Upping dairy cow numbers isn’t the only game in town post 2015

According to one Co Limerick dairy farmer, increasing cow numbers is not the only way for Ireland, as the country strives to reach its 2020 milk production target in the post quota era.

“Upping milk yield per cow has got to be part of the solution moving forward,” Ger O’Brien told Agriland.

The owner of the 100-strong Varramore herd of pedigree Holstein/Friesians, who farms at Ballyvara, LIsnagry added: “Simply to increase cow numbers by a straight 50 per cent just doesn’t add up. This will entail farmers spending 50 per cent more in the milking parlour. Such an approach will also add a 50 per cent increase in feed bills, just to achieve cow maintenance, before an extra drop of milk is produced.

“There is also the additional costs associated with the capital spend that will be incurred when it comes to providing extra cubicle space and milking facilities on the farm. Investing in expanding facilities of this type does not come cheap.

“In our own case we intend increasing output per cow and improving milk quality.”

The Ballyvara herd, which is 80 per cent spring calving: 20 per cent autumn calving, is currently averaging 8,600 litres. Total solids per cow amounted to 610 kilos last year. The current calving interval is 391 days.

Ger is quick to admit that his cows are performing well. “But we can improve on this further,” he stressed.

“It’s a case of meeting the cows’ management needs in full on a daily basis. I believe it is possible to improve performance further through the implementation of a targeted breeding programme and increasing output from forage.

“Simply offering the cows more concentrates is not the answer when it comes to improving overall herd performance.

“I have sufficient land to allow me increase cow numbers slightly. And this may happen by default, given the number of heifers that are due to come into the herd over the next couple of years.”

O’Brien concluded: “But the real challenge set for the herd will be to increase average yields up to 2,000 gallons, or 9,000 litres. However, I am confident that it should be possible to meet this target over the next couple of years.”

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