Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

The Dairy Edge Podcast Archive

Episode 100

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our listeners for a special 100th episode of the Dairy Edge this week when we review the dairy farming year with Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle, Teagasc specialist Abigail Ryan, and Head of Animal & Grassland Research Pat Dillon, join Emma-Louise Coffey to review the dairy farming year.  

Firstly, Pat and Abigail reflect on the indications of recovery on dairy farms in 2019 following the challenging weather conditions in 2018. Pat explains that dairy farmers are improving key performance indicators including achieving record high fat and protein % in 2019.

Gerry reviewed the Climate Action Plan and key practices such as Low Emission Slurry Spreading, clover inclusion in grazing swards and protected Urea fertiliser products that farmers can adopt to reduce emissions from their farms.

The panel also reviewed 20 years of the Economic Breeding Index and measured the many improvements in the performance of the dairy cow of today compared with the dairy cows in Ireland 20 years ago including fertility, milk and profitability. Furthermore, more genetic gains are attainable to benefit dairy herds to benefit dairy farmers.

Episode 99

Karol Kissane joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss his farming business and how he was drawn back to agriculture after a successful career in finance.

Karol left school at a young age to pursue a career in farming but after a short time farming at home with his father, he acknowledged that the farm was not sufficient to support two incomes so Karol returned to education, completing the Leaving Certificate and a business degree at UCC.

After working for several years in the financial sector, Karol felt drawn back to farming as a career and a way of life for him and his wife and he explains the process of converting the farm to a dairy farm and the high performance he is achieving annually. Karol also gives tips on returning home and dealing with the dynamics of a family farm.

Episode 98

Padraig French joins Emma-Louise Coffey to measure the welfare of calves on Irish Dairy Farms.

Padraig explains that calf mortality at birth and at one month old is a key metric to measure calf welfare. Comparing the performance in Ireland over the last 10 years, calf mortality has fallen on farms, despite an additional 300,000 calves being born annually.

Mortality at birth declined from 1.95% to 1.30% and mortality at 28 days declined from 3.71% to 3.20% comparing 2011 with 2019 figures.

Additionally, Padraig explained that the births were equal across males and female calves. Total calf in the 1st month of life at 4.5% in Ireland is half that of our international counterparts.

Furthermore, he briefly reviews a trial carried out by researchers John Barry and Emer Kennedy. They measured the level of Immunoglobulin levels in the blood of calves which indicates whether a calf received adequate colostrum. Padraig explains that both male and female calves received adequate colostrum.

Padraig also encourages farmers to take a look at their facilities and available labour to ensure dairy farmers continue to maintain a high calf welfare status within their own herd.

Episode 97

Dairy expansion specialist Patrick Gowing joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss his top tips for successful planning for expansion and new entrants to dairy.

Patrick emphasises the importance of purchasing the best stock possible in new entrant or expanding herds, explaining that €100 extra for high genetic merit in-calf heifers will pay for itself in the long term in terms of superior performance.

When deciding between heifers and cows, Patrick explained that heifers have the potential to survive in the herd longer than cows. Additionally, where a farm is existing dairy production, Patrick would consider the potential of high quality stock in such a herd.

Patrick also estimates the cost of milking facilities, buildings and grazing infrastructure as well as a contingency budget to ensure all aspects of the farm plan can be achieved.

Episode 96

Dairy advisor, Trevor Dunwoody, joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss alternative calf rearing facilities.

Trevor explains examples of use of calf hutches on silage slabs, rearing calves outdoors from 3-4 weeks of age, contract rearing, sale of non-replacement stock from 2 weeks of age and construction of a new calf shed or modifying existing sheds.

With calf hutches, calves are typically housed in groups of 3 to 8 and Trevor explains it is important that run off can be collected.

When rearing calves outdoor, it is important to identify a sheltered paddock or provide an artificial shelter. Calves are generally fed with a mobile feeder and therefore, can be managed in larger groups.

Episode 95

Dairy specialist Martina Gormley joins Emma-Louise Coffey to help identify the proper requirements for calf housing facilities on dairy farms in Ireland.

She explains that 1.5 million dairy cows will calve down in Ireland in 2020, with almost 1 million of those calving in the first 3 months of the year.

Martina guides farmers on how they can calculate their calf rearing requirements based on their calving pattern. Where a dairy farmer has an 80% 6 week calving rate will have a peak of 70 calves on farm in early March. Each calf requires a space allowance of 1.7㎡.

She also emphasises the importance of calculating requirements compared with current facilities and ensures that where there is a shortfall in current facilities, it is not too late to make a plan to create alternative options.

Episode 94

John Maher, Grass 10 Campaign Manager, joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss the current grassland situation on farms across the country.

