Next week, on Wednesday, July 3, Teagasc Moorepark will open its gates to farmers and industry stakeholders for this year’s Teagasc National Dairy Open Day – Moorepark ’19.

The theme of the event is ‘Growing Sustainably’ and will be sponsored by FBD Insurance, Ulster Bank, and Ornua.

The continuing expansion of the Irish dairy industry provides opportunities to increase the profitability of family farms, while also further developing climate smart dairy farming systems.

Future expansion will require close alignment of national agricultural and environmental targets, with a particular focus on: carbon emissions; water and air quality; and biodiversity.

Moorepark ’19 will highlight the various technologies and practices available to underpin future farm and sector profitability and sustainability.

The event is also an ideal opportunity for farmers and industry stakeholders to see first-hand the results from some of the research undertaken by Teagasc, and to meet research, advisory and education staff.

Speaking ahead of the event, Teagasc’s Head of Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Programme, Pat Dillon, said: “We have seen significant expansion in the dairy industry in the last five-to-six years and this has resulted in increased profitability on dairy farms and it has also been good for the rural economy.

“However, we are finished that stage now and we are going to a new stage. The new stage now is for dairy farmers to take stock of where they are and the challenges around sustainability.

“We should still focus on the growth of the dairy industry, but it has to take sustainability into context. Farmers can’t sacrifice sustainability for expansion in the future; they both have to go hand-in-hand,” Pat explained.

“Sustainability is also important from a marketing point of view. International customers expect us to run highly sustainable systems of production.

“The carbon footprint of our products, animal welfare standards and milk quality standards are all going to be critical in the sale of our products to those countries,” he added.

The Event

Continuing, Pat said: “There will be four main boards which will each focus on the theme of sustainability. There will also be research updates on protected urea, low emission slurry options and clover, along with demonstrations and workshops.

“One of these demonstrations will be on reseeding. We are finding that a lot of farmers aren’t completing reseeding properly and the demonstration will focus on this,” Pat said.

Growing Sustainably – topics include:
  • Taking stock and looking into the future;
  • Future systems: The sustainable expansion challenge;
  • Increasing grass utilisation;
  • High-EBI cows are more sustainable;
  • Grazing demo.

“Labour is another huge issue facing the industry. On the day, some of the colleges will be there to attract young people to the courses that they have available. Paidí Kelly will also be speaking at the event and will share some stories on how different people have entered the industry.

“Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) will also be covered and we will be showing the results we have so far on this,” Pat added.

On the day, there will also be a number of technology villages covering all aspects of dairy farming.

Technology villages:
  • Putting grazing management into practice;
  • Sustainable milk production systems;
  • Healthy cow – high-quality milk;
  • Next generation breeding and reproduction;
  • People farming smarter;
  • Dairy farm infrastructure;
  • Keeping you and your family safe on the farm.

Take-home messages

Take-home messages from the day include: how farmers can reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs); ways to improve water quality; how to increase biodiversity; and how to improve labour efficiency.

Touching on these in more detail, Pat said: “If you look at climate change you’re talking about GHG emissions and how we are going to reduce them.

“There are things we can do in terms of changing our fertiliser type, making better use of slurry, reduce fossil fuel use on farms and use energy saving technologies in milk cooling and milking.

“The water quality then is in relation to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and the efficient use of those nutrients; some of those are linked back to the GHG.

“N efficiency is going to be critical. This is about making the best use of slurry, harvesting your N efficiently, substituting some of your N for clover and having good yard infrastructure with no leakage of nutrients.

“The biodiversity is the other area and we set a target of somewhere between 5% and 10% of the farm allocated to biodiversity areas.

“The final big challenge then is around people, labour and looking at labour efficiency on your own farm. Farmers shouldn’t depend totally on labour out there. Farmers should try to increase labour efficiency on their own farm through labour efficiency practices,” Pat concluded.

In conclusion, the open day will provide dairy farm families and dairy stakeholders with an updated roadmap to support profitable dairy production systems while addressing the challenges we face over the next decade.

When and where?

The event will take place in Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork, from 8:30am through to 5:00pm.

Moorepark is located on the main Cork to Dublin road (M8), and is approximately 5km from Fermoy on the Mitchelstown side; exits off the M8 motorway are Exit 14 from the north and Exit 14 from the south (Eircode: P61 C996).

A comprehensive booklet will be provided and admission and parking is free.