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Dairy Start-up Farm in Ballindine, Co. Mayo


Donal Ronayne and his uncle Liam Trench started milking 205 heifers in 2021. Historically the farm was a suckler to beef enterprise. The conversion to dairying started in 2019 and a Farm Partnership was set-up. Donal Kelly, Dairy Advisor, Teagasc Claremorris talks about this great change on the farm

Changing the farming system

In the last two years huge changes have happened on the farm. 

100% of the milking platform has all been reseeded, new roadways installed, a new water system along with new fencing has also being installed to allow a new paddock grazing system to be utilised.

Furthermore, the silage ground has been reseeded along with a paddock system for the heifers. The farm is a mixed soil farm with 33% of the farm classed as a heavy soil. The focus on the farm is to grow and utilise as much grass in the cow’s diet to increase milk solids output and reduce costs. The heavy investment in the grazing infrastructure means the farm is well set and has allowed them to achieve this goal.

Donal and Liam purchased high EBI Jersey Cross stock with high potential for fertility and milk solids. The herd of 1st lactation heifers achieved 395kgs of milk solids in year 1 with less than 5% of cows empty at the end of the breeding season. High EBI bulls are used along with sexed semen.  What doesn’t get dairy AI will get Hereford or Angus AI or stockbulls.

A new 26 unit parlour was constructed in 2020 along with an extension to an existing beef shed to house 200 cubicles along with a new calving area.  Extra slurry storage was installed to allow the slurry to be stored for over 20 weeks to help get the best utilisation of the nutrients. Existing sheds were also converted to rear calves and heifers.

Using the latest technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

A big focus on the farm is to use the latest technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Low emission slurry spreading is used to increase the level of nitrogen in the slurry, reduce GHGs and reduce the reliance on chemical fertilisers. Protected urea is also utilised to reduce GHGs. The whole farm is soil sampled and lime applied where required. Grass is measured on a weekly basis and results inputted on Pasturebase. Pasturebase is used to make grazing decisions to ensure cows are grazing the correct pre-grazing covers which has been shown to reduce GHGs.  Pasturebase also allows Donal and Liam to assess each paddock’s performance and nutrient input throughout the year.

Teagasc and Aurivo Profitability Programme

Donal and Liam are part of the Teagasc and Aurivo Profitability Programme. This programme is designed to help the farms improve the profitability of the farm in an environmentally sustainable way along with achieving a sustainable work life balance. Updates on the farms are provided to the public through different sources such as social media, newsletters, events and discussion groups.

A successful public Farm Walk was held on Donal and Liam’s farm on Thursday the 28th July at 11am. On the day the topics discussed included the conversion to dairy farming and setting up the farm, grass performance and stocking rate, how the Farm Partnership is structured and the costs of keeping a cow in 2022.

Check in with Teagasc Daily for further updates on the progress of Trench Dairies Dairy Farm.

Find out more about the Teagasc and Aurivo Profitability Programme at Teagasc/Aurivo Joint Industry Programme

If you want to learn more about this topic read A Step by Step Guide to Setting up a New Dairy Farm (PDF)  or contact your local Teagasc Advisor. You can contact any of our Teagasc offices using this link Teagasc Advisory Regions here