Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Open day looks at extremes

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A low-cost partnership switching to cross-bred cows and a high-input Holstein breeder within five miles of each other were the focus for last week's successful Irish Grassland Association open day.

The morning session was held on the farm operated by neighbouring farmers Alf McGlew and Andrew Purcell.

Their partnership farm has rapidly built up its cow numbers and 241 are now being milked.

Both men talked positively about the benefits of the 50:50 partnership, and Mr Purcell said that his partner's insistence that they leased extra land and quota a number of years ago helped him avoid making "what would've been the biggest mistake of my farming life".

The men credited Teagasc's Ben Roche for his input in helping set out the parameters of the partnership. However, Mr Purcell did admit being dismayed with their first meeting.

"His initial question was 'so lads, how are we going to split this up?'" said Mr Purcell. "I thought this was very negative but, in hindsight, it was a very practical approach."

Mr McGlew also spoke of the amount of paperwork involved.

"It takes about 4-6 months of paperwork and discussions before you ever put on a cluster," he said. "It can be a bit of a pain, but I realise now that it's all worthwhile."

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The second half of the day was spent with the 330 pedigree Holstein herd of Tom Kelly.

He debated how he could afford to push his herd that was averaging 28L/cow on the day to consume more grass.

"I tried asking the cows to produce 26L from grass, but I lost three times the value of milk in what I saved in meal," said Mr Kelly. However, he admitted that his 490-day calving interval was something he wanted to focus on reducing.

"I'm aiming to get this down to 440 days, mainly through better heat detection," he said.

A new 'heat-time' computorised heat detection system had increased the number of heats that they were picking up on the farm by 25pc.

Commenting on the two systems that were examined on the day, Teagasc's dairy specialist, George Ramsbottom said that both systems would probably work out equally profitable over a 20-year period.

"The high-input system will make loads of money in a high milk price year but it'll probably need a sinking fund to buffer it in the leaner years," he said.

"It is a matter of personal preference what system will suit each farmer."

Darragh McCullough

Indo Farming