Labour is a Big Challenge for Many Dairy Farmers 

Dairy farms in Ireland are entering a new era of expansion and growth and some may have to employ additional labour to deal with larger herd sizes in the future, according to Teagasc’s Pat Clarke.

According to the TFarm Workereagasc Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer, for many dairy farmers it may be the first time to bring in outside labour and this may be a stressful undertaking for some.

“The removal of quotas presents many dairy farmers with the opportunity to expand and for many it may the first time they have to employ a labour unit.

It is a completely new era for many people and for some it may be the first time they employ someone and this will be a big transition for many dairy farmers.

Clarke added that he will facilitate a ‘breakout’ session at Teagasc’s upcoming National Dairy Conference, in Kilkenny on December 9 to give farmers the relevant information required to emplo
y the correct employee.

Farmers are asked to register for this year’s conference which has a new format of ‘breakout’ sessions for practical advice.

According to Clarke, this ‘breakout’ session will give farmers the relevant information they will require when entering the labour market.

Clarke added that it will allow farmers to prepare properly to ensure they hire the correct person for the position.

However, Clarke added that farmers thinking of employing labour on their farm must be aware of the legal requirements and what exactly they want the labour unit to do before entering the labour market. It is important to get the basics right before you employ somebody, farmers must go through a thought process before they consider bringing a labour unit onto the farm.

“This thought process will lead many farmers to the creation of a job specification as they will see exactly what type of labour unit their business will require.”

Five Key Steps to Preventing Milk Fever in Your Herd This Autumn

milk feverCases of milk fever have been quite common this autumn. Milk fever is a calcium deficiency triggered by the increased secretion of calcium as a result of the production of colostrum and milk in the first days of lactation.

The sudden decrease in calcium levels affect the strength of muscle contractions and the cow may initially be unsteady on her feet but eventually she will go down completely.

Prevention is the preferred option as for every case of clinical milk fever, up to five cows may have subclinical milk fever and associated decreased muscle contraction.

This can possibly lead to left displacement of the abomasum, it may also cause uterine contraction after calving to be delayed resulting in womb infections and retained afterbirth and eventually sub-fertility.

Steps to preventing milk fever

1. Have cows in the correct BCS at calving (3 to 3.25).
2. Reduce calcium intake before calving and avoid any added oral calcium. This will allow the cow to mobilise her own calcium from bone or blood immediately after giving birth.
3. Avoid lush pasture for autumn calving cows as this grass is low in magnesium.
4. Feed a good quality dry cow mineral that is high in magnesium and has no added calcium or low added levels.
5. Feed forages that are low in potassium and have not received potassium fertiliser or slurry.

Expanding Dairy Farmers Have 2 Options: Get Better or Get Bigger

Expanding Dairy Farmers Have 2 Options: Get Better or Get Bigger

Dairy farmers thinking of expanding have two options: Get better or get bigger, according to Derry O’Donovan of the report ‘Opportunities for sustainably competitive Irish Agriculture’.

The report was launched recently, in association with Grant Thornton, and said that while Irish agriculture is at a ‘tipping point’ it must a adopt a ‘smarter’ strategy to ensure the equitable development and longer-term success of the sector.

O’Donovan said that the gap between the top 10% of farmers and the average dairy farmer converts into €400/cow or €25,000 on the average dairy farm in Ireland.

“There is a serious gap there and one has to post the question, why has this gap persisted over many years. Is it due to a technical or husbandry deficit?

“Why are people not achieving even half the level the top 10% are achieving? Is it business/financial skills constraints?”

The expansion options to dairy farmers, he said are to increase efficiency or increase cow numbers.

Increasing efficiency means increasing milk output, milk solids and paring costs to the minimum and that 90% of dairy farmers in Ireland can increase their profitability through increased productivity.

“Why are they not doing it?”

That, he said, is the least-cost route for many farmers.

Expansion in cow numbers, however, he said would be the route for many farmers looking at expanding but it will involve investment in cows, labour and infrastructure.

O’Donovan also that there had been a slight overhyping of the liquid gold revolution of the last few years.

“It’s fine to say there will 300,000 extra cows or thousands of new jobs, but who is going to pay for it? The persons behind the growth is the individual risk taker – the farmer and there has to be an incentive for the farmer to grow their business.”

Dairy Farmers Finances

He also said that Ireland is a wonderful country for making mistakes and into learning from them, but banks must play a role in eliminating this.

He said banks must take the initiative to have a standardized application form that will capture all the information needed. “Banks must carry out realistic evaluation and must also fund cash flow difficulties.”

However, there is gross under estimation of expansion project costs, he said, and the overdraft is the easiest available money.

“But if you rely on that you will run into ‘hard core’ problems as we call them in the bank.”

The investment must add value to the business and buildings and investments should be functional, not palatial, he said.

Price Volatility for Dairy Farmers

Price volatility is a major risk factory, O’Donovan said, and provides opportunities for people in suits. Dairy farmers, though, he said are now particular exposed to price volatility must manage it.

“It has been a permanent feature in the oil industry, in the stock market and commodity market and currencies. It continues to be driven by supply and demand and economics and politics and geopolitical issues, speculation and sentiment.”

Farmers must improve efficiencies and look at fixed price contracts, he said. “This is realistic farm planning.”

He also said that a successful expansion plan must include family buy in; spouse involvement and succession plans.