time can be taken off during the day most times of the year because dairy farming should be an attractive and enjoyable career" he said.
"If we want to grow our business, i.e milk more cows, we cannot expect to manage that growth without the farm having a greater work load and physically we can only do so much as individuals but we can learn to work smarter and not harder" he stressed.
He said that all farmers are aware that each year brings with it new challenges and while there will be hard times, there should also be good times and there is an abundance of good ideas to help farmers run their business more successfully without adding to their personal work load.
"As farmers we want a business that is enjoyable, profitable, sustainable and probably challenging. For most of us we need a challenge , but we must have a resilient farm system to cope with the challenges ahead, because there will always be volatility on prices and weather so there will always be a bit of uncertainty in dairy farming" he said.
"Expanding cow numbers is fine but in order to do it successfully one must expand one's mindset in achieving this expansion. I believe there is going to be two types of farmers in the future, one will own the land but will not farm it day to day, while the other will combine this extra land with his management skill to make a return", he told the conference.
While it will not be possible to "make every day a Sunday" because the operation of the farm cannot be switched to auto-pilot "the job should not be so onerous that we cannot take time out during the day to pursue other interests and have an enjoyable life style and make dairy farming an attractive career choice".
Good planning within the farm, and clearly defined work practices to reduce work load are essential and "contractors should be playing a bigger part on all dairy farms regardless of their size" because contractor charges of €50/hour for tractor and driver is extremely good value when the cost of labour and machinery are factored in, not to mention maintenance charges.
"Why would any farmer buy a tractor when a good contractor service is available, but when dealing with contractors the farmer needs to be well organised, the system must be simple and you must pay them promptly" he advised.
In addition to slurry and fertilizer spreading, silage cutting and spraying, contractors are being employed for feeding silage to the farm stock, de-horning of calves, scanning of cows at an hourly rate, water pipe laying and fence erection.
He illustrated several of the labour saving practices which have been introduced on the farm and explained how hoof care can be carried out in three minutes and twenty seconds for the completion of the task with a proper crush system.