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National Dairy Conference 2021 - Proceedings

23 November 2021
Type Event Proceeding

Due to COVID the conference was delivered as two webinars. The attached proceedings reflect the presentations and discussion topics planned.

Download Publication (PDF)

The year 2021 has been a mixed one for dairy farmers on the whole. Broadly, it has been positive in relation to both weather conditions and milk price, however, there have been plenty of stressors to contend with in relation to ongoing risks and concerns around Covid-19, proposed changes to environmental regulations, the increased focus on dairy farming’s position in the climate debate, and of course a sharp rise in farm input prices.

Teagasc advisory and research staff are keenly aware of the potential implications of these factors for farm practices and profitability. There is also a recognition that while debates may continue at policy level, dairy farmers must also get on with the tasks of producing high quality milk, managing stock and growing quality forage. Our conference programme has been developed with this in mind and we hope that you find an appropriate balance of content around the important issues.


Keynote Address Professor Frank O'Mara, Teagasc Director

Meeting climate obligations - a pathway for the dairy industry (PDF) 

Tuesday, 23 November

A keynote address by Teagasc Director, Professor Frank O'Mara was followed by a session moderated by Emma Louise Coffey, Teagasc Dairy Edge Podcast presenter. This session focused on the future direction of Ireland’s Dairy Breeding Programme. Contributors were:

  • Jim White, a dairy discussion group representative addressed their experience on what breeding has delivered for them.
  • Donagh Berry, Teagasc outlined future plans for EBI traits;
  • Stephen Butler, Teagasc explained how sexed semen will affect the national herd
  • Nicky Byrne discussed dairy beef calves and what beef farmers require. 

View a recording below:

Wednesday, 24 November

A keynote address was delivered by Joe Patton, Head of Dairy KT in Teagasc about the key drivers of success behind economic and environmental performance on Irish dairy farms. It was followed by a session on grazing management and clover establishment, which was facilitated by Stuart Childs, Teagasc Dairy Specialist. Contributors were:

  • Michael O’Donovan, Teagasc outlined what is PastureBase telling us about current grazing management on dairy farms;
  • Brian McCarthy, Teagasc discussed clover sward performance at different N levels; 
  • Kevin Moran and Ger Pardy, dairy farmers gave an insight into their experience with grazing high clover swards.

View a recording below:


Pre-recorded video material was also published and it covered practical advice for improved farm efficiency. Check them out below.

Increasing energy efficiency on dairy farms - John Upton

The average cost of electricity usage on Irish dairy farms is €5 per 1,000 litres of milk produced. There is a large variation in that figure, from €2.50 to €9.00 per 1,000 litres produced, or from €15-€50 per cow per year. The main drivers of energy consumption on dairy farms are milk cooling (31%), the milking machine (20%) and water heating (23%).

In the below clip, John Upton, Teagasc Research Officer provides some advice as to how to increase the energy efficiency on dairy farms.

Sward utilisation Pasture Profit Index update - Tomás Tubritt

Grazing to post-grazing heights of approximately 4 cm is optimum to maintain/increase sward quality as the grazing season progresses. High grass quality maximises grass utilisation which has a positive impact on profitability and sustainability. Farmers involved in the ‘Teagasc on-farm variety evaluation’ study reported that some perennial ryegrass varieties were easier to graze to lower post-grazing heights compared to others but no indication of a varieties grazing efficiency was available within the Pasture Profit Index (PPI).

Tomás Tubritt, Teagasc Technologist provides more information in the below clip.

Milking time and the length of the working day - Martina Gormley

The sustainability of dairy farming increasingly relies farms being able to provide employment opportunities where pay and conditions of work are at least as attractive as alternative careers. Previous studies with dairy farm employees found that the hours worked on dairy farms can make employment unattractive. PM finish time was cited as the critical issue for employees. As Irish farms are competing with industries that typically offer a 5pm or 6pm finish time, this is a topic that needs to be examined.

In the below clip, Martina Gormley, Teagasc Dairy Specialist investigates the average PM finish time on Irish dairy farms.

Optimising Vaccination Strategy - Niamh Field

Whether an animal becomes infected with a virus or bacteria is a balancing act between the animal’s immune response and the strength of the challenge by the infectious agent. Biosecurity and hygiene measures are important to reduce the infectious challenge. On the other side of the balance, colostrum management, nutrition and stress all influence whether the animal’s immune system can effectively fight off a virus or bacteria. Vaccines help to strengthen this side of the equation, by boosting the immune response against a specific infection.

Niamh Field, Teagasc Research Officer gives an insight into the role of vaccines, deciding on a vaccination programme for infectious diseases and the practical considerations in the below clip

Cost control for 2022 - Patrick Gowing

Input costs for dairy farms are projected to increase through early 2022. Although milk price has to some extent masked the impact on margins in the short term, the potential impact across a full production cycle is likely to be significant. It is very important therefore that dairy farmers complete a physical and financial budget for the coming year.

Patrick Gowing, Teagasc Dairy Specialist provides some information and advice in the below clip.