How important will grass be on dairy farms this year?

Trouw's Laura McConnell and Jim Uprichard
Trouw's Laura McConnell and Jim Uprichard

With growing evidence that milk producers, right across Northern Ireland, are seeking to include significantly higher levels of grass in cow diets this year, Trouw Nutrition – in conjunction with CAFRE – has organised a series of farmer meetings to highlight the opportunities and management challenges which this will entail.

“Essentially, herdowners have four options,” explained Trouw’s Jim Uprichard.

“Option 1 is to stick with the current management plan, but committing to do it better. The second is to actively seek out ways of including grazed grass in the most efficient way possible for all the cows within a herd.

“This can be tweaked by splitting cows into high and low yielding groups. The remaining option is that of zero grazing and providing fresh grass to housed cows over the coming months.

“Given the current pressure on farmgate milk prices, doing nothing and simply carrying on in a time honoured fashion does not stack up.

“The challenge now facing every dairy farmer in Northern Ireland is that of improving efficiency levels within their businesses.”

Mr Uprichard said that each of the upcoming meetings will include presentations by members of CAFRE’s dairy team at Greenmount and Trouw representatives.

“The benchmarking figures for 2014 confirm that dairy farmers in Northern Ireland were obtaining around 1,500 litres of milk from forage. Ten years earlier the equivalent figure was 3,000 litres.

“Farmers attending the six venues will have an opportunity to hear how the various grassland management schemes can be implemented.

“The presentations will include case studies on how the different systems can be applied plus updates on the various grassland management techniques now being employed by CAFRE with the main Greenmount herd.

“Producers will also have an opportunity to take part in the discussion that will also form an integral part of each meeting’s format. Detailed information packs will be available at each venue.”

The meetings have been scheduled for the following locations: The Lodge Hotel, Coleraine at 1.30pm: Wednesday, March 23rd; The Glenavon Hotel, Cookstown at 1.30pm and the Fir Trees’ Hotel, Strabane at 8pm: Thursday March 24th; CAFRE Greenmount at 1.30pm: Wednesday March 30th; The Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Ballynahinch at 1.30pm and the Armagh City Hotel, Armagh at 8pm: Thursday March 31st.

Entry is free of charge and refreshments will be provided. To confirm attendance, telephone: (028) 90748233