Lessons learned in seven years at Greenfield Dairy Farm project

Prioritise short term investment towards areas of maximum return — cows, grazing infrastructure, soil fertility — expanding dairy farmers have been advised by Pat Dillon, Head of Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme, Teagasc.

This is one of the main lessons learned in the first seven years of the Greenfield Dairy Farm project in Co Kilkenny, highlighted by Mr Dillon at the recent farm open day.

Another finding has been that dairy expansion can add a severe workload, if not carefully planned; expanders should seek help and advice.

Cash flow management during conversion and the initial years of production was found to be critical for success.

Herd performance can be sub-optimal in the early years; however, performance will increase with use of high-EBI genetics, and increasing grass production and utilisation.

Seek healthy high-EBI dairy stock from herds with a proven herd health history, and have a vaccination plan, advised Mr Dillon.

And it’s crucial for operating an efficient, large-scale dairy farm that staff are highly skilled.

With volatile milk prices likely to continue, a resilient system of milk production is required, according to Mr Dillon.

That means a low cost base to insulate the business from price shocks and allow family-based farms generate sufficient funds in times of higher milk prices to meet family commitments and to finance expansion.

The system must also have sufficient tactical flexibility to overcome unanticipated events that can lower short term profitability (a cold wet spring, for example).

The key components of resilient dairy systems are:

  • High-EBI genetics; the herd must be both productive and fertile.
  • High grass production and utilisation per hectare; farm profitability is closely linked to the quantity of grass utilised per hectare.
  • High resource-efficiency per unit of input, while minimising undesirable outcomes (greenhouse gas emissions).
  • Optimum stocking rate: this will depend on the level of grass production per hectare, and on having a long grazing season with minimal (under 500 kg of dry matter) purchased feed supplementation.

In 2009, Teagasc set up the large grass-based greenfield dairy farm in Co Kilkenny to identify risks, and demonstrate risk management strategies for dairy expansion, in conjunction with the Irish Farmers Journal; the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Glanbia; FBD Trust; and AIB.


Keep chomping on those carrots so your eyes will be in perfect working order for that prolonged annual gaze through the keyhole as Home of the Year returns for a sixth series next week.Home of the Year offers a good excuse for a bit of good-natured interiors voyeurism

They differ from the more prevalent oranges we eat because their flesh, and often the skin, is crimson or deep red in colour.Michelle Darmody: The best time of year to buy blood oranges

The annual Members Exhibition now underway at the Lavit Gallery in Cork features 92 works from 72 artists.The exhibition runs until March 7.Under the hammer: Your guide to upcoming auctions

There’s an oriental theme at the James Adam ‘At Home’ auction in Dublin, says Des O’SullivanAuctions: Sale full of eastern promise

More From The Irish Examiner