‘People are spending too much money getting into cows’

People are spending too much money getting into cows and should keep their hands in their pockets, according to dairy farmer Eamon Duggan.

The Durrow, Co. Laois farmer told an audience at the Glanbia stand at the National Ploughing Championships that farmers thinking of getting into dairying, or expanding, should do so as cheaply as possible. He said it was more important to get themselves up and running and to do it slowly.

“We are not going to get 37-38c/L every year for milk, but if we do happy days.”

Now a Teagasc dairy monitor farmer, he said he is obsessed with grass. “I am obsessed with grass measuring. I can’t understand farmers who don’t measure grass. You get farmers who check milk in the tank but not grass. It’s the same thing.

“I was always grass measuring and in a discussion group. But now the pressure is on. You are now being compared with the other monitor farmers, so you have to be on the ball all the times. But it means you are always pushing yourself that little bit more.”

He pointed to cow fertility and land fertility as two key areas for dairy farmers to focus on. “Everything else can develop from that. If you have those in order you will do ok. The more grass you can grow on your farm, the more efficient you are, as long as you manage that grass well.”

His own set up saw him achieve milk solids of 380kg last year and a lot of that was based on quota. In 2009, I got 420kg so the cows are capable of doing more and that’s what I will be looking at next year, not more cows, but more solids.

“I have been expanding gradually all the time. I have a stocking rate of 3.5. But I don’t spend much on capital if I can avoid it. I don’t have a cubicle on the farm. It’s cheap and cheerful.”

His advice to farmers looking past the removal of quotas was to ‘grow as much grass as possible and get it into the cow to produce as much milk as possible’.

Eamon, who had been in partnership with his brother with a mixed enterprise of beef, tillage and dairying, set up on his own with 65 cows in 2004. Since then he has doubled the herd, leasing land and quota, but most of the increases were made in his first five years of farming solo. His brother has since moved into dairying too, exiting beef production in 2009. “He loves it since he got out of it. He left it in 2009 and he’s milking strong now and has no intentions of going any other direction.”

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