IGA Dairy Conference: What’s in store at this year’s event?

The 2020 Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Annual Dairy Conference, sponsored by Yara, takes place on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

Staying in the south west of the country, the Charleville Park Hotel once again plays host to this year’s conference.

As usual, an excellent line-up of topics and speakers has been arranged to make this a must-go event on the dairy farming calendar.

Developing your dairy business

2020 could be a year where milk price falls below the levels of the previous two-to-three years. In this context, the first session of the conference will examine how to cope in this scenario from two fronts.

Firstly, for existing operations, protecting the business bottom line through fully understanding of the real cost-base of the business is essential.

Barry Murphy, of FDC Group, will address how and why break-even cost levels can vary between farms, and help understand how this should be evaluated within the business.

Barry Murphy, FDC Group

Secondly, opportunities continue to become available for expansion, whether due to:

  1. Opportunities for grazing platform extensions to neighbouring farms;
  2. Opportunities for second platforms on existing or new out-farms; or
  3. Opportunities for involvement in succession of existing dairy units.

Teagasc’s Patrick Gowing will highlight that while some opportunities may be positive, there are also times when it might be best to say ‘No’.

This paper will help when deciding on ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when opportunities come along.

Efficiency opportunities with multiple benefits

The second session of the conference will look at options available within best practice to minimise the environmental footprint of dairy farming through efficiency opportunities.

Two key pillars that are high on the sustainability agenda are the use of clover in pasture and the efficiency of dairy cows.

Clover has been tried on many farms over the years, with mixed success. Fergal Coughlan of Teagasc will go through the lessons learned from research farms and on-farm studies, and highlight the potential of clover and the latest thinking on its establishment, retention and management in swards.

Fergal Coughlan, Teagasc

The Economic Breeding Index (EBI) is a tool to help select and breed increasingly productive, efficient and durable animals. However, in addition to improving these profitability drivers in the herd, the EBI is also delivering herds that are potentially more carbon efficient and sustainable.

Dr. Donagh Berry from Teagasc will discuss how the EBI is achieving these multiple objectives, and how the EBI can be used as a positive message for what dairy farmers are doing to be more climate friendly.

Priorities for 2020

The afternoon session will focus on three important areas for 2020 in the context of a potentially lower milk price and the increasing pressures on farm around calf management.

Munster Bovine’s Dr. Doreen Corridan will discuss the options around optimising cow numbers, focusing on the marginal profitability of the weaker cows in the herd.

Additionally, managing the overall team performance of the herd becomes more critical as milk price drops, so looking at the contribution of each player on the team becomes more important.

Co. Cork dairy farmer Donal O’Reilly

Grass is the cheapest feed and high output generates revenue. Donal O’Reilly, a farmer from Watergrasshill in Cork, will go through how he continues to achieve consistently high milk solids output through grassland management – particularly during the spring period.

Management of calves from the dairy herd is an increasing challenge on many farms. Co. Laois farmer Eamonn Duggan will discuss his calf management practices to show how calves can be reared to minimise the labour and cost, while not compromising on welfare and performance.

Booking the conference

When it comes to securing your spot at the event – which is sponsored by Yara – online booking is the quickest method to secure tickets. The IGA website can be accessed at: www.irishgrassland.ie.

IGA members pre-conference event

At 8:00pm on the evening before the dairy conference (Tuesday, January 7), there is an exclusive opportunity for IGA members to meet at an evening gathering; admission to this evening gathering is free to all IGA members and a friend.

The 2020 guest speakers are dairy farmer John Kelly; potato and cereal grower Ned English; and pig/dairy farmer Pat O’Keeffe.

They will be interviewed in a panel discussion with the theme: ‘Dairying – future products and markets’. This discussion will be facilitated by farmer and IGA Lifetime Merit Award recipient, Matt Dempsey.