The first meeting of the winter season at Fermanagh Grassland Club, an open meeting for all farmers sponsored by the Vaughan Trust, was addressed by Conail Keown, Programme Adviser with Dairylink Ireland on “Where now in a quota free Europe?”
Dairylink Ireland was established two years ago to examine dairy farming in both Northern Ireland and the Republic with the involvement of a number of organisations including both CAFRE in Northern Ireland and Teasgasc in the Republic as well as AFBI as well as Lakeland Dairies, Devenish Beyond Nutrition and Irish Farmers’ Journal.
Conail explained how the programme objective looked at baseline information, herd management, benchmarking, herd fertility, cashflow and labour.
Farmers participating include Nigel Corbett, Banbridge; Bill Brown, Millisle; Kevin McGrade, Omagh; Charles Clarke, Cavan; Philip Donohoe, Cavan and Robin Clements, Dromore, Co. Tyrone.
Conail outlined the farm structure of each of the participants. The programme looks in detail to cash management, budgeting, cost control and investment plans.
He highlighted how there had been a decline in milk from forage and showed farmers how to work out their average for the day or the month. He also illustrated how cow performance could be matched by concentrate requirement.
The Dairylink blueprint was; Know your system, maximise the amount of grass in the diet, make and feed quality silage, target herd fertility performance, control cost of replacements, use measurement tools and pay attention to detail.
Conail said high quality grass and silage ensured future profitability, fertility dictated production and price volatility was here to stay so farmers must learn to manage their cashflow.
He also looked at total costs per litre of milk produced during the 2014/2015 years. He said farmers could grow and feed more grass from better soil fertility, grazing infrastructure and a good milking platform, looking at stocking rate, by measuring grass and having a weekly farm walk and improving forage quality.
Dairylink feed costs show grazed grass at £44 per tonne as a cash cost of £80 per tonne as a full economic cost, much cheaper than silage at £76 per tonne cash cost, wholecrop wheat at £74 per tonne, forage maize at £77 per tonne and concentrates at £250 per tonne.
Conail told farmers to focus on the opportunities and challenges for a range of dairy systems, to develop a profitable roadmap by preparing physical and financial plans and use key measurements to drive decision making.