The Irish Grassland Association held its annual “Dairy Summer Tour” back in July, on the county Limerick farms of Aidan, Mary and Fiachra Liston and Pat and Olive Weeks. A crowd of about 350 from farming and agri industry turned out to hear these excellent farmers relay their experiences regarding the theme of the day which was “Targeting 200 cows”.
Both farms are currently growing cow numbers and while each farm was completely different there were a number of very similar messages coming from both. Planning was certainly the priority when expanding. Different stocking rate options were explored with full financial analysis to identify the most profitable route. When the plan is in place you have to follow through, and in the words of Pat Weeks you “plan, do, check, act”.
The Listons outlined the infrastructural changes needed to accommodate their expansion and the importance of planning this correctly.
Breeding enough replacement stock to fuel growth is also critical with both farms producing in excess of 40 AI bred heifers per 100 cows, compared with the national average of 14. Grassland management was excellent on both farms, and apart from the obvious focus of maintaining top quality grass in front of the cows at all times, there was a strong emphasis on maximising grass utilized per hectare. To achieve this both farmers considered on-going reseeding as vital, and are reseeding up to 15% of their farms per year. While at the same time maintaining optimum levels of soil fertility.
Herd Health was another area that commanded a lot of attention. Both farmers have educated themselves to the issues relating to the different diseases and health risks that could potentially affect their farms. Preventative action is prioritised with comprehensive vaccination programs undertaken to counter non regulated diseases, as well as a proactive approach to issues such as high somatic cell count.
The Farm of Pat & Olive Weeks
The Farm of Aidan, Fiachra and Mary Liston