Phase two of Lakeland/Teagasc Research Programme to focus on herd fertility

Phase two of the Lakeland/Teagasc Joint Research Programme is to focus on dairy herd fertility and two-year old calving.

The second phase of the programme, which is aimed at maximising efficiency and profitability on a sustainable basis for the future, was launched on the farm of John Healion, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

The programme uses the findings of locally-based research that is relevant to the needs of Lakeland Dairies milk supplying farmers.

It also includes technical advice on grassland management, improving milk solids, dairy herd fertility, quality management and sustainable expansion, among other important areas.

The joint programme was first established in 2013 with the appointment of a dedicated team of dairy specialists to work with Lakeland milk suppliers in an advisory capacity.

The advisors also provide a planning and technical service to potential new entrants to milk production.

To date, the advisory team have delivered 49 workshops, 18 farm walks at local and regional level and a large scale national open day exploring ‘dairy farm structures for expansion’.

The focus for the next three years of the programme is on:

1. Dairy herd fertility – a huge cost on farms that is sometimes not all that apparent.

2. Two-year-old calving – the most cost effective age to calve dairy replacements.

3. Management for non-seasonal/high input herds – focusing on quality silage and grass, calving patterns and managing dry cows.

4. Heavy soils programme – improving the productivity of heavy soils and increased utilisation of grass grown.

5. Development and improvement of grazing skills – growing and utilising more grass.

In connection with the programme, a booklet – ‘Expanding your dairy enterprise – A guide for Milk Producers’ was also produced and sent to all milk suppliers.

In addition, a monthly technical bulletin focusing on issues affecting farms various stages during the year was developed and will continue to be circulated with Lakeland Dairies Farm Notes.

At the launch, Lakeland Dairies’ Chairman, Alo Duffy said that the Lakeland Teagasc Joint Research Programme has been very successful over the past three years.

“It’s essential for dairy farmers to be able to make decisions based on solid expertise and advice and that is exactly what our joint programme is supporting.

“We are grateful to Teagasc for their commitment to the Lakeland programme.”

In addition to workshops, farm walks and printed materials, the advisory team also provides a one-to-one service to milk suppliers. The focus here again is on improving milk solids, grassland management and dairy herd fertility.

Dairy farmer and new milk supplier to Lakeland Dairies, John Healion, has used the service that is on offer.

In February 2014, he contacted the Lakeland Dairies member relations division, with a view to exploring opportunities that converting his beef enterprise to a dairy operation might deliver.

He was visited by a member of the joint programme advisory team in March of 2014 and a full appraisal of the farm took place.

A plan was then prepared for the farm and how best it could be converted to a dairy operation to maximise the available land base and assets.

“The plan for converting my farm to a dairy operation was laid out in a simple and straightforward manner.

“It highlighted the potential number of cows I could carry, the work I needed to do to set up my land and cow facilities to cater for a proposed dairy herd.

“It also identified the type of stock I needed to purchase and how my farm would be expected to perform at three different levels of efficiency. This was very helpful.”

With this information, I was able to present the plan to my bank, and with a small number of tweaks carried out by the programme advisor, I secured the funds needed to convert to dairying.

Con Feighery, Teagasc Area Manager said that through this programme, Teagasc has developed a strong working relationship that provides valuable information and support for Lakeland Dairies’ milk suppliers.

“We look forward to the achievement of further progress as we continue to advise and support Lakeland dairy farmers.”