Does it pay to invest in grazing infrastructure?

In order for expansion to be successful, Teagasc says, there will be a requirement for significant investment on many farms. The available capital for this investment will be a scarce as expansion happens and continues.

Therefore, investment on-farm should be prioritised at areas that increase efficiency and reduce the exposure of the business to external shocks such as lower price of product or higher price of inputs. All investments that give the highest returns should be prioritised.

According to Teagasc, each additional tonne of grass eaten by the grazing animal will add €180/ha additional profit to a dairy farm.

With this in mind, it’s important that investment in grazing is prioritised to give the maximum return. The table below summarises the potential return on investment for different investments in a dairy farm business.

Source: Teagasc

The level of return to these investments, Teagasc says, is high because it is investing in grazing. These investments will either enable the farm to grow more grass or lengthen the grazing season or both.

Soil fertility

In addition, good productive soils are the foundation of any successful farming system and key for growing sufficient high-quality grass to feed the herd.

Therefore, Teagasc says, the management of soil fertility levels should be a primary objective of every
farm.

A recent review of soils tested at Teagasc indicates that the majority of soils in Ireland are below the target levels for pH (i.e. 6.3) or phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) (i.e. index 3) and will be very responsive to application of lime, P and K.

On many farms, Teagasc states, sub-optimal soil fertility will lead to a drop in output and income if allowed to continue.

Teagasc is highlighting 5 steps for effective soil fertility management. These are:

  1. Have soil analysis results for the whole farm (soil sampling every two years);
  2. Apply lime as required to increase soil pH up to target pH for the crop;
  3. Aim to have soil test P and K in the target index 3 in all fields;
  4. Use organic fertilisers as efficiently as possible;
  5. Make sure the fertilisers used are properly balanced.