Netherlands calf-rearing study tour planned for NI farmers

Dairy farmers in Northern Ireland have been offered the opportunity to see behind the scenes at some of the world’s top calf-rearing systems.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is offering dairy farmers who rear their own herd replacements the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands to learn about the innovative management practices farmers there are using for successful calf rearing.

A particular focus of the study tour will be the impact of higher pre-weaning growth rate on subsequent milk yield throughout the cow’s life.

The study tour is part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme which is being delivered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

It will include visits to several progressive dairy farms that implement stringent protocols on their calf rearing units and will also include input from Leonel Leal, Trouw Nutreco researcher.

Participants will see a range of calf housing options in operation across the units visited, with tours to be coordinated by VDK Products, a supplier of calf housing products.

Seeing advanced management practices and hearing directly from farmers in the Netherlands will help participants reflect on their own practices and consider the opportunities to improve the performance of their heifer rearing enterprise and the long-term performance of their dairy herd.

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on March 17 and will return on March 19 and will be led by CAFRE advisers Michael Garvey and Alan Hopps.

A total of 15 places are available and will be awarded on a competitive basis.

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business who is 18 years old on the application closing date and not in full-time education. To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return.

The Farm Innovation Visit scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part-funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland, breakfast, lunch and evening meals when in the Netherlands. Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs including farm relief and travel insurance.

More information is available on the CAFRE website. Applications open on Wednesday, January 30 and close on Wednesday, February 13 at 4:00pm.