Firstly, John reflects on the 2019 grazing season and he advises farmers to look at some key figures such as total grass production, number of grazings achieved and pre-grazing herbage cover.

John looks to the current situation on farms and explains that while overall annual rainfall is normal, above average rainfall has been observed in late August, September and October.

He urges farmers to be flexible with grazing using on/off grazing, multiple access points to enter and exit the paddock and ensure cows are keen to graze for a grazing bout.

John refers to the current average farm cover of over 700 Kg DM/ha recorded on PastureBase Ireland but warns that individual farmers must ensure their farm does not fall below a cover of 500 kg DM/ha. A low average farm cover will limit the ability of farm to grow grass across the winter and compromise grass supply in spring.

For more information on the Teagasc Grass10 programme click here 

Episode 93

Milk quality specialist Don Crowley joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss the role of selective dry cow therapy in Irish Dairy herds.

Don explains the essential criteria farmers must review to identify suitable cows for selective DCT including milk recording results for the full lactation and 30 days in advance of dry-off, evidence of cows mastitis cases and treatment, culture and sensitivity analysis for the herd.

Importantly, Don emphasises the importance of selective DCT explaining that regulation will enforce this practice from January 2022.

He guides farmers through the dry cow procedure, giving simple tips and reminding us of the importance of hygiene. Where operators clothing, the parlour and the cow herself are dirty, there is a risk of introducing mastitis infection to the cow’s udder.

For more information: 

CellCheck On Farm Events 2019 Booklet (PDF)

Episode 92

Researchers Emer Kennedy and Hazel Costigan join Emma-Louise Coffey on this week's Dairy Edge to discuss the importance of getting the heifer rearing process right.

Emer explains that there are target growth rates throughout the heifer rearing period: 30%  of mature BW at 6 months, 60% of mature BW at 15 months and 90% of mature BW at 24 months. Regular weighing will ensure that heifers are on target.

Hazel adds that the target will vary across herds depending on the cow type and to identify the exact target for your herd, you should weigh lactation 3 cows or older in month of May or June.

Emer explains that for heifers that fail to reach target weight or are too heavy, evident negative effects include delayed cyclicity, extended calving interval, lower milk solids production and reduced longevity.

For more information: Replacement heifer Management (PDF)

Episode 91

Environmental specialist Tim Hyde joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss the future of Nitrates Derogation for Irish farmers.

Tim explains that 7,000 farmers (5%) are currently in derogation, accounting for 10% of farm land and 20% of livestock. Dairy farms account for 90% of farms in derogation, making up the majority of farmers engaging derogation.

The most recent Nitrates review, Nitrates Action Programme 2018-2021, has issued many recommendations to improve farm sustainability. Tim takes us through the recommendations including low emission slurry spreading, liming programme, improved grassland management, protected urea, white clover, ration type, biodiversity and farm infrastructure such as layout of roadways and access to watercourses.

Episode 90

Financial Specialist Kevin Connolly joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss Budget 2020.

Kevin explains the key budget measures that effect farmers including income tax, stock relief for young trained farmers, Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisitions Tax.

He explains that the budget has established provisions of €110m for Agriculture in the event of a no deal Brexit. Although there is little detail on specific allocation of funds, €85m has been allocated for beef farmers accounting for the greatest proportion of the fund.

Carbon related measures have seen an immediate increase in the cost of petrol and car diesel with tractor diesel and home heating oil increasing from May 2020.

Episode 89

Dairy adviser Ger Courtney joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss liming protocol to optimise lime pH on farm.

Ger explains that there is a positive trend from 2014 when 36% of soils were at optimum pH compared with 60% in 2017.  Target soil pH is 6.3 and 5.5-5.8 in peaty soils.

Optimum pH leads to greater biological activity, microorganism activity, nitrogen fixation and root structure. Research has shown an increase in grass growth in the region of 1.5-2 tonnes while palatability and utilisation also increases.

Return on investment is considerable and increases over time. In the initial years, a return on investment of €3 for every €1 invested in a liming protocol. Once soils reach optimum pH, a consistent return of €6 for a €1 invested in maintenance liming.

For more information: Advice on Liming leaflet (PDF)

Episode 88

Vet Niamh Field joins Emma-Louise Coffey to take a look at the health status of the national dairy herd and gives key tips to maximise the health of your herd.

Niamh looks to the metabolic diseases that occur on dairy farms, commonly occurring during the spring and she emphasises the importance of dry cow management to prevent incidence of disease.

Management steps include optimum BCS at dry off (2.75 to 3.25) and BCS at calving (3.00 to 3.50) and good dry cow minerals with Magnesium inclusion of 20g per day.

Niamh explains there is a multidimensional approach to herds protecting themselves against infectious diseases. These include immunity, the cows environment and exposure to disease.

One of the most important steps to maintaining a health, disease-free herd is biosecurity.

