2016 was one of the most difficult springs on dairy farms, but things are improving

One of the most difficult springs on record has put many dairy farmers under huge stress, according to Teagasc’s Jim Moyles.

The Teagasc Advisor told dairy farmers at a recent farm walk in Offaly that a low milk price, difficult grazing conditions and calving had all combined this spring to pile pressure on farmers.

The majority of milk processors maintained the February farm-gate milk price at January levels, but some processors knocked 1-1.5c/L of the base price, with most suppliers now offering 24-26c/L.

Moyles also said that a number of farmers in his discussion group struggled to manage grazing this spring.

Some farmers operated on-off grazing during February and early March, he said, and the extra work involved had contributed to their stress levels.

However, he said improved weather conditions recently have helped to reduce the burden on a number of farms.

Moyles said that farmers have been able to get cows out to grass full time over the last two-to-three weeks, which has reduced the work load considerably.

The Teagasc specialist also said the milk protein levels also dipped on some farms in February and March, as cows were not out and grazing.

The milk protein has dropped below 2.9% on many farms this spring as farmers were forced to house cows and feed them silage.

But, the dairy specialist said that protein levels are beginning to increase again, as the grass intake of dairy cows is starting to increase in line with the increased amount of time cows are outdoors.

He also said that calving is beginning to draw to a close and this will help reduce some of the pressure on dairy farmers.

Tips on managing stress:

  • Eat well – plenty of fruit and vegetables – and drink plenty of water.
  • Try to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep as rest is important to ‘recharge the batteries’.
  • Make time to keep in touch with other farmers and friends.
  • Taking time to do something different, even for a short time, can help to re-energise you.
  • Focus on the things that you can control and do something about and try to accept that there are certain things that you cannot change.
  • Where possible, share the workload, as other family members may be able to help.
  • Have you considered getting some additional outside help during the busiest period?
  • Caring for yourself is the most important thing that you can do, but can often be overlooked.
  • Above all, if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, talk to somebody else about your troubles – there are plenty of individuals who can help.
  • Finally, the risk of farm accidents increases at this time, so plan ahead to try to reduce the chances of accidents occurring.