The Irish Grassland Association annual dairy conference kicks off today in the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny.

According to its president Eddie O’Donnell the theme of this year’s conference is ‘Getting things right pre-2015’.

Speaking to AgriLand he stressed: “It’s all about getting farmers producing a large quantity of high-quality grass. Farmers need to start thinking about the quality of grass they are getting into the cow.”

He noted: “With the milk quota abolition on the horizon, maximising grass growth and utilisation on farm are key components of profitable dairy farms.”

O’Donnell outlined there will be four key sessions in today’s conference. The first session will be in the on getting the balance right between grass quantity and quality. According to O’Donnell: ” In this session the research findings in terms of optimum pre-grazing herbage mass and its impact on herbage quality and digestibility, and annual grass production will be presented, as will on-farm experiences of an advisor and farmer.”

In session two key aspects of efficiency to put in place for 2015 will be the focus. O’Donnell said topics including profit per hectare drivers post quota and a wide range of aspects of efficiency that will allow farmers to maximise future opportunities will be discussed.

Session three will examine what the post quota cow will look like? Current research around the EBI and the next-generation herd, as well as farmers opinions on cow choice for the post-quota era will lead to an informed discussion on the future cow.

The fourth and final session of the day will ask the audience, ‘Why concentrate on grass post quota?’ Chris Knowles, a dairy framer from Cornwall in England will attempt to answer the question. O’Donnell explained: “Chris’s paper is very appropriate as we move towards 2015 as he has effectively being producing milk from a grass-based system in a quota-free type environment for the past number of years.”

Although the dairy conference is the focus of the Irish Grassland Association, O’Donnell commented that it is just the first part of a jam-packed 2014 for the association.

He outlined that in early February the association will be launching there new user-friendly website, which will be available on a number of platforms including smartphones and tablets.

“As the whole IT side of farming really kicks off it is important that the Grassland Association keeps up to date,” he noted.

The organisation will also be holding dairy, beef and sheep tours on farms during the year.

Today’s conference kicked off at 8am and a record turnout of 350 people is expected.

AgriLand will be reporting live.