‘Combating Volatility through Our Competitive Advantage’ was the theme of a Dairy Seminar held in North Cork recently.

The event was organised by the Teagasc Cork East advisory region.

Organisers of the event, Teagasc B&T Dairy advisers, Noreen O’Rahilly and James Fleming urged all farmers to focus on the take home messages from the seminar; Get soil fertility right, maximise grass growth and utilisation and increase your financial knowledge of your business.

1.Soil Fertility

At the event, dairy farmers were urged to apply lime to correct low soil Ph.

Speaking at the seminar Dr David Wall, Teagasc Soil researcher, highlighted the importance of soil sampling and using this information.

“To achieve maximum grass growth, soil Ph should be over 6.3, even in high rainfall areas. Soil tests from dairy farms show that over 63% have a soil Ph less than 6.3 which is less than optimum for grass growth. Getting soil Ph right is the most important factor to maximise fertiliser usage and grass production,” he said.

2.Calculate break-even price

Diarmuid Donnellan, AIB Agri Adviser, showed that we are in a cyclical, volatile, world milk price market, with the average milk price over the last 5 years being 34.7 c/L and the 10-year average being 32c/L.

In his experience the farmers who are better able to manage this volatility have a simple farming system, strong financial self-awareness, are good people managers/networkers and make timely decisions.

He demonstrated the concept of Break Even Price. Add your farm costs, personal drawings, loan repayments and taxes and divide by total milk production.

He said that this exercise should be completed on all farms immediately.

3.Maximise grass growth

With low milk price, dairy farmers must be focused on grass production and utilisation. That was the clear message from John Maher, Teagasc Dairy Specialist.

“Farmers this spring need an early grazing, slurry and fertiliser plan to grow adequate grass. Even if there is enough grass now for cows to be out full time, fertiliser should still be applied at normal rates to ensure adequate grass growth for the next rotation and into the early summer,” he said.