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'The yearly dairy figures really opened my eyes'

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Targets: Michael plans to increase his herd to 150 cows next year and 200 cows by 2016. The operation will be handled by himself and one full-time employee.

Targets: Michael plans to increase his herd to 150 cows next year and 200 cows by 2016. The operation will be handled by himself and one full-time employee.

Targets: Michael plans to increase his herd to 150 cows next year and 200 cows by 2016. The operation will be handled by himself and one full-time employee.

During the early months of 2013, Michael Doran took a hard look at his farming enterprise, his options and alternatives. He came to the conclusion that it was time for a change.

"Looking at the profit monitors over the last few years for beef and dairy I could see that what I was trying to achieve on a gross margin dairy farmers were achieving in net margin for their enterprises.

"The dairy figures over a few years really opened my eyes. With the abolition of the milk quota I realised that the opportunity was going to be there."

He applied for milk quota as a new entrant in 2013 and got 200,000 litres.

Pressure

The pressure was then on to get grant approval for the dairy unit and the first cows were in the parlour before the end of January last.

"I bought 80 Jersey cross Friesian in-calf heifers, all by AI. I had a very fertile suckler herd and I did not want to go into a situation where fertility could be a problem in dairying,

"On the board of ICBF I saw the benefits of the EBI. I visited Moorepark and looked at a few farm situations which convinced me that it was the right thing to do," he recalls.

But why Jersey given the poor market value for male offspring?

"I would have been opposed to Jersey as a beef farmer, but I was looking at what was fit for purpose for the enterprise that I was going into.

"I did not feel that I owed the beef industry anything in so far as I believed that they had not worked with us to ensure the viability of the sector

"When you look at the overall profitability of the system I am going into, the calf value plays a very minor role in a successful grass-based dairy system and has very little impact on the bottom line.

"So whether I get €20/hd or €120/hd, the most important thing for me will be to get them off the farm ASAP," he believes.

The 80 cows milking in the herd this year will increase to 150 in 2015 as milk quota is abolished.

"I have another 80 heifer calves from this year so I would be looking at 180-200 cows in the herd in 2016, which is what I estimate that the farm can carry," he explains.

Solids

Although the milk quota for 2014 is filled and milking has been reduced to once-a-day since July, the experience of dairying to date has been good.

The herd has produced 300kg of solids on 150kg concentrates.

The 6pc butterfat and 4.6pc protein is now returning a premium over base of 11c/l on once-a-day milking.

His target for the herd in 2015 is 450kgs solids on 400kgs concentrates at a stocking rate of 3.5Lu/ha.

The changeover from the of routine of suckler farming to dairying has also gone very smoothly; although he admits that any thought of ever becoming a dairy farmer was very far from his mind in the past.

"I never milked a full herd of cows until I started this year. There were some little teething problems, but it is gone very smoothly," he says.

"I went through Rockwell College for a year and never milked a cow there.

"I was proud of myself at the time that I managed to get through the year without having to milk a cow, but in hindsight it might not have been a good idea if I knew at that time where the future was going to take me."

Any intention to enter dairying was very quickly killed during his college days.

"When I was in college I remember writing to a co-op about the prospect of producing milk.

"They told me that I would have to apply in writing and 1,500 gallons of a quota is what would have been available. That was not a foundation to base a living on and I closed it off as an option.

His intention is that the planned 200 cows can be handled by himself and a full-time employee who has been with him since his time as IFA livestock chairman when he was missing from home a lot. When extra help is need a neighbour will help out.

Indo Farming