On October 3rd the IGA held its second annual student event in Tullow, Co. Carlow which was sponsored by FBD insurance. The event is one of a kind in that it brings together third level students from University College Dublin, Dundalk Institute of Technology and Ballyhaise, Clonakilty and Kildalton Teagasc Colleges and Gurteen College to attend a morning conference with three guest speakers delivering a paper each in dairy, beef and sheep and to attend a choice of farm walk in the afternoon. There were 270 delegates altogether including students, lecturers and staff which is a significant increase on last year’s event indicating an growing interest in a student only forum.
The day began with three excellent guest speakers:
‘The story so far’
Patrick and John Hickey, Dairy farmer, Ardnacraney, Tang, Co.Westmeath
Patrick gave an update on Ardnacraney farm which was purchased by Patrick and his brother John in 2005. The progress of the farm from the first development year in 2006 through to 2011 was discussed in full. Patrick gave a very frank and honest account of the financial performance of the farm. There were plenty of questions and discussion around herd health, meal feeding grassland management and target areas for improvement for the future.
‘Potential for increased profitability on Irish cattle farms Lessons from the Teagasc/Irish Farmers Journal Better Farm Programme’
Adam Woods, Beef BETTER Farm Adviser
Adam presented a comprehensive review of the Teagasc/ Irish Farmers Journal Better Farm Programme from initiation in 2008 to progress that has been made on the farms to date. The improvements made on the farms in a number of key areas were shown: stocking rate (average of 1.85 LU/ha in 2008 to 2.02 in 2010), breeding performance (calves/cow/year has increased from 0.87 in 2007/08 to 0.90 in 2009/10), animal performance (total kilograms of liveweight produced per farm has increased by 11,261kg since 2008) and grassland management (kilograms of liveweight per hectare has increased by 29% since 2008) which is down to reseeding, setting up paddocks, soil fertility and grass budgeting. It is expected that the average gross margin on the BETTER farms will be €700 – 800/ha in 2011. Most of this will come from further improvement in output both in terms of kilograms produced and improved store and beef price.
‘Farming into a brighter future’
John Fagan, Sheep farmer, Gartlandstown, Co. Westmeath
John gave a run down on the management of his sheep and finishing beef enterprise throughout the year. John currently has 1300 ewes going to the ram this year with the aim of running a 1500 ewe flock next year. John highlighted the importance of grassland management particularly reseeding and the use of white clover to finish lambs. Almost 1300 of Johns lambs have been finished from grass with no meal feeding in 2011. Overall John gave a very positive impression and outlook for sheep and beef farming for the students encouraging them to take opportunities to travel abroad to broaden their horizons and learn from similar grass producing countries like New Zealand.
After lunch the students were given a choice of one of two farm walks to participate in in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow:
John Kelly, Saundersgrove, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow: Sheep BETTER farmer
Brendan Byrne, Goldenfort, Grangecon, Co. Wicklow: Teagasc monitor dairy farmer
Students from UCD, Ballyhaise, Kildalton and Gurteen participated in the farm walk at John Kelly’s. John currently runs a 505 ewe flock plus 190 replacements on 56 ha, with the intention of increasing to 700 ewes. John’s goal is to improve the profitability of the sheep enterprise through:
• Increasing output/ewe through breeding policy and ewe management
• Improve lamb performance
• Improve grassland management through pre-determined sward height, closing date, lambing date and reseeding
• Improve gross margin/ hectare
Topics covered throughout the afternoon included grassland management, flock productivity, lamb performance, financial performance and lessons learned. John again gave a very positive account of sheep farming saying it was a very rewarding career choice which left a lasting impression with the student audience.
Students from UCD, Ballyhaise, Clonakilty, Gurteen and Kildalton attended the farm walk at Brendan Byrnes. The farm consists of 66.7 hectares (164 acres) of owned land, 32.3 hectares (80 acres) of leased land and a milk quota of 112,200 gallons. The farm has also been used as a monitor farm under the Teagasc/Glanbia dairy programme in the years 2007 to 2010. During this period protein was lifted from 3.22% to 3.36% in 2010. This increase is being attributed to the enhanced quality of the grass being offered to the cows. The tillage enterprise on the farm is 5.6 hectares of maize and 10.5 hectares of cereals. The aim of the tillage enterprise on the farm is to grow most of the farms winter feed requirements. The 90 dairy cows are split between 40% autumn and 60% spring calving. There is a liquid milk contract on the farm of 618 litres per day. In 2010 the cows produced 6020 litres at 3.36% protein and 3.97% butterfat. The average EBI for the cows is €53, with a calving interval of 393days. There is also a beef enterprise on the farm which brings the autumn born dairy bull calves together with bought in weanlings to bull beef at approximately 18 months.
Topics covered during the afternoon were grassland management, financial and cow performance and how this is achieved, bull beef system and future plans. There was plenty of lively discussion surrounding Brendans system of operation and how his farm compares to similar systems in the area and to a grass-based spring calving system.