Six dairy farmers are focussed on making their farm more enjoyable and easier and have been sharing their experiences of their farm practices weekly for the last three months. This is part of a new Teagasc Dairy Knowledge Transfer initiative led by Martina Gormley Teagasc Dairy specialist.
Weekly updates from the six farmers are posted to www.teagasc.ie/laboursavingfocusfarms
The results of the spring labour survey are just published. The six dairy farmers have been tracking their working hours over February, March and April, the three busiest months on dairy farms. On average these six farmers worked 57 hours per week over these three months. Breaks and non-farming activities are excluded from the total hours worked. All farms had help on the farm and, on average, this came to 12 hours per week (excluding contractor hours). The contractor was very prominent on the six farms. The task for which contractors were used ranged from slurry, fertiliser and farmyard manure spreading, reseeding, spraying, hoof pairing, dehorning, silage, grass measuring, underpass, extending silage pit and bale areas.
Martina Gormley Teagasc Dairy Specialist said: “The top four practices identified by these six farmers to reduce hours worked on their farms were: compact calving pattern, getting cows out to grass as soon as possible and for as long as possible, selling extra calves and having appropriate milking facilities.” When you look at what these four practices have in common, it’s clear to see that they all lead to long term benefits.
- Calving pattern
All six farmers spoke highly about the importance of having more than 80% of the cows calved in the first 6 weeks. While the farmers acknowledged that workload was intense for that 6 weeks it was agreed that this was well worth it as June to January was streamlined, relaxed and the workload was predictable. The national average figure for 6 week calving rate is 65%. However this group had 87% calved on average in 6 weeks this spring.
- Getting cows out to grass (grazing infrastructure)
Getting cows to grass was a priority for these farmers as it improved profitability and also reduced the yard work. Roadways and water were highlighted as the key infrastructural requirements to making this task easier particularly in wet weather.
- Selling calves
Early selling leads to more time to look after cows and allocate grass. Having a good relationship with calf buyers that is built on fairness and excellent early stage calf management are key ingredients to selling calves earlier.
- Milking facilities
As milking is done twice a day, this group of farmers felt having a simple parlour that was big enough to reduce row numbers was a massive labour saver. This group of farmers on average are milking 8 rows of cows. Morning and evening milking time was set for all farms, with the aim to be finished work and be back in the house by 6pm. In spring all farmers on average went back out to check the cows at 11pm. Morning milking time started on average at 7 o’clock and the average evening milking time of 4.30pm.