Diary date: IGA conference to focus on sustainable dairy farming

The 2019 Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Dairy Conference, sponsored by Yara, takes place on Wednesday, January 9, at the Charleville Park Hotel, Co. Cork at 9:00am.

Since the abolition of milk quotas, the rapid expansion of the dairy industry has resulted in an increasingly diverse range of systems of milk production.

The prolonged and severe drought experienced during the summer of 2018 forced many farmers to purchase extra fodder and concentrates to feed their herd.

The recent Annual Review and Outlook 2019 report produced by Teagasc showed that – during 2018 – there was 38% more concentrates fed/cow compared to 2017.

To address some of these issues, the conference is divided into three parts:
  • Dairy farmers operating profitable grass-based systems;
  • Producing more milk – is it always the answer?;
  • Outlining the grass, fertiliser and forage reserve targets required for sustainable grass-based dairying.

In the first session of the event – ‘Profitable grass-based dairy farms’ – farmers Rhys James and Denis O’Donovan will describe how they operate their dairy farms and how their systems of milk production have evolved over the years.

Rhys is from Wales and is currently milking 300 cows. At a stocking rate of 3.5LU/ha – on average for the year – the farm produces 1,500kg of milk solids / ha, feeding 1,200kg of concentrates/cow.

Denis farms near Rosscarbery in west Cork. He milks 150 crossbred cows on a fragmented milking platform.

Last year, the farm produced 1,300kg of milk solids / ha at a stocking rate of 3LU/ha, using approximately 750kg of concentrates/cow.

Also speaking during the first session on profitable grass-based milk production will be agricultural consultant Mike Brady.

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

The next session of the conference  – titled ‘Producing more milk – is it always the answer?’ – Dr. John Roche will review Irish and New Zealand evidence to identify the true cost of increased milk production.

The final session of the event ‘Resetting the targets for a new grazing season’, Teagasc’s Richard O’Brien will describe best practice regarding grazing targets for the spring and summer of 2019.

In addition, Stan Lalor of Grassland Agro will discuss fertiliser recommendations to maximise grass growth for the coming year.

This is particularly relevant as some dairy farmers still have a significant fodder deficit and most have limited fodder reserves in excess of herd requirements.

David Fogarty of Greenfield Dairy Farm will also outline the changes planned for 2019 following the extreme weather conditions experienced on the farm during 2018.

Pre-conference networking evening

On the evening before (January 8), there is an exclusive opportunity for IGA members – who book tickets to the event – to meet at an evening gathering scheduled to start at 7:45pm.

On the night, CEO of Carbery, Jason Hawkins will be interviewed at 8:00pm by Matt Dempsey. In addition, Jason will address the topic of ‘Dairying – future products and markets’.

Booking the conference

Online booking is the quickest method to secure your tickets to the event. The IGA website can be accessed here; or contact the IGA office at: 087-9626483.

Non-IGA members who attend the event will also have the opportunity to join on the day. Those who do join can avail of the first year free.