Grass utilisation is platform for successful dairying

Brian Costello (centre) a dairy farmer from Boyle, Co. Roscommon, and guest speaker at Fermanagh Grassland Club, with club Chairman James Murphy (left) and William Johnston, Secretary.
Brian Costello (centre) a dairy farmer from Boyle, Co. Roscommon, and guest speaker at Fermanagh Grassland Club, with club Chairman James Murphy (left) and William Johnston, Secretary.
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A leading dairy farmer has told members of Fermanagh Grassland Club that challenges were there to be overcome.

Brian Costello, who farms in Co Roscommon, spoke on the subject, “Strategies for coping with volatile milk prices.”

He presented a highly informative talk to an open meeting of the club, and said he often asked himself, “Am I overcoming the challenges or are they overcoming me?”

With a herd of 180 cows on 63 hectares, Brian told farmers that they can control the cost of production, grazed grass, grass utilisation and profit.

He said more tonnes of grazed grass leads to higher profits while pushing for more production per cow can lead to lower profits and higher turnover.

He said the national average of tonnes of grass utilised was just six tonnes per hectare but he said some Northern Ireland farms were pushing 9-12 tonnes per hectare, similar to his own.

He gave his top tips to achieve success; 1, Have belief; 2, Attitude; 3, Good drainage, P & K; 4, Know and understand your grass plant; 5, Inspection of pre-grazed yield; 6, Grass measurement, grow more, stock farm accordingly.

He said fertility and milk solids fitted hand in glove but those selecting cows for milk yield were losing out on fertility.

He explained that the Costello farm was about converting grass dry matter into milk protein with the processor paying for milk protein.

On his own farm, there has not been any investment in buildings since 1976 and the only machinery on the farm is a quad bike and telehandler. Any money spent in recent years has gone on farm roadways, water supplies and paddock systems.

With a parting comment to farmers, he said: “When grass is growing fast, eat it fast. When it is growing slow, eat it slow.”