Slurry, soil and stocking rates: What climate actions will Signpost dairy farmers take?

Dairy farmer participants in Teagasc’s new Signpost Programme will have a number of ambitious climate action targets to reach, ranging from lower stocking rates to reduced fertiliser use and higher biodiversity goals.

The participants will be chosen both from a network of dairy demonstration farmers through existing joint farm development programmes with milk processors and from new farmers invited to take part.

According to the authority, Teagasc will “work with the Signpost Farmers to reduce their environmental footprint, while also improving both the profitability and sustainability of their farming businesses”.

The agency says that, while the solution for each farm will be somewhat different (and will be tailored to suit the individual farmer and his/her farm, dairy Signpost Farmers will be striving to achieve targets such as stocking rates below 290kg organic N/Ha on the milking platform and less than 250kg organic N/ha for the whole farm.

This, going by the new, slightly higher nitrogen excretion value of 89kg per cow per year, works out at 3.258 cows per hectare on the milking platform.

The data collection and analysis methodology of the National Farm Survey will be used for recording, analysing and reporting on both individual and overall performance.

The table below lists indicative targets for Signpost dairy farmers, with “similar targets established for beef, sheep, tillage and mixed enterprise Signpost Farms”, Teagasc says.

Source: Teagasc

Teagasc notes that it is envisaged that a Farm Sustainability Plan (FSP) will be created with each Signpost farmer – identifying areas for improvement and action.

All farmers will also receive a Farm Sustainability report at the end of each year – benchmarking their progress, against their starting point, other Signpost farmers and the targets set for the farm.