Large herd management – it’s all about strategy!

Milk producers with thoughts of upscaling their businesses post quota and holding the view that more of the same is all that’s required from a management point of view should think again. This will be one of the core messages delivered by the Browne family from Killeagh in East Cork on Thursday of this week when they open their farm to host a Large Farm Management Day in association with Teagasc.

Simon and his father Tom milk 820 cows within a grass based, spring calving system. Their herd of moderately sized Holstein: Friesian cows is currently averaging around 6.000 litres at 4.00% butter fat and 3.4% protein.

Significantly, the father and son team have succeeded in upping cows numbers on the farm from 428 head, back in 2007, to the current figure with the vast bulk of this expansion being achieved on the back of a proactive herd breeding programme.

“I am aware that quite a number of Irish dairy farmers are planning to up the size of their enterprises once quotas come to an end next year,” Simon told Agriland.

“An increase in cow numbers can be achieved easily enough: the fundamental challenge will be that of managing them properly.”

Or put another way, the Brownes firmly believe that co-ordinating the extra staff that will be required to ensure successful day-to-day management of an expanded dairy farming operation is more important than having the owners spending more time in the pit putting clusters on cows!”

“It’s all about managing people properly. In our own case, there is a requirement for seven full time labour units to keep the business  moving in the right direction,” Simon further explained.

He also pointed out that as cow numbers increase, so too will the associated labour costs per litre of milk produced.

“One man milking up to 100 cows will draw down a labour cost of around one cent per litre. However, once herd size goes above 400 cows this figure will increase to approximately six cent per litre. It costs real money to hire full time staff. And one of the key challenges any business is to ensure that this vital human resource is put to best use,” Simon Browne concluded.

 

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