It will serve as a demonstration farm for expansion-minded farmers. It is estimated there is scope to achieve 20% higher stocking rates sustainably in West Cork, by growing more grass.
At the new farm and at the Shinagh demonstration dairy unit in Bandon, the emphasis is also on improving solids output per cow, mainly by improving fertility and calving cows early to grass.
Other routes to dairy expansion envisaged in West Cork include importing silage or forage feeds from arable farmers and other outside platforms; contract rearing of heifers; farm conversions from drystock; collaborative farming, such as leasing; and share farming with younger farmers.
More radical options being considered are irrigation to grow more grass; and off-wintering cows on arable farms, with or without housing.
Already, Shinagh Farm demonstrates how to deliver high, sustainable profits, and productivity, with best-practice milk quality, labour efficiency and animal health, on a commercial basis.
It is a collaborative project between the West Cork dairy co-ops (Bandon, Barryroe, Lisavaird, and Drinagh), Carbery Milk Products Ltd. and Teagasc.
The 80 hectare farm is leased for 15 years, as a single operator dairy farm with strategic use of casual labour. Currently, 226 cows are being milked, and the farm has won the Bandon Co-op Milk quality award for 2014, based on the 2013 performance.
It is planned to have five family-owned farms identified for a West Cork dairy programme (one each in Bandon Co-op, Barryroe Co-op, Lisavaird Co-op, and two in Drinagh Co-op) with expansion potential and willing to participate over five years.