Mid-west sees growth in contract dairy heifer rearing

Approximately 20 drystock farmers in the Longford/Roscommon area are now seeking to provide contract heifer rearing services to milk producers, according to Teagasc dairy advisor Seamus Nolan.

The farmers are all members of discussions groups, Seamus said, and Teagasc them down to Moorepark to let them see, at first hand, how modern heifer rearing practises should be implemented.

“They have also visited a specialist contract heifer rearing unit in Co Sligo.”

“There is very little dairying activity in the Longford/Roscommon region. So these farmers are already looking to make contact with milk producers in Cavan: Monaghan and, possibly further afield to secure the contract deals they are looking for.”

Nolan pointed out that Teagasc has a number of heifer rearing blueprints.

“Most agreements reached will see the contract rearer bring the animals from weaning through to point of calving. Daily fees paid will range from €1.20 to €1.30/head/day.

“The owners of the animals may also wish to include weight for age bonuses. Minimising mortality levels will also be a key consideration for both the rearer and the dairy farmers supplying the heifers.”

“Other rearing options include bringing heifer calves through to the yearling stage or simply managing replacements at grass.”

The Castlerea-based advisor confirmed that Teagasc is recommending that rearers should seek to do business with one dairy farming client only.

“The animal health implications of having stock from different farms on the one rearing unit are significant,” he said.

“It is also important for the rearers to visit the farms form which they will be taking stock and vice versa.”

But the Roscommon/Longford region is not the only area of the country in which drystock farmers are committing to contract dairy heifer rearing, he said.

Teagasc advisors in Limerick and Kerry are reporting a similar trend in their region.

This, they believe, reflects the envisaged growth in milk output across the two counties: approximately half the milk producers in the region will expand output by 20% in the run up to 2020 while one fifth of dairy farmers plan to expand output by in excess of 50% during this period.

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