Co. Cork dairy farmer to speak at the 2019 IGA conference

The annual Irish Grassland Association (IGA) National Dairy Conference, sponsored by Yara, takes place on Wednesday January 9, 2019 at the Charleville Park Hotel, Co. Cork at 9:00 am. The theme of this year’s event focuses on the business of dairying.

Addressing the conference will be a selection of dairy farmers, advisors and researchers from Ireland and abroad. One of this year’s speakers is west Cork dairy farmer Denis O’Donovan.

A farming tour to New Zealand over ten years ago proved a turning point in the dairy farming career for Denis and his wife Collette, who farm near Rosscarbery.

Denis learned that fertility drives the dairy production system and that crossbred cows are highly fertile. So he decided to put these key aspects into practice on his own dairy farm.

Pictured at the launch of the IGA Dairy Conference, L-R: Current IGA president Ciaran Lynch and former IGA president Jan Jensma. Image source: IGA

Denis also uses the services of a contractor to do most of the machinery work on the farm.

“Our farm has gone from doing everything ourselves – slurry, silage, reseeding, baling – to employing a contractor for everything except fertiliser spreading on the milking platform, which we still do ourselves. A contractor spreads the fertiliser on the outside heifer rearing and silage production block,” Denis explained.

Denis is a member of two discussion groups and credits them with much of the development that has taken place, increasing the profitability of his farm.

Currently the farm consists of 150 dairy cows stocked at 3.4 LU/ha on a fragmented 44ha milking platform. Last year, each cow in the herd, on average, produced 437kg of milk solids.

In addition to the cows, Denis and Collette reared some 40 replacement heifers on a leased out-farm.

“When quotas were in place we fattened cattle. Since quota removal we’ve specialised totally in dairying,” Denis explained.

Continuing he said: “I now have a simple grass-based milk producing system that takes less labour and is less stressful on man and animal. We are marketing our products on the basis of the milk being produced from cows on a grass-fed system.”

A large crowd attended the IGA Dairy Conference in Co. Limerick last year

Denis highlighted the competitive advantage that Ireland has over other countries, as most of the milk produced comes from cows grazing grass.

Other countries are now paying milk bonuses to encourage their suppliers to get the cows out of the houses grazing grass for more hours and more days in the year. We have what the consumer is currently looking for, why would we go against this and start moving cows in earlier and for longer?

Denis feels that the market is telling us very clearly that the future will be all about sustainability.

According to Denis, he keeps “a close eye on the excellent Irish research being done, particularly that from Clonakilty College, as they are using clover in the swards”.

“If clover sward can deliver on performance while reducing nitrogen inputs, then this has the potential to improve output and reduce costs,” he added.

Booking the conference

Online booking is the quickest method to secure your tickets to the event. The IGA website can be accessed at www.irishgrassland.com, or you can contact the IGA office at: 087-9626483.

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