Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

The dairying revolution is underway

Maximising grass growth is where the real money is
Maximising grass growth is where the real money is
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The old golf adage is that you drive for show, but putt for dough.

The message from the phenomenally successful open day at Moorepark last week was that milk yield per cow is vanity, but maximising grass growth is where the real money is being made.

It's still a counter-intuitive concept for dairy farmers that have spent a lifetime focusing on breeding and feeding to get more milk from their cows, but the next generation of dairy farmers are all on message - utilising 12 tonnes of grass drymatter per hectare to pump out 450kg of milk solids from cows that last for 5.5 lactations.

And it was noticeable just how many young men and women dominated the crowds that flocked through the gates for the day.

It is this heady mix of youthful enthusiasm and commercial opportunity that helps make this event as slick as it is.

In my opinion, it is the most informative day out in the agri-calendar.

The biggest challenge was not running out of steam before getting to the end of the 128 display boards.

The first five stops on the route alone provided enough food for thought.

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The weekly workload on the average farm will be 94 hours within five years - that's why farmers need to get serious about figuring out how to create good career opportunities for staff that they are going to be reliant on.

Happily, dairying is one of the few farming enterprises that returns enough to allow efficient operators to shell out good wages.

It was encouraging, but shocking, to hear recent converts like Wexford's Michael Doran admit that returns from his dairy enterprise are projected to be 10-15 times that of his previous beef enterprise - one that was among the best in the country.

That means that dairy farmers should be able to afford to hire in enough help to avoid the traditional 24/7 ties of the business.

But it also means that dairy farmers will want to increasingly focus on their core task - that of extracting milk from their cows as efficiently as possible.

Teagasc is encouraging them to spend less time on routine, physical jobs -which will increasingly be contracted out - and more time on management functions.

There will also be a spin-off for the beef sector.

While the technology behind sexed semen is still barely commercial, dairy farmers are becoming increasingly desperate for an alternative to the worthless Jersey-cross bull calf.

So it will only be a matter of time before more beef calves from the dairy herd become the norm. Dairying will not be a magic bullet for everyone, but you'd be mad to ignore the opportunities it presents.

Indo Farming