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‘Technologies for Success’ highlighted at Teagasc Dairy Conference

‘Technologies for Success’ is the theme for the Teagasc National Dairy Conference which is taking place today, Tuesday 6 December at the Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork and tomorrow, 7 December at the Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath.

Chairing the first session at the conference, Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle said: “Significant genetic gain can be expected over the coming years in both milk and fertility traits. Significant gains can also be obtained in grass utilisation on dairy farms. Improvements in breeding and grass utilisation can deliver financial benefits at farm level for all producers.”

Pete Morgan from Morlands Farm, Waikato, New Zealand advised dairy farmers at the conference to stay focussed on what matters to their business. He said: “Dairy farming can be an increasingly rewarding career, but you must keep remembering why you are doing what you are doing; otherwise there is a real risk of ‘system drift’ over time.”

He stressed the importance of taking a collaborative approach to running a dairy farm. “Take everybody involved in the business with you – spouse/ partner, family, employees, advisors – this means sharing  your strategic plans and taking the time to develop relationships with the key people on your support team. Take every opportunity to collaborate with others, including benchmarking your farm’s performance with that of others in the locality and the best performing farms in your system.”

Pete, along with his wife Anne, are owner/operators of a 175 hectare rolling hill farm, south west of Te Awamutu in the Waikato in New Zealand.  They milk 520 crossbred cows, stocked at 2.9 cows per hectare,  producing a total of 170,000 kg milk solids (MS), or 330 kg MS per cow and 971 per hectare.

According to Pete, the challenges of topography, light soil types and farm layout – with over 4 km from one end of the farm to the other - have led him to develop a simple low-cost farm plan resulting in operating profits that are in the top 20% for the region and farm working expenses consistently below $2.80 per kg MS. 

Dr Pat Dillon, Head of the Teagasc Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme presented a paper on Irish dairying and how it is well positioned for the upturn. He said: “The best strategy for Irish dairy farmers to overcome volatile milk price is to develop low cost grass-based systems of milk production. In the future, comparisons should be made on a per kg of milk solids, rather than per litre basis; this better reflects the milk payment system, is more closely related to costs of production and can compare milk of different composition.”

He pointed out that based on the Teagasc National Farm Survey 2015, the top 20% of dairy farmers ranked on profit per hectare, had higher stocking rates, lower concentrate feed input per cow, longer grazing season, higher milk solids production per cow and a higher proportion of the farm in the grazing platform compared to the average dairy farm.

Dr Dillon also highlighted the fact that Ireland’s competitiveness in milk production has been maintained, or increased, with the abolition of milk quotas; milk production costs have decreased as a result of greater milk production.

The full proceedings from today’s conference can be viewed at the link below.

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