Dairy farmers offered ‘free trip to learn heifer-raising techniques’

Northern Ireland dairy farmers are being offered a free opportunity to learn about the latest and innovative practices about rearing heifers by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Applications are being sought from local farmers for a study tour which will include a number of visits to farms in the south-west of England as part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme.

The tour will be delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

With dairy replacement rearing a major investment for dairy farmers, it’s crucial that heifers are reared in the most cost-efficient manner possible to maximise performance throughout their lifespan, according to the department.

The two-day study tour will therefore hone in on innovative practices in rearing and managing dairy heifer replacements that will help achieve key performance targets.

Areas that will be covered during the 48-hour trip will include heifer nutrition and management to meet target growth rates, an examination of simple and low-cost heifer rearing systems, management of the first lactating heifer in the herd and the overall economics of rearing heifers.

One member or employee of a farm business which reared at least 25 heifers per year in 2017-2018 or 2018-2019 and who is over 18 at the time of the event and who is not in full-time education is eligible to attend.

Preference will be given to those who complete physical and financial bench-marking of their dairy business including heifer replacements, the department notes.

To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return. 16 places are available and these will be allocated on a competitive basis.

The Farm Innovation Visit Scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland, breakfast, lunch and evening meals when in Great Britain.

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on the morning of Tuesday, February 25, and return on the evening of Wednesday, February 26.

The tour will be led by CAFRE advisors Gavin Duffy and Jane Sayers.

Applications open on Wednesday, January 2, 2020, and close on Monday, February 3, at 4:00pm.

Dairy farmers who are interested in participating in this study tour can find out more details and complete an online application at the CAFRE website here.

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