Four steps to simplify the workload on dairy farms

Robert Troy is dairy farming in Newtown, Co. Cork and at Thursday’s Positive Farmers Conference he identified a number of ways farmers can simplify their workload.

The Cork-based farmer said farming involves many routine and repetitive tasks which must be done on a daily basis, but he said farmers must try to improve and better the way these tasks are done over time.

He offered some excellent advice on how to make everyday a Sunday.

“In saying this I don’t mean that the farm will run on autopilot.

“Yes there will be cows to be milked and stock tended to each day, but the job should not be so onerous that we can’t take time out during the day to pursue other interests and have an enjoyable lifestyle,” he said.

1. Do contractors have a role?

Troy said contractors could play a bigger role on all dairy farms, regardless of their size, as they can reduce the workload of the farmer, particularly during busy periods of the year.

He also said that all dairy farmers should consider hiring contractors to bulk spread fertiliser and umbilical spreading of all slurry and parlour washings during the busy spring period.

“Contractor costs of €50/hr for tractor and driver is extremely good value when you factor in labour costs and machinery repayment costs not to mention maintenance costs.

Why would any farmer buy a tractor when this service is available?”


2. Be organised for calving

Troy also encouraged farmers to have their calving facilities functional and organised as calving is one of the busiest periods on the farm.

“This is the second busiest time of the year. I think the breeding season is busier and a more stressful time as you must put in effort to get good results, whereas cows will calve anyway.”

He discussed the system operated on his farm in Co. Cork which sees cows that are close to calving being moved to a cubicle shed next to the straw bedded shed where they calve.

“After calving the calf is moved to the calf pen, fed and the cow is put into the colostrum mob. We need people with good stockmanship skills to operate this system,” he said.

3. Keep calf rearing as simple as possible

Calf rearing and feeding needs to be as simple as possible, he said, and he cited the system he operates in Newtown.

“Calves go out to grass when suitable weather conditions allow. We feed calves in two yards, bringing milk every morning in an IBC container.

“The milk is pumped from the valve at the milk filter to the IBC container and an adjustable ballcock in the IBC will prevent overflowing.

“Calves are fed cold milk in the evenings. We feed calves using 20 teat standalone feeders, the milk is gravity fed from the IBC on the back of the pick-up or loader.

“If the land is too wet to travel on we will feed the calves on a concrete yard,” he said.


4. The importance of infrastructure

Farm infrastructure must be designed with cow flow and labour efficiency in mind, he said.

“Labour efficiency means making the best use of your time on the farm. We have designed and invested in infrastructure that reduces the workload, gets the job done faster and makes life easier.

On such investment on the farm is the rotary parlour, he said, which is capable of milk 300 cows per hour with one man when necessary.

“A whiteboard and farm map makes things easier to explain and everyone on the farm knows what jobs need to be done,” he said.