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Grazing infrastructure

Over 160 farmers attended our recent grazing infrastructure events. Topics discussed included roadways, paddock layout, water and finances. To achieve maximum performance from cow’s optimal covers (1,300-1,600kgDM/ha) of grass need to be consistently offered to the herd. This can only be realised if appropriate grazing infrastructure is installed.

Patrick Gowing of the Teagasc Dairy Expansion service discussed the importance of roadway design for cow flow. Avoiding 90 degree turns in favour of sweeping bends and keeping water troughs and other distractions off roadways achieves maximum cow flow. Also highlighted at the event was the importance of widening roadways close to the parlour to prevent holdups and crowding on roadways at milking time. Jim Moyles, Teagasc dairy advisor in the Offaly area discussed paddock design and how to calculate paddock size. For an 80 cow herd grazing covers of 1400kg DM/ha paddock size needs to be 1.46ha for a 36hr grazing. Advantages of 36hr grazing over 12hr grazing’s were identified at the event.  The main advantage of larger paddocks is that cows (particularly heifers) are less likely to be underfed than when on smaller 12hr paddocks. It was also noted that larger 36hr paddocks require less infrastructure and work. Tom Ryan, building specialist at Kildalton gave a thorough presentation on water systems. Pipe size, gradient and ballcock restrictions can cause water shortages on farms. Replacing water pipes with bigger pipes can often resolve water shortages. Doubling the diameter of pipe will quadruple the flow rate of water at the same pressure.  Dependant on herd size, 25-32mm internal diameter pipes should be used for the main pipes of water systems. A handy tip outlined by Tom was to replace the high pressure jet within a ballcock to a medium pressure jet to increase flow rate with little if any cost (jets are only a couple of cents apiece) or alternatively newer full flow ballcocks types can be installed. Joe has also installed a reservoir on the farm to overcome poor flow rates from the well.  Pat Clarke, dairy specialist with Teagasc discussed the costs associated with installing grazing infrastructure. Estimates for roadways, water and fencing were €600, €300 and €300 per ha respectively. However estimates will differ depending on resources available within the farm gate.  Prior to investing it is important to have an accurate estimate of the proposed expenditure and a financial plan completed. As with all capital investments funds should come from a term loan instead of cashflow. Though not the year to make capital investments on farm, the event highlighted the importance of planning when it comes to installing appropriate grazing infrastructure. This is the year to plan.

A special thanks to our host farmers Joe Connolly and Liam Grady.

Boards presented on the day

Workshop: Grazing infrastructure - Boards (PDF)