Mick houlihan from Bord Bia presents John Dowling from Ardagh, Co. Limerick with his award
NEW RESEARCH results – presented at Arrabawn Co-op’s open day at Gurteen College last Thursday – on farm efficiencies is pointing to the bigger dairy farmer potentially having a better quality of life.
A talk, based on her research, given by Teagasc PhD candidate Justine Deming, MSc, from Connecticut in the USA, showed that labour efficient dairy farmers milking between 253 and 534 cows are finishing their day’s work between 3.30pm and 4pm, whereas those with between 79 and 149 cows will work up to three hours more. This is a result of larger farms having more hired employees to perform the evening milking.
Some 38 dairy farmers across the country, including in Limerick, were researched over a 12 month period between 2015 and 2016 by Ms Deming, who shared some of her findings in the afternoon session at the Arrabawn open day attended by over 800.
In addition to the talks, farmers were given demonstrations on farm skills, safety, body condition scoring and winter feeding and grassland management, while the event culminated with the annual quality milk award presentations. Among the award winners was John Dowling, of Ardagh, who received his presentation from Mick Houlihan of Bord Bia.
In her address, Ms Deming, who taught dairy science at college level in the US for two years before coming to Ireland to do her PhD, said that among the key findings of the research were that large farms tended to be more efficient, though they come with a higher need for hired labour.
As expected, the most amount of time is spent on milking, which on average accounts for 33% of farm hours, while cow-care (primarily winter feeding) comes next at 17%, grassland management at 11% and farm management 10%. Looking specifically at the two biggest contributors to farm hours, the top efficient 25% of farmers will spend up to four times less on cow-care as the bottom 25% and 40% less time on milking, these are largely due to farm facilities and management practices.
Key differentiators between the more efficient and less efficient in relation to milking include reducing the rows of cows being milked, introducing automatic backing gates and having once-a-day milking for at least four weeks in the spring. Ms Deming said: “This is the first time in about ten years that a labour study this detailed has been done.”