IGA video recap: Who’s on tonight’s Dairy Summer Tour live discussion?

With restrictions prohibiting large gatherings from taking place, the Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Dairy Summer Tour will take an online format this July.

As a result, three farms that hosted the event from 2014 to 2016 have been revisited in an online showcase – on the IGA website and on its Twitter and Facebook pages.

The three videos per farm look back at where the host farmers were at the time they hosted the tour, where they are now and where they see themselves going in the future.

From 7:00pm to 8:00pm tonight, the three farmers will join IGA Dairy Committee chairman, Stuart Childs, for a live discussion – hosted by AgriLand – and available on all AgriLand platforms and the IGA website.

Stuart will also be joined by Tadhg Buckley, head of agriculture at AIB – the sponsors of the event – to discuss the prospects for dairy markets in the latter half of 2020.

The farmers will be available to answer any questions about the direction that their farms have gone and about their plans for the future.

Any questions can be sent to the IGA Twitter or Facebook pages; or simply text your question to: 087-962-6483.

Who are the farmers?

David Kerr

David Kerr from Ballyfin, in Co. Laois, hosted the event in 2014. The theme for the event was ‘Successful Strategies for Expansion’.

His strategy was based on increasing herd size from within his highly-fertile dairy herd with investment in low-cost slurry storage and cow accommodation.

Over 450 farmers from around the country attended to hear how David operated a predominantly grass-based system of milk production on his 160ac farm.

Milking 140 cows that year, just prior to quota abolition, David also reared his replacement heifer calves but the yearling heifers were being contract reared off-farm.

That year the cows were on course to produce 400kg of milk solids. At a farm stocking rate of close to one cow/ac, he expected grass growth to exceed 14t of dry matter (DM)/ha on this mixed free-draining and peaty farm.

Henry Walsh

Farming outside Oranmore, Co. Galway, Henry Walsh hosted the event in 2015. The farm comprised a 76ha milking block on free-draining limestone land.

Henry had developed his system of farming to exploit this advantage fully and expanded the herd to milk 240 cows in 2015.

This rapid expansion has brought challenges in terms of infrastructure and labour, but critically had not impacted on efficiencies with cows producing 450kg of milk solids throughout the expansion process.

At the time of the event, part of the plan for over-wintering involved moving a combination of young stock and dry cows off the milking platform – for part of the winter – to graze mostly crops of deferred grass.

Milking facilities had become an issue with the 16-unit parlour coming under pressure as herd size increased.

In the year prior to the event, the herd produced an average of 430kg MS/cow from 450kg of concentrate/cow and had an 85% six-week calving rate that spring.

Conor Creedon

In 2016 Conor Creedon, from Rathmore, Co. Kerry, hosted the Dairy Summer Tour on what turned out to be the warmest day of the year.

With a theme of ‘Milk Production on More Challenging Soils’, Conor farms on an elevated site rising up to 300m above sea level.

His farm typically receives almost 2m of rainfall/annum. Unusually, the milking platform has a shallow topsoil over a gravelly subsoil which, while free-draining, is hungry for lime, phosphorus and potash.

Conor’s milking platform was 26ha and stocked at 3.73 cows/ha in 2016. He had a highly-fertile herd with 97% of the 97 cows calving in six weeks; he had produced 413kg of milk solids the previous year.