The disparity in market power in favour of major retail chains will persist according to Alan Dukes, Public Interest Director for Anglo Irish Bank. Speaking in Cork at the Pfizer sponsored Irish Grassland Association Annual Dairy conference he said, that the Irish Authorities will not want to take anti consumer’ measures to curb retail power. He said price will continue to be the major determinant for consumers and that there is no guarantee food prices will rise. He said, the proportion of income spent on food purchases will tend to decline over time. For these and other reasons he said it is imperative that Ireland has a adequately funded CAP budget and commitment at national level.
Set stocking rate up properly
Teagasc researcher Padraig French explained to set your farm stocking rate up for what it can handle long term, not based on what happened last year or for a month during the last 10 years. The simple rule of thumb for those in spring milk will be to set your stocking rate based on what grass you can grow for the middle five months of the year from mid April to mid September.
Padraig explained that good grass varieties, on good dry land can grow over 15 tons/ha and carry over 3 cows/ha. Heavier soils have lower carrying capacity approx 10% so optimum stocking rate is 2.7 cows/ha. If you have very poor grass varieties you will only be able to carry a stocking rate between 2 and 2.3 cows/ha (25% less than norm).
North Tipperary farmer John Cahalan explained that he is currently stocked at 2.4 cows/hectare on the milking platform and 2.1 cows/ha over the whole farm. John explained he is farming relatively wettish land (60% heavy, peaty soils) with his farm bordering forestry and bog land. Cow numbers have been increasing and he will have enough of replacements coming through to increase cows to 3.1 cows/ha on the milking platform next year. He is a good grass manager, feeding approx 250 kg of meals and most of the swards have been reseeded. He measured on average 10.1 tons/ha grown in 2009.
Laois brothers Paul and David Hyland explained that they are currently stocked at 2.8 cows/ha over the whole farm with milking platform stocking rate increasing to 4.8 cows/ha for a number of weeks between April and May. Last year they fed 323 kg of supplement per cow (meal and fodder beet) and produced 365 kg of milk solids/cow or 1,022/hectare. They have very dry free draining land and last year grew 12 tons DM/ha.
Don’t just look at milk recording results – use them
Tom Barron, dairy farmer, Waterford and Finola McCoy, Researcher Moorepark both reported on their experience with the Euromilk project to solve high somatic cell count. The Euromilk project or a variation of same might well form the template for solving the national somatic cell count problem. Animal Health Ireland are in negotiations with the key players to role out a new strategy for solving Somatic Cell Count (SCC) later in the year. The key messages were: Use milk recording results to identify any cows over 250,000 SCC and use the CMT test to find out what quarter is the problem. Treat, dry off quarter or cull depending on cow. Target bulk co-op results less than 200,000 not 400,000. Holding higher cell count cows in the herd creates a reservoir of infection and this can infect new heifers coming into the herd.
Five Kiwi take home messages
Michael Murphy, Coolnasoon, Crookstown delivered an excellent paper explaining how he went to New Zealand touring farms before Christmas to get a feel for how the Kiwi’s produce milk from grass. He explained how strong routines and the correct stocking rate drive their farming system. He said, “one quote summarises the whole trip for me – ‘Figure out what you should be doing and do more of it and figure out what you shouldn’t be doing and do none of it’”.
Jenny Jago summarised work she has completed in Irish herringbone milking parlours since arriving from New Zealand. She suggested that 20 to 24 units per person is the maximum any one person can handle efficiently if you are using a minimal preparation routine. This will fall to 12 units per person if you are washing and stripping out cows at each milking.
Plan who is doing what every week
Waterford dairy farmer William Keane explained how he works so well with his father to get jobs done on the family farm. The farming week starts every Monday morning when William sits down with his father to plan out the week ahead. Sitting around the breakfast table William’s mother will sometimes act as Chairperson as they plan out who will do what jobs and who is going where etc. They have clear roles and independence so once you have completed your task then you have your part of the workload completed. They swop and change jobs around so one week William will milk the cows and the following week he might be feeding calves and vice versa.