‘Ireland must build a resilient dairy farm system’

Pat Dillon Head of Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme at Teagasc outlined some of the key things farmers need to put in place for 2015 at the recent Irish Grassland Association Dairy Conference in Kilkenny.

In his speech he stressed the importance of building a resilient dairy farm system post quota.

He outlined what he believes are four components of a resilient system 1. The resources (grass) 2. The cows (high EBI livestock) 3. Business (farmers focused on profit) 4. People (trained and have a good lifestyle).

Resources

In terms of resources Dillon said: “Our competitive advantage is grass. We have to take advantage of it.”

He said: “The application of management practices that increase pasture production and utilisation will be critical in achieving profitable expansion on dairy farms.”

“Increasing grass production by 1 tonne DM/ha increased profit by €105 to €144/ha; while increasing grass utilisation by 1 per cent unit increased profit by €15 to €21/ha.”

He noted that important areas for farmers to focus on includes archiving adequate soil fertility, applying the best management practices, reseeding underperforming swards, Investment in grazing infrastructure.

Cow

In his speech Dillon noted: “The appropriate cow is required to harvest pasture efficiently. With land being a limiting factor minimising replacement rate is one of the ways you can produce more of your farm.”

He said other important areas such as maintaining compact calving and improving overall herd health status will significantly increase milk production from a limited land base.

He stressed to farmers to: “Seek a healthy high EBI herd. If there is an animal health program to be put in place it has to be put in place.”

Financial Management and Investment

Dillon highlighted that financial up skilling incorporating goal setting, financial planning and cash flow budgeting will facilitate profitable expansion.

He said: “This is new to a lot of dairy farmers. We haven’t been in an expansion scenario for a long time we haven’t had to sit down and plan for expansion.”

“This is a new area for the industry and its going to require work in terms of getting it right at farm level. Additional profit is required with expansion. If you’re not making profit there’s no point,” he added.

He cited: “In that context getting our efficiency right first is vital.”

According to Dillon: “Farmers need to prioritise investment to areas of maximum return such as cows, grazing infrastructure and fertiliser. Not prioritising areas like buildings and machinery.”

“Cash flow management is important during the conversion period. The sooner you can get the herd performing optimally the sooner the farms cash flow will move in the right direction.”

People

According to Dillon: “This is an area where we have more work to do. We need to get highly trained young people into the industry. Dairy farming needs to be attractive career choice for new entrants.”

“We have a lot of people in ag collages going through the system. We need to combine dairy farming with a good lifestyle.”

“Profitable labour efficient systems are required,” he added.

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