The annual Irish Grassland Association National Dairy Conference, sponsored by Yara, takes place on Wednesday the 18th of January 2023. The theme of this year’s event focuses on the changing practices required at farm level to farm successfully in a rapidly changing world. Dairy farms have been given ambitious targets to meet both from a water quality and green house gas emissions perspective. Addressing these challenges is an excellent line-up of speakers who will share with us the latest research, insight and expertise on how dairy farms can navigate this new era.
The world that dairy farms are now operating in, is rapidly changing, to succeed our dairy farmers must rapidly adapt to new farm practices and technologies. The conference will focus on the key areas that farmers need to focus on around environment and grassland management practices. The conference will also examine the financial implications for dairy farms to meet new regulations.
Session 1 – Where to from here
This session will focus on the ambitious targets set out for the dairy industry. New regulations around the nitrates directive and climate change targets will impact farms both in terms of additional costs and day to day farming practices. David Fennelly from County Laois will present a paper on how his farming practices will change over the next five years. David will discuss key areas where he and his family will focus on to ensure their family dairy farm is well positioned to deal with these new challenges.
Noreen Lacey will present the financial costs of new environmental regulations in terms of lower stocking rates and increased infrastructure costs. Noreen will examine the scenarios facing dairy farms. In a time of increasing input costs are some farms financially better off with less cows?
Session 2 – Technologies to future proof dairy farming
Technologies will play a key role in the future of dairy farming, however with a growing number of technologies available, this session will focus on which technologies offer the highest rate of return in terms of improving farmers bank balances and their environmental sustainability.
Dr. John Upton will present a paper on energy efficiency on Irish dairy farms. Soaring electricity costs have pushed energy efficiency centre stage on dairy farms. John has more than a decade of work completed on energy consumption and efficiency on Irish dairy farms. John will discuss the findings from his work. The paper will also examine the options to reduce energy costs through on farm renewables, particularly solar power.
Francis Nolan a dairy farmer from Kilkenny will present a paper on his approach to on-farm investments. Francis has made some key investments on his farm over the last five years including improving infrastructure and embracing cutting edge technologies such as his heat detection system.
Session 3 – Productive Swards in a low Nitrogen era
Dairy farmers will use significantly less chemical nitrogen in the next 10 years. This reduction in chemical nitrogen usage must not come at the expense of productive swards. This session will examine the grassland management practices needed to succeed in a low nitrogen era.
Dr Michael Egan will present a paper on the management of grass in spring in terms of grazing management, nitrogen fertiliser and animal performance. Record nitrogen prices have given renewed focus to the best way to manage spring grass, Michael will discuss the latest results from Teagasc grazing trials.
Dr Michael Dineen’s paper will examine the role of red clover in intensive dairy systems. Red clover has the potential to grow large quantities of dry matter without the need for chemical nitrogen inputs. His paper will look at managing these swards and the feeding value of forage produced from these red clover/grass swards.
Robert O’Dea a dairy farmer in Co. Limerick will present a paper on how his grassland management will change over the next 5 years. Robert was an early adopter of grass/clover swards and has significant amounts of clover present on his farm. The paper will examine the benefits of clover in swards but also the disadvantages including increased bloat risk and lower spring growth.