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Dairy farmers delayed breeding season in bid to keep winter feed costs down – Teagasc

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Early indications suggest that dairy farmers deliberately delayed the start of this year’s breeding season to more closely match spring grass availability and keep indoor feeding costs down, Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom has said.

He said this will mean that herds will be more compactly bred this year.

With the breeding season now in full swing, Teagasc advice is to use the same number of AI straws as last year; the advisory body said earlier turnout of stock bulls is not recommended.

“Too much depends on the bull working well. Over-worked bulls run the risk of leaving a higher empty rate behind them,” said Mr Ramsbottom.

“Cows bred this week will calve in February of next year. February-born dairy replacement or dairy beef calves are always welcome.

“If farmers have used all the dairy AI they are planning to use, they should switch to beef AI instead and keep going. Remember that for every three weeks you breed to AI, you halve the number of bulls that you’ll need to tidy up.”

It comes as Teagasc estimated that total milk production costs per litre in 2022 could be up 30pc on the 2021 level.

The ICMSA has said feed and fertiliser make up 60pc of direct costs on a dairy farm, and the CSO statistics released last week show that energy costs increased 32pc, with straight fertiliser up 149pc and feedstuffs up 22pc.

An average dairy farmer it said, who may have spent €15,000 on fertiliser in 2021 would expect to pay almost €45,000 in the coming year.

Last week, IFA dairy chairman Stephen Arthur echoed ICMSA’s criticism of a decision to exclude dairy farmers from a proposed €100/ha fodder payment.

“If the Minister is serious about supporting farmers during the current crisis, then he cannot overlook some sectors,” he said.

“We want the Minister to bring forward targeted measures for dairy farmers who need it most.

“Some are tied into fixed milk price contracts. Others are locked up with TB or have high borrowings.”

Mr Arthur said the scheme could include criteria to ensure the payment goes to those who are under the most pressure.

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