Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Make most of Greenfield visit

John Donworth

Have you heard about the Greenfield Dairy Project in Kilkenny? Certainly if you are from that county you will have heard all about the work that has gone on at this 113ha (net area) tillage farm in the town land of Clare, six miles from Kilkenny city. A major open day will be held on the farm on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

What has been happening on this farm has generated a certain amount of talk over the past few months. But the whole operation is up and running now. The farm has been leased for a period of 15 years, starting on January 1 this year.

What are the soils like on the farm? Half the farm is clay loam soil, which means it is free- draining. The other half is a heavy clay soil (15-18pc clay content) with a high water table.

So, what have the people at Moorepark set out as the objectives for this farm? There are several, but in essence, they are built around the following factors:

  • To support existing family farms to expand milk production in a financially profitable manner;
  • To provide new entrants into dairy farming with the required technology to develop a successful business;
  • To demonstrate the financial feasibility of converting a greenfield farm into a profitable dairy farm.

While all the objectives are important, I would imagine that it's the last one that will have most dairy farmers scratching their heads as to the magnitude of the task in hand. But rest assured, the financial budgets have been done and the project does deliver surplus cash in each of the 15 years.


Obviously, milk price will be a huge factor in deciding how much surplus cash is generated and, while the base milk price has been set at 24c/l, the budget has also been done at a milk price of 22, 20, 26, 28 and 30c/l over the life of the lease.

Work began on reseeding the farm in September once all the tillage crops had been removed. Bealey, Tyrella, Abermagic, Dunluce and Aston Energy grass varieties were put in as monocultures. Two kilos of white clover was included with each variety. Personally, I have never recommended the use of monocultures to dairy farmers. It will be interesting to see how these grasses behave after five years. One 70ac block, which had a crop of maize on it, remains to be reseeded this year.

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A total of 250 cows will be milked on the farm this year and the intention is to milk 340 cows at the peak. This number will result in a stocking rate of three cows for each hectare.

What of the buildings? Another objective of the project is to provide an industry blueprint in the design and layout of a low-cost farm infrastructure. The farm has three kilometres of five-metre roadways, seven kilometres of water pipes and 40 drinking troughs.

The clay-lined outwintering pad and silage base are already completed. All slurry will be stored in the clay-lined lagoon.

While room has been left to extend the parlour to 30 units, initially there will only be 24 units in use. A circular collecting yard, with a self-wash system will be in use when the first of the cows calve from February 1.

While an enormous amount of work has been done on the farm since September, the hard frost of the past few weeks has halted concreting work.

As I said in the early part of this piece, there is a lot of interest from dairy farmers in the goings-on in Kilkenny. Because of the level of interest, and to bring farmers up to date with the work and the expectations for the farm, a major two-day open day will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Tuesday will be confined to farmers from Leinster, while Wednesday is open to the rest of the country. The assembly point will be Kilkenny mart, Cillin Hill on the Dublin road out of Kilkenny, at 10.30am. This is a whole day event. One and a half hours will be held indoors at the mart in Kilkenny. This time will be devoted to the financial appraisal of the project and what was involved in buying the stock.

This will be your last opportunity to view the farm for some time as it is not envisaged to hold any more open days for the remainder of this year.

Irish Independent