Pics: Behind the scenes on Teagasc’s Greenfield dairy farm

Over 1,000 farmers made the journey to Kilkenny yesterday to see first hand how the Teagasc Greenfield farm has coped since it was formed in 2009.

The objective of the farm was to demonstrate the setup, operation and financial performance of a large grass-based greenfield dairy farm.

The Teagasc Greenfield farm milks 334 cows on a 117 hectares, with all replacement heifers moved off the farm at three weeks of age to a contract rearer.

Dairy cows

Investment in the Greenfield farm

The Greenfield farm was developed on a tillage farm, according to Teagasc Senior Research Officer, Laurence Shalloo.

Speaking at the open day, Shalloo said that an initial investment of €351,000 and €850,000 borrowings were needed to get the farm up and running.

He said that the entire farm is rented and the rent is recalculated every three years.

During the initial three years of the project the rent was in the region of €180/ac, it is likely to be €230/ac over the next three years, he said.

High cost of production on the Greenfield farm

Shalloo also explained that the cost of production of the farm is quite high, as all assets on the farm are depreciated over the 15-year time line of the programme.

“This is quite different to most farms, where the assets would be depreciated over a 25-30 year time frame,” he said.

The Teagasc representative added that the average cost of producing one litre of milk in 2015 was 37c, with land, labour and bank charges making up over 40% of this cost.

Shalloo also expects the farm to make a net cash deficit of €10,000 this year on the back of lower milk prices.

Over the past six years, the farm has generated a net cash surplus. Shalloo said that the farm had a net profit of €69,122 in 2015 and a cash surplus of almost €49,000.

Teagasc's Laurence Shalloo speaking at the open day.
Teagasc’s Laurence Shalloo speaking at the open day.

Project and Actual Financial Performance for the Teagasc Greenfield farm

Source: Teagasc

Greenfield grass growth

Also speaking at the event, Michael O’Donovan, Head of Grassland Science in Teagasc Moorepark said that the farm has been self-sufficient in grass production over the past two years.

He said that during both 2014 and 2015 the farm produced in excess of 13t of grass per hectare and it utilised 11.5t/ha and 11.6t/ha respectively.

O’Donovan continued to say that due to the location of the farm, a quite large cut of first crop silage is taking on an annual basis and surplus grass from paddocks is removed in the form of bales.

However, O’Donovan also said that if the Greenfield farm wanted to increase its stocking rate above the current 2.7LU/ha level, it needed to grow more grass.

2015 feed requirements (tonnes DM/ha):
  • 11.6t/ha of grass utilised
  • Grazed grass accounted for 96% of the cows diet
  • 2.5t/ha of winter feed produced (silage)
  • 0.49t of concentrate purchased/ha

Check out the gallery below

Increase in milk solids from Greenfield cows

Milk solids production per cow and per hectare has increased each year over the period 2011 to 2015, according to Teagasc’s Abigail Ryan.

Speaking to the crowds in attendance, Ryan said that milk solids yield has increased from 334kg/cow in 2010 to 400kg/cow in 2015, leading to a 138kg/ha milk solids increase.

Ryan also said that cow survival has increased over this five-year period, which has resulted in lower replacement rates. The 2016 replacement rate for 2016 is estimated to be 22%.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialist also said that the fertility of the herd has also improved since it was formed in 2009, with the 2016 six-week calving rate sitting at 81%.

Key messages from the open day
  • Dairy expansion can be time consuming and adds severe workload if not carefully planned – seek help and advice.
  • In the short term prioritise investment towards areas of maximum return- cows, grazing infrastructure and soil fertility.
  • Cash flow management during conversion and during the initial years of production is critical to the success.
  • Herd performance can be sub-optimal in the initial years; however will increase with the use of high EBI genetics and increase grass production and utilisation.
  • Seek healthy high EBI dairy stock from herds with a proven herd health history; have a vaccination plan.
  • Highly skilled staff is crucial in operating an efficient large scale dairy farm.