Beyond this, disease screening such as bulk milk sampling and blood sampling will identify the prevalence of individual diseases. Vaccinations can be affective to control or eliminate disease.

For more information:


Episode 87

Trevor Donnellan joins Emma-Louise Coffey to review the comprehensive climate action plan (Teagasc Greenhouse Gas Marginal Abatement Cost Curve) compiled by Teagasc to reduce the emissions from Agriculture.

Trevor speculates that the dairy herd will continue to grow, albeit at a lesser rate to that in the last 5 years. Conversely, it is suspected that suckler numbers will remain at similar numbers or contract.

The action plan also discusses 25 mitigating strategies including change of fertiliser product type, change of slurry spreading methods, improved fertility, healthier animals and planting of forestry.

Trevor explains that emissions from the agricultural sector is to the fore in Ireland as they create 33% of total greenhouse emissions compared with 10% in other EU countries.

To read the plan in full click here

Episode 86

In the second part of a two-part interview with dairy specialist Padraig O’Connor on the importance of a good milking routine, Padraig takes us through teat preparation and cluster attachment ahead of milking.

Best practice includes each quarter prior to cluster attachment. This helps with early detection of mastitis. Padraig recommends that mastitis or high SCC cows should be treated at the end of milking when the operator has sufficient time to treat them and eliminate the chance of cross contamination.

Episode 85

Dairy specialist Padraig O’Connor joins Emma-Louise Coffey for the first of a two-part interview to discuss the importance of a good milking routine. Padraig explains that a good milking routine ensurse quality produce, safety for the operator and time efficiency in completing the task. He advises all farmers to make sure their milking machine is in working order, getting at least one major service annually. Additionally, Padraig emphasises the importance of a clean environment for cows, placing particular emphasis on entry/exit points to the yard and paddocks, roadways and water troughs. Another effective way to keeps cows clean is clipping tails 3-4 times per year.


Episode 84

Dairy specialist Joe Patton joins Emma-Louise Coffey to identify the key traits that drive profitable winter milk systems.

Joe compares top winter milk herds with average. Top herds have higher output from the same concentrate input as average. The difference is top farmers are achieving greater grass utilisation and feeding higher quality grass silage during the housed period.

The second driver is fertile cows. Joe targets 375 day calving interval, meaning there are greater days at peak milk production, lower number of days dry and reduced number of cows recycled.

Hear more from Joe at the Winter Milk event at Teagasc Johnstown Castle: National Winter Milk Event

Episode 83

Johnstown Castle farm manager Aidan Lawless joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss full lactation performance for the winter milk herd and current milk and grass production.

The winter milk herd have produced 620 kg MS approximately 20 kg ahead of 2017 and 2018 lactations. Aidan credits increased milk yield, rising milk solids and getting out to grass in early January as factors that have driven high milk output.

40% of the winter herd are still milking and will be dried off this week, currently on a restricted diet with the view to depress milk yield. Aidan is extremely happy with fertility performance recording just 8% empty this year.  The spring herd are currently milking 23 litres or 1.8 kg MS, declining from peak of 32 litres.

Grass production was a challenge in July with a substantial soil moisture deficit and growth rates half of projected growth based on the Johnstown Castle average. Heavy rainfall in late July/early August has helped recovery to normal growth.

Finally, Aidan highlights the upcoming Winter Milk event at Johnstown Castle on the 4th September, covering a range of topics from feed management, genetics, fertility to soil fertility.

For more information: National Winter Milk Event

Episode 82

Grassland researcher, Mike Egan, summarises the autumn grazing management guidelines to maximise the amount of grazed grass in the diet of dairy cows in the autumn period.

Right now, farmers should be extending rotation length by 2 days per week and building cover.

Mike gives an insight into a grazing experiment looking at altering grazing management practices in autumn and examining the effects on animal performance and grassland in both the autumn and spring.

Mike explains that where herds are carrying high stocking rates on the milking platform and calving more compactly (reflected in higher 6 week calving rates), they need to consider closing the farm earlier and at a higher cover.

For more information:

Autumn Grazing Management

Effects Of Autumn Grazing Management On Spring Grass Availability (PDF) 

Episode 81

Dairy specialist Joe Patton has advice on creating a fodder reserve to reduce the risk to farm businesses in the event of future adverse weather events.

Firstly, farmers need to quantify the total grass production on their farm. Following this, stocking rate should be calculated allowing 5.5 tonnes of grass should be allowed per cow.

Optimal stocking rate does not account for any surplus or reserve within systems and therefore, a reserve must be purchased. An average reserve of 400 kg DM/cow (2 bales) in areas of low grass growth variability and 600 kg DM/cow (3 bales) in areas of high grass growth.

For more information: Securing A Reserve Of Quality Forage On Dairy Farms (PDF)