Tuesday 22 October 2019

Thinking of switching to dairy farming? Here's the first step

Making the switch to dairy farming can be an attractive proposition due to the profitability in the industry but it does come with its own challenges and financial commitments.

Converting your farm to dairy farming involves substantial capital investment and hard work but an upcoming course from Teagasc can give you all the tools you need to succeed. Following on from the success of last year’s Teagasc Dairy Start Up Course, applications are now open for this year’s course.

Applications are open until July 15 and the course is open to anyone who wants to convert their farm to dairy or existing dairy farmers who want to upskill.

The course is an opportunity to find out if dairy farming is for you, what costs are involved, what profits you could expect and to learn the skills you need to make it work, says Teagasc dairy specialist, Martina Gormley.

“For farmers thinking of making the change, this is a brand new business so my advice would be to be open to learning,” says Gormley.

“If you only learn two things from the course, it would be well worth your while attending. Regardless of what stage you’re at in terms of going into dairy farming, there is always room for learning through meeting with like-minded people and seeing best practices on farms.”

What to expect from the Teagasc Dairy Start Up Course

The course is a combination of off-farm and on-farm training designed to cover every aspect of dairy farming. The first part of the course will involve four days of intensive training and advice.

Day 1

On day one, advisors will work with each person on their three-year business plan for the farm, analysing loans and expenditure to help them to calculate their potential profitability from year one to year three.

“The small numbers of people on each course makes it easy to work one-to-one with farmers on their figures,” says Gormley. “From this, farmers can see if they are borrowing enough, borrowing too much, starting off with enough cows, spending too much or if year one to year three will be difficult from a cashflow point of view. If it is, then the plan may need to change.

“So they get a very realistic view about the profitability of the farm, particularly for the first three years as these years can be the most difficult for any new entrant. You don’t want any surprises or shocks especially from a cashflow point of view."

Day 2

Day two will see a co-op advisor come in and discuss everything they need to know about getting milk to the co-op. Course participants will attend an on-farm session to examine key areas like milk collection, farmyard design and cow flow.

Day 3 and 4

Day three and four will take place at Moorepark Food Research Centre and offer a series of tutorials on topics like grass varieties, financial borrowing, parlour design, milking techniques and processes, EBI, breeding and biosecurity.

“When you put it all together, you’ll learn about grassland management, farmyard design, financials, animal health and breeding,” says Gormley.

10 Discussion Days

"To compliment the initial four days, you can attend 10 discussion group meetings in year two. The key messages from the initial four days will be reinforced through the discussions at the group meetings. The group meetings and contact with the local advisor is an important part of the course."

QQI Level 6 qualification

There’s also an optional QQI Level 6 qualification on offer for course participants, which will be awarded to them when they meet up for a final day after the 10 discussion group meetings.

The aim to the course is to prevent prospective dairy farmers from making mistakes that could undermine their future business. One of the most common mistakes made by new dairy farmers is a failure to borrow enough money or to borrow money over the correct term.

This can lead to taking shortcuts that could impact on cow flow, grassland management and stock management. This can ultimately impact on the bottom line and reduce the income that the farm can generate.

Attending this course can help new entrants to get off to the best possible start and avoid common mistakes. Gormley advises anyone who is thinking about doing the course to contact their local Teagasc office and chat to the dairy advisor about what’s involved.

Places for the Dairy Start Up Course are filling up fast. If you need more information or want to sign up for a place on this course, simply fill out the online form and a Teagasc representative will be in touch with you shortly.

Sponsored by: Teagasc

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