IGA dairy conference: What’s in store at this year’s event?

The Irish Grassland Association (IGA) will hold its dairy conference, entitled ‘Future proofing Irish dairying’, at 10:00am on Wednesday, January 6.

As a consequence of Covid-19 restrictions, the conference will be held virtually. It will consist of three presentations, each followed by a question and answer session chaired by IGA council member and dairy farmer Laurence Sexton.

The three speakers at the conference are: Jim Woulfe, the CEO of Dairygold; Dr. Deirdre Hennessy, a Teagasc grassland research officer; and Tom O’Connell, a Cork-based dairy farmer.

‘Can we sell our milk’

Jim Woulfe will open the conference with his presentation entitled ‘Can we sell our milk’?

Jim has steered and overseen the development of Dairygold through the recent years of milk-pool expansion on farms and processing levels.

Looking ahead, with a larger annual milk pool being produced and with opportunities for further expansion still available, Jim will speak about the current and future opportunities for the Irish dairy sector to be sustained and to continue to grow, particularly reflecting on the need for markets for the milk output of the Irish dairy herd.

‘Reducing chemical fertiliser use’

Dr. Deirdre Hennessy will make the second presentation entitled ‘Can we reduce chemical nitrogen (N) fertiliser application without impacting herbage production?’

The use of N fertiliser on farms is under scrutiny and the quantity of chemical N fertiliser that will be permitted for use on farms is likely to be reduced in the years ahead.

In her presentation, Dr. Hennessy will look at what can be done on farms so that dairy farmers can continue to grow enough grass to meet the demand of the dairy herd if chemical N fertiliser is reduced.

Making the best use of the N available is crucial in terms of grass growth. Research shows that increasing white clover on farms has herbage production benefits when N fertiliser is reduced.

Increasing N use efficiency is also crucial so that N losses from the system are reduced and are instead available for grass production.

‘Switched on for spring’

Tom O’Connell will make the third and final presentation of the day entitled ‘Switched on for the spring’.

Tom farms near Inniscarra, outside Cork city, with his wife Helen and their four daughters. They are milking 320 cows on a milking platform of 90ha.

Tom is the labour management focus farmer for the Teagasc Dairygold Joint Programme 2018-2021, running his operation with the assistance of two full-time staff, Daniel Lyons and Dan O’Mahony.

Tom’s herd delivered 481kg milk solids / cow to Dairygold at 3.72% protein and 4.37% fat in 2019 and is on target to deliver this again in 2020.

Tom is going to focus on how he, Helen, Daniel and Dan are preparing to handle calving 90% of the herd in six weeks in spring 2021.

This will be achieved through having good facilities, excellent communication amongst the team, work planning and use of simple visual aids to ensure the various processes happen in a very efficient manner.