‘How replaceable are you on your farm?’ was the question posed by Teagasc’s Pat Clarke at its Dairy Expansion Seminar which focused on labour efficiency on farms.

Clarke outlined that it is a question which he regularly asks farmers and it was those which struggled to answer the question that often had the more complex or inefficient farm systems.

How labour is utilised on farm’s is being talked about more and more by dairy farmers particularly those with expansion on their minds, according to Clarke. He noted that farmers have goals and for my size of their business is about to increase. “A lot more herds are pushing through the 100+ cow barrier, this will put more pressure on labour. It’s important farmer’s lives remain sustainable in terms of quality of life and family time.”

Clarke detailed figures from a survey of discussion groups around the country. It found that the average farmer works 31 hours per livestock unit. This compares to only 18 hours per livestock unit for the most efficient top 10% of farmers. Clarke commented that these figures clearly show that labour efficiencies can be achieved on most farms.

From taking to farmers Clarke noted that the key to a labour efficient farm is having a simple farm system which incorporates all the daily activities of a farm enterprise.

“A lot of farmers ask ‘at what size will I require taking on an additional labour unit?’. What our research has clearly shown is that farmers should concentrate on being labour efficient first before considering getting increased labour.”

Clarke outlined that a herd size of approximately 120-160 cows is a good ball park of a farm size which will needed a full time addition labour unit.

However Clarke stressed that labour-saving technologies are out there and in a lot of cases labour efficiency could be improved quite easily.