After the Christmas break, there are many important management, mental and physical tasks on the dairy farm.
Traditionally, most farmers feel guilty if they are not doing physical work, and regard thinking and planning as a waste of time.
This attitude is changing; the hallmark of every successful farmer is the proper allocation of time between planning and physical work and of course adequate breaks from both.
Understandably there is some doom and gloom around the country after the budget.
The deterioration in the world economy, and particularly, Ireland’s economy, has seriously affected the incomes of some farming families, particularly the smaller producers who relied heavily on off-farm jobs.
However, based on Teagasc and international forecasts, there is a positive outlook for farming.
The most important event in 2013 governing the future of tens of thousands of family farms and rural Ireland will be the EU decisions on the distribution of the Single Farm Payments (SFP).
There is grave concern among farmers who have been getting very poor SFPs in the past.
There is strong support among farm organisations to maintain a system close to what we have already — which has been described by EU Agriculture Commissioner Ciolos as unfair and unjust.
I am sure that the 80% of farmers who get less than 20% of the CAP funding would agree — but they seem to be doing nothing about it. Hopefully, these farmers will be making their presence felt in discussions and debates regarding CAP as soon as possible; the final outcome will have a huge bearing on their future.
Critical Farm Tasks
One of the most important and neglected aspects of Irish dairy farming is herd health. This includes mastitis, lameness, parasites, but also relatively new diseases such as BVD, IBR and Johnes.
Animal Health Ireland has been set up to work with other stakeholders and co-ordinate the solutions to health problems. Progress towards a scheme to eliminate BVD is very welcome.
Surveys indicate that herd health is a major determinant of profitability in dairying. The number one priority for every dairy farmer in 2013 should be to operate a proper herd health programme on their farms, worked out with their vet. This includes getting the health status of your herd assessed through the new milk testing schemes.
I have emphasised the importance of Condition Score (CS) frequently, because more and more evidence is emerging from around the world that it has a huge effect on the health and performance of cows. Research and experience shows that it is critical to have cows calving down at CS. 3 to 3.25 (too fat is as bad as too thin) and have a CS of 2.75 to 3.25 at service.
Having the correct CS has been shown to increase milk yield by up to one gallon per cow per day, and increase fertility rates by 50%.
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