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Development farm walks at John Dowds and Molamphys

Over the last few weeks, farm walks took place at John Dowds, Kilconly and Seamus and Brian Molamphys, Portroe; both farms are development farmers on our milk for profit programme. The purpose of the development farmers is to showcase how best practice in dairy and technology adoption can improve farm profitability and sustainability. 

John Dowd milks over 90 cows outside Tuam and in recent times has taken on considerable farm development. In the last year he has purchased land beside the milking platform and next year he plans to build a shed for 70 cows. Martin Clarke from IFAC was present on the day to discuss the importance of business planning when taking on such development. He highlighted that farmers must take ownership of their own plan, understand it completely and set realistic goals. “Paper never refused ink” and so setting targets above what’s attainable in a plan can be dangerous. Be aware of the repayment capacity on the farm and of any upcoming demands on drawings such as third level education.

Tom Curran, Collaborative farming secialist, Teagasc speaking to farmers on Molamphys farm.

Tom Curran, Collaborative farming secialist, Teagasc speaking to farmers on Molamphys farm.

Seamus and Brian Molamphy are milking 90 cows outside Portroe. In the past year Brian has come home to farm full time on the farm. Therefore the farm now has to sustain two incomes. The milking platform is stocked quite high at 3.3LU/ha so further expansion in cow numbers is not possible. While efforts can be made to increase milk solids sold per cow, Brian will have to look at expansion opportunities beyond the farm gate to increase output. Tom Curran Collaborative farming specialist with Teagasc was present on the day to discuss the process of succession and the benefits of forming a partnership. To get maximum benefit from forming a partnership Seamus and Brian will wait until they are in a position to carry more stock. In this way they will get the most from the stock relief incentives the formation of a partnership offers.

On both farms there is significant potential to improve soil fertility with the majority of samples in index 1 and 2 for P and K. To combat this John has spread the land with 18-6-12 all year. While the restrictions of the nitrates directive was discussed at Molamphys, Padraig Costigan from Teagasc highlighted that there are no limit restrictions for lime or K. Lime can increase the amount of available P and K in the soil and should be the first action to take when rectifying poor indices.
Heifer rearing was discussed at both farm walks. Pat Clarke from Teagasc outlined the importance of identifying and the light heifers now and feeding them extra meals. Heifers underweight at breeding and calving are underweight and produce less milk for 3 lactations. John is considering availing of contract heifer rearing to reduce labour, free up shed space and land. Setting out a clear contract with the contract heifer rearer beforehand is crucial Michael Donoghue advised. Farmer can expect to pay €1-1.20 per animal/ day. 

Handouts from the walks:

Special thanks to our development farmers for giving up their time and sharing their farm information.