Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Farmers could spend €2bn on dairy growth

Dairy farmers are on track to spend up to €1bn in their milking facilities and €2bn in total on expanding their farms in the coming years.

The Food Harvest 2020 report set out a target of 50pc increase in milk output by 2020 but, based on current herd growth, they are well on their way to exceeding that figure.

Dr Padraig French, head of livestock systems at Teagasc Moorepark estimates that dairy cow numbers will increase by up to 500,000hd by 2020, compared to 2009.

Based on a cost of expansion of €2,000-4,000/cow, this will amount to a staggering on-farm investment of €1-2bn.

Taking a figure of €700-2,000/cow for milking facilities only, this amounts to between €350m and €1bn being spent on milking equipment alone.

These forecasts are backed up by figures from milking equipment sales companies. Both Fullwood Packo and DeLaval say sales increased by 30pc last year compared to 2010, albeit from a lower base than normal due to low milk prices in 2009.

This increasing trend is continuing in 2012, with Fullwood Packo boss Willie Walsh estimating that farmers are spending on average €70,000-80,000 on new and upgraded milking machines and €24,000-25,000 on bulk tanks.

Given the level of investment required and the fact that the new parlour will be in place for up to 40 years, choosing a new milking parlour system is a big decision.

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With this in mind, Teagasc dairy and buildings experts Tom Ryan and John Donworth have compiled a useful guide for farmers thinking of changing their milking parlour, which is included in the Teagasc Dairy Manual.

The following advice is based on their guidelines.

They advise farmers to plan to be able to milk an expanded herd in no more than 90 minutes. Increasing the number of units will reduce overall milking time while, increasing individual row time. Individual row time is influenced by pre-milking routine and stage of lactation, which in turn influences cow over-milking.

An operator can handle 14 units where cows are prepared and up to 22 where no preparation occurs.

Aim for one unit per 7-9 cows. For example, a 120-cow herd would need 16 units.

Larger herds of more than 150 cows should consider a rotary parlour or long herringbone, which requires two milking operators.

The particular requirements of the individual farm and the cost of labour must dictate the level of automation in the new parlour.

If a high level of automation is installed, it is vital that it is reliable and dependable and can be operated by a person of reasonable skill.

Generally, it is better to focus on having adequate milking units at the expense of high levels of automation.

It is extremely important that the operator does not have to leave the pit during milking.

Indo Farming