Teagasc Johnstown Castle Winter Milk Event
Teagasc Johnstown Castle dairy unit opened its doors to host the 2019 Teagasc National Winter Milk event. Farmers and industry stakeholders had an opportunity to review the performance of the herd and to discuss key results from the Johnstown project with Teagasc researchers. The theme of this year’s event was ‘building a sustainable winter milk system’.
Teagasc Johnstown Castle dairy unit today, Wednesday, 4 September opened its door to host the 2019 Teagasc National Winter Milk Event
Teagasc Johnstown Castle dairy unit today opened its doors to host the 2019 Teagasc National Winter Milk event. Farmers and industry stakeholders had an opportunity to review the performance of the herd and to discuss key results from the Johnstown project with Teagasc researchers. The theme of this year’s event was ‘building a sustainable winter milk system’. Speakers during the day emphasised the value of implementing scientifically-tested component practices, in order to develop a successful overall dairy system.
Commenting on the current context for the event, Tom O’Dwyer head of Teagasc dairy knowledge transfer said: “There are significant challenges to the future viability of winter milk production, both within and beyond the farm gate. Since the abolition of EU milk quotas many producers have been re-assessing the optimal production system for their farm. Potential changes to international market conditions and securing quality labour are also major issues. However, Teagasc benchmarking data shows that the more technically proficient winter milk producers continue to operate profitable and sustainable farms. The aim of our research and extension effort is to promote greater uptake of key technologies among winter milk producers. Events like today remain central to that objective.”
Joe Patton, Teagasc winter milk specialist, highlighted the priority area for progress within the sector. “Winter milk producers are an essential cohort within the Irish dairy industry, and while many issues are common to all dairy farms, the requirement for a proportion of autumn calving does create specific management challenges with regard to herd fertility. Our data show that while long term trends are positive, reducing calving interval and gaining better control of calving pattern remain very important objectives for a winter milk system. Calving pattern should be an outcome of defined planning and not a consequence of poor herd fertility,” he said.
Donal Murphy, chairman of the Teagasc winter milk stakeholder group outlined how research can contribute to technical improvements at farm level. “The winter milk project stakeholder group includes researchers, farmers and advisors, and has witnessed over ten years of results from the Johnstown herd. In that time the herd management practices trialled have lifted milk yields, improved forage utilisation and delivered real gains in herd fertility. The recently completed experiment has clearly demonstrated the effects of specialist winter milk production on milk production profiles and input costs.”
The presentations at the Johnstown Castle event also covered a range of technical topics, from nutrition and breeding, to forage and soil nutrient management.
Aidan Lawless, manager of the Johnstown project herd, stressed the importance of grass budgeting to achieve correct pasture targets during the autumn period, and to ensure early turnout to grass in spring. He noted that “controlling peak covers to under 950kg per hectare in late September, and moving to graze in early February, are important features of our system.”
Presenting data from the Johnstown Castle herd as well as from commercial winter milk farms, Richard O’Brien, Teagasc advisor, showed that genetic improvement using the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) can increase annual milk revenues and reduce fertility costs. “This confirms the suitability of our national dairy breeding programme for a diverse range of systems”, he concluded.
Stephen Moore and Vincent Treacy outlined the essential steps in improving transition herd health and fertility, including correct peripartum mineral supplementation and control of nutrient intake, plus early intervention to correct uterine health problems.
The open day also featured a demonstration of a new multi-species grazing swards experiment for dairy cattle, led by Teagasc researchers John Finn and Guylain Grange, and a review of soil fertility research in Johnstown presented by David Wall. This on-going work aims to increase nutrient use efficiency across livestock systems.