‘Educating those not at the Dairy Conference about grass utilisation is the challenge’

Grass utilisation is still a major problem on Irish dairy farms, according to Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle, but educating dairy farmers not at the Dairy Conference is the real challenge.

Speaking at the Teagasc Dairy Conference in Kilkenny, he said that improved levels of butterfat and protein are a good reflection of the improvements across Irish dairy farms in recent years.

He also said that somatic cell counts are substantially down, mainly due to the Animal Health Ireland cell check programme. “It also demonstrates that if you focus on a key performance indicator like that you can make substantial achievements.”

However, he said there is still too poor a performance on grass utilisation on Irish dairy farms.

Grass utilisation is at 7.56t of DM/ha and that’s about half a target that we have set in the Teagasc dairy roadmap.

“If you strip out weather conditions and so on the trend is not evident. There is no trend evident over the past five years, it’s still static.

“If there is one thing we need to communicate to the people not in this room, it is the resource that is grass.”

Teagasc research has shown that every tonne of grass utilised increases net profits by €161/ha.

Maintaining a low-cost base is our best defence against the coming milk price volatility, according to Teagasc and key to that is grass dry matter (DM) production and utilisation on farms.

Results from Pasturebase Ireland show that grass DM production on farms that are regularly measuring grass (more than 35 farm measurements per year) was 12.2t DM/ha in 2013.

Of the total, 10.2t was allocated to the grazing herd and 6.2 grazings were achieved on the grazing platforms.

In 2014, these farms grew 13.9t DM/ha with 11.4t DM/ha allocated to the grazing herd. Close to seven grazings were achieved on the grazing platform.

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