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"The Ulster Bank Grass Calculator" - Strategy to Increase Profit

Visitors to the Teagasc National Dairy Open Day at Moorepark today, Wednesday, 29 June, heard that the profitability of dairy farming in Ireland is closely linked to the amount of grass utilised on farm. According to Teagasc researcher Dr. Laurence Shalloo, 44% of the variation in net profit per hectare between dairy farms can be explained by the quantity of grass utilised per hectare.

Speaking at the Open Day, Dr. Shalloo said: “As Irish farmers focus on technologies to increase grass utilised, we can expect to see a reduction in unit production costs and increased output on dairy farms. Increasing the quantity of grass utilised on farm by 1 tonne of Dry Matter (DM) per hectare will increase net profit per hectare by €100”. As part of today’s Open Day, Teagasc in conjunction with Ulster Bank launched a new management initiative, to help farmers to increase grass utilised on Irish dairy farms. ‘The Grass Calculator’ sponsored by Ulster Bank will provide farmers with an estimate of the quantity of grass utilised annually on their farm.

Also speaking at the Open Day Dr. Anne-Marie Butler, Agricultural Manager at Ulster Bank, who sponsored ‘The Grass Calculator’ said: “Increasing farm output through increased grass utilisation will result in increased profitability at farm level. ‘The Grass Calculator’ should be used in conjunction with end of year financial accounts, such as the Teagasc eProfit Monitor, to make informed decisions on how to increase the quantity of grass utilised and overall farm profitability. At Ulster Bank we are committed to supporting farmers and view this tool as the obvious next step for farmers and discussion groups in particular, who are already measuring grass and completing profit monitors, to improve the performance of their farms.”

Visitors also heard from Teagasc researcher Brian McCarthy that nationally Irish farmers are currently utilising on average 6.4 tonnes of grass DM/hectare annually. This is well below that achieved with best practice grazing management. At research level and on highly profitable commercial farms, between 10 to 12 tonnes of grass DM/hectare is being utilised annually and Irish farmers should target this level of grass utilisation in order to maximise their profitability.

Speaking at the Open Day, Brian McCarthy of Teagasc said: “The Grass Calculator’ is a simple tool that will provide farmers with an estimate of the quantity of grass utilised annually from their farms in the form of grazed grass and grass silage. The calculator should be completed by all farmers each year to benchmark performance from year to year.  Based on the results from ‘The Grass Calculator’, farmers can plan to increase grass utilised through growing and harvesting more grass. Grass production will be increased by maintaining perennial ryegrass dominated swards at the optimum soil fertility index and through reseeding underperforming paddocks. Increased stocking rates, turning cows out to grass earlier, achieving a better match between feeding levels and animal requirements and breeding more appropriate animals for the farm system will increase grass utilisation.”

The Ulster Bank Grass Calculator can be downloaded from the Teagasc website at http://www.agresearch.teagasc.ie/moorepark