Teagasc Dairy Start Up course: A must for farms converting to dairying

Due to continuing demand, Teagasc will be offering a dairy start up course this autumn for anyone seriously considering dairy farming. This is the third year that the course is being offered and so far over 100 farmers have attended.

The first part of the course includes four training days from late September to the end of November 2020. See course structure at: www.teagasc.ie/dairystartup.

The four training days include:

  • The first day of the course is on farm and is focussed on animal breeding with particular emphasis on buying in the right stock;
  • Day two is also on farm and is focussed around farmyard and grazing infrastructure with the main focus on getting the farmyard layout right from day one. The farms hosting day one and two will be selected based on achieving high performance in animal breeding, grassland management and animal health. These farms will also show excellent cow-flow and farm profitability;
  • The third day is an indoor meeting which involves crunching the numbers and each participant gets to create their own three-year budget. Speakers for the first three days will be a mix between the local Teagasc dairy advisors and dairy specialists;
  • On day four, participants will get to meet Teagasc Moorepark researchers, either face to face, or through a webinar. This will be decided in line with Covid-19 regulations. The latest research on grass varieties, drainage, calf facilities, key profit indicators and workload management will be presented.

The second part of the course includes 10 discussion group meetings that will be held on a profitable farm that is practicing excellent grassland, breeding and animal health practices.

At these group meetings participants will see the farm and cows at all the different stages throughout the year.

In-between these group meetings there will be one optional training day for anyone interested in robotic milking. This meeting will be held outdoors on a robotic farm located centrally to all courses. There will also be a one-day training workshop on milking machines, routines and milk quality.

This workshop will be held, where possible, on the nearest agricultural college to the course locations. This training day will be scheduled to a time that is suitable to the majority of the group in terms of when they are starting milking.

Who should attend this course?

This course is suitable to anyone who is seriously interested in converting to dairy farming and has already discussed in detail with their advisor the financials and reward for converting.

Advisor experience

According to Teagasc dairy advisor Jim Moyles: “Converting your farm to dairying is probably the biggest decision you will ever make in your farming career and the onus is on you to make the decision as informed as possible.

It requires a very substantial capital investment and the more information and knowledge you have, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Farmers considering converting to dairying today have the added advantage of learning from other farmers who have “taken the plunge” and converted their farms. Some of the recent entrants to dairying are performing exceptionally well and are able to “hold their own” with the very top dairy farmers in the country.

Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true, where some dairy conversions have not been as successful. Problems such as poor financial planning, poor farmyard design, inadequate grazing infrastructure and underperforming stock are serious issues that can turn a dream conversion into a nightmare.

With this in mind, participation in a Teagasc Dairy Start Up course is essential for anybody considering turning their existing farm into a dairy farm.

Farmer experience

Jimmy Keating, Killoughey, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, was part of the cohort of farmers that started the very first Teagasc Dairy Start Up course in September 2018. His farming background was tillage, sucklers and calf-to-beef enterprises. He commenced milking with a single robotic unit in the spring of 2020.

His main reason for signing up for the course was to increase his knowledge of dairying. Before completing the course and looking on from the outside, Jimmy considered dairying to be basically about cows and milking.

It was only as the course progressed, that I found out about the steep learning curve that is dairy farming. There is so much to learn from farm financial planning, grassland management, cow nutrition, cow-flow, to the type of cow I wanted to milk  – the list seems endless.

One of the main benefits he found from the course was from talking with other farmers who were also converting their farms.

“Even over a cup of tea, the amount of information and tips that you can pick up from other farmers who are at the same stage, or possibly a year further down the road on their farm conversions, is unreal.”

How to book this course

From August 1 to September 10, you can add your contact details through the following link: www.teagasc.ie/dairystartup.

You will find more details on this course, including a course outline for each day. You can also contact your local Teagasc office and a member of staff can add your details online for you. Or leave your details here: www.teagasc.ie/dairystartup.

After the deadline of September 10, the course locations will be decided and once your details have been entered online by yourself, or Teagasc, you will be contacted to discuss course content, locations and registration.