‘One third of Ireland’s milk is produced on heavy lowland or hilly soils’

One-third of all Irish milk is produced on heavy lowland or hilly soils, according to Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialist said that approximately half of the soils in Ireland are classified as either heavy lowland or hilly.

Ramsbottom is also the Chairman of the Irish Grassland Association’s summer dairy tour and he said with this in mind, this year’s tour will be held on two dairy farms dealing with challenging soil conditions.

Inclement weather conditions have the potential to add complexity, cost and risk to the milk produced

This year’s tour will visit two grass-based dairy farms in Kiskeam, Co. Cork and Rathmore, Co. Kerry.

The major focus of this year’s event will be on ensuring that grass growth and utilisation is maximised on all farms irrespective of soil type or situation.

The first leg of the tour will visit Sean O’Riordan’s 80 hectare farm in Kiskeam, Co. Cork.

O’Riordan was a participant in Teagasc’s Heavy Soils Programme, under which some of the farm had been intensively and cost effectively drained.

Since the land was drained, the amount of grass grown for his 100 strong dairy herd has increased by 2t per hectare on the drained land.

Farmers going to the summer tour will also visit Conor Creedon’s dairy farm in Rathmore Co. Kerry.

Creedon runs a herd of 95 cows on an elevated, steeply sloping farm, which is 200-300m above sea level.

The farm comprises 43 hectares of owned land with a milking platform of 26 hectares.

The 95 cow herd comprises of mainly crossbred cows, which produced 413kg of milk solids/cow in 2015.

Creedon said that he has prepared a cash flow budget for this year and will continue to focus on soil fertility to maintain grass growth levels.

I’ll avoid spending money on capital expenditure this year and price around carefully before buying but won’t take a Phosphorous and Potassium holiday.

“We did that before and won’t do it again,” he said.

Common features of both farms:
  • Breeding the right cow – both farmers believe that highly fertile, high EBI crossbred cows are most suited to milk production on more difficult soils
  • Their focus on soil improvement through improving soil fertility and drainage;
  • Their financial focus – both operate low farm cost dairy production systems with careful cash flow planning completed to the end of 2016

IGA summer tour a key event for Irish dairy farmers

This year’s dairy summer tour, which is sponsored by AIB, will take place on July 19.

Speaking at the launch of the event, Donal Whelton, Agri Advisor with AIB said that this event is an opportunity for farmers to learn first-hand from two progressive dairy farmers who are farming on more challenging soils.

“The fundamentals of grass and maintaining efficiencies are key for all farmers, particularly in a period of volatile milk prices,” he said.