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Development Farms

Five development farms from north Tipperary, Galway and Offaly have been selected to demonstrate the benefits of technology adoption and best practice in the areas of  financial management and planning, compact calving, grass utilisation, breeding management, herd health and milk quality. Over the next three years each farms progress, development and performance will be documented and freely available to all our suppliers.

Farmwalk - Trevor and Steven Cole

Arrabawn’s Milk for Profit Programme recently held a successful farm walk on Trevor and Steven Coles farm in Aghancon, Co Offaly. The theme of the day was “Building for the future” and the event was well attended, with presentations from local Teagasc dairy advisor Jim Moyles, collaborative farming specialist Tom Curran & dairy expansion specialist Patrick Gowing.

Trevor and Steven operate as a father/son DAFM approved partnership and are currently milking 115 cows on a 52 ha milking platform. Another 28 ha block approximately 4km away is also used predominantly as a beef enterprise. However, as milking cow numbers have grown in recent years, and continue to grow in future, the beef enterprise will be wound back to facilitate greater milking cow numbers. The land is quite hilly, with some parts quite sandy and free-draining, and other areas heavier, meaning that access to pasture at the shoulders of the season can be limited in certain paddocks.

The herd produced 390 kg/cow of MS in 2016, with a fat content of 4.25% and a protein content of 3.51%. The medium term target for the Coles is to have cows producing 450 kg/cow of MS, and while the constituents were high, there was some discussion among the group about the best way to achieve this target without increasing the 600kg of meal currently fed per cow each year.

Jim Moyles highlighted that a focus on breeding for higher milk solids through the use of high EBI bulls will improve the overall MS/cow yield, but improvements through breeding generally take a few years to achieve on farm. Currently the herd has an EBI of €81, with a milk sub index of €3 and a fertility sub index of €48.

Growing and utilising more grass is a proven profit driver on Irish pasture based dairy farms. The Coles utilised 11.1 t DM/ha in 2016, which compares favourably with the top 25% of dairy farms in the 2016 Teagasc profit monitor surveys. This equates to just under 14 t DM/ha grown in 2016. So far in 2017, 10.6 t DM/ha has been grown on the farm (to the end of July), which indicates they should come close to the target of 15 t DM grown in 2017.  A big effort has been made in the last 2 years to improve soil fertility, which will also drive greater pasture yields. Much of the farm was shown to be index 1 or 2 for phosphorus and potassium following soil tests, and strategic use of fertilisers such as 18-6-12, 10-10-20, Muriate of Potash, in addition to regular Nitrogen (Urea, CAN and Cut Sward) will address this issue going forward.

Tom Curran spoke about farm partnerships and the importance of succession planning. The Coles have approached succession in a well organised, clear manner with Steven gradually assuming more responsibility each year on the farm. Tom highlighted the fact that on many farms in Ireland, succession is something that is put on the back burner and often not properly addressed until farm families are too late to avail of certain tax advantages surrounding asset transfer etc. The farm partnership that the Coles are in will also give them a higher grant ceiling in their TAMS application for the new 100 cow cubicle house, thus providing an additional financial advantage.

Patrick Gowing detailed the planning and design advantages of the new slatted tank and cubicle house that is currently planned for construction in the next year. As cow numbers expand and the herd size grows towards the target of 150 cows by 2020, the new building will be essential. The existing farm facilities are not suitable for a herd of this size, and therefore building a new shed on a greenfield site beside the existing farmyard was considered the best option for expansion purposes. Patrick stressed the need to think about the long term future when investing in any new farm building. It is a 30-40 year investment, and therefore consideration should be given to what the farm will look like in 10 or 20 years if possible. The greenfield site allows the Coles to eventually build a new parlour onto the new shed to facilitate the greater cow numbers in future. In light of the current expansion strategy being pursued by many Irish farmers this was valuable advice.

Thanks to all our guest speakers and also to Trevor , Steven and Anne Cole for being excellent hosts and facilitating an informative day for all attendees.

Previous Review


FarmerJ. DowdS.ColeC. WhiriskeyB. MolamphyE. Kennedy
Location Kilconly Aghancon Kiltulla Portroe Ballingarry
Fat % 4.16 4.41 4.49 4.42 4.5
Protein % 3.11 3.1 3.17 3.12 3.13
L/cow 26 18 22.5 23 24.5
MS/cow 1.95 1.4 1.77 1.78 1.93
Meal 6 4 6 7 4
Avg farm cover 650   594 711 713
% calved by 9th March 72 78 70 76 80
Area grazed (9th March) 10% 19% 7% 15% 19%
Slurry 20% of MP applied on grazed ground  15% of MP 33% MP and on grazed ground 33% MP and silage ground
Fertiliser Half bag Urea on rest of MP 0.5 bag urea on all MP 7% of MP Half bag Urea on rest of MP 25 units Urea on all MP

Based on milk collected collected 6th March 2017. Cows out again on most farms after being in for several days.