Would you work 20 hours per week for no extra profit?

Would you work 20 hours per week for no extra profit? Unfortunately, this is what is happening on many farms throughout the country.

With this in mind, six farmers were asked to participate in a Teagasc Labour Saving Focus project which kicked off on February 1. The focus of the project is to challenge the farmers into improving labour efficiency.

Each participant farmer records the hours they work on their farms each week and gives an update on the practices they are implementing to optimise labour efficiency.

The farmers have many other time demands such as rearing young families, training sports teams, working off the farm, as well as other interests and have already altered a lot of their practices to be more efficient.

This is a continuous work in progress and Teagasc will be following the farmers with weekly updates to see how they are progressing.

Meet the 6 labour focus farmers

Jeremiah and Maria Daly

Jeremiah and Maria have a family of six and are farming in Scartaglen, Co. Kerry.

The milking block consists of 19.1ha with 60 cows. The cows are milked once a day (OAD). The farm sold 370kg milk solids (MS) per cow last year, feeding 460kg of concentrate per cow.

Jeremiah works part time on the farm with the help of his wife Maria and family who help during springtime and during other school holidays.

Jimmy Cotter

Jimmy is farming in Coachford, Co. Cork, and is married to Ann. They have three children Richard, Miriam and Brid.

The milking block consists of 35-adjusted hectares and there are 120 cows to calve this year. The farm sold 564kg MS/cow last year, feeding 1,000kg of concentrate per cow.

Jimmy works full time on the farm and has help from family members in the evenings and at weekends.

Seamus and Brian Molamphy

Seamus and his son Brian are dairy farmers based in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

The farm is currently milking 130 cows on a 45ha grazing block. In 2019, the farm sold 451kg of MS/cow, feeding 760kg of concentrate per cow.

Morty O Sullivan

Morty is farming outside Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath, in partnership with his wife Lorraine and their four children.

The milking block consists of 32ha and has 110 cows this year. The farm sold 460kg MS/cow last year, feeding 700kg of concentrate per cow.

Morty works full time on the farm and has part-time help for spring and other holiday periods. He also has help on the weekends from his sons Eoin and Cormac when they are not in school.

Steven Fitzgerald

Steven is farming with his parents near Aglish in West Waterford. Steven is married with a young family.

They are farming 121ha of which 52ha is leased. The milking platform is 70ha. They are milking 145 cows this year and 40 replacement units. All beef calves are brought to stores for sale. In 2019 the cows supplied 524kg MS/ha.

Steven works full time on the farm with help from his father and mother.

Tim Kelly

Tim is farming in Athenry, Co. Galway. He is married to Noreen and has two children, Ashling and Aoife.

The milking block consists of 64ha of which 47ha are owned and he leases 17ha. 135 cows will be milked this year. The farm sold 485kg MS/cow last year, feeding 650kg of concentrate per cow.

Tim works full time on the farm and has help from a student and a regular relief milker throughout the year.

What does Labour efficiency actually mean?

At the beginning of the updates, each farmer was asked what labour efficiency meant to them and the two common words from all six farmers were “easier and enjoyable”.

Farming without a doubt is challenging and busy, but anything that makes it easier and more enjoyable is definitely worth discussing at good length.

There may be a lot of other jobs on the farm that you like doing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be doing them. It’s a competitive market finding people who are the right fit for your farm.

Labour-focused farms will always have the edge in attracting people to work on their farms because they value their own and other people’s time.

Stay tuned…on the first week of May there will be a summary of how the six farmers got on this spring. All updates can be viewed at: www.teagasc.ie/laboursavingfocusfarms; or simply click  here