Saturday, August 01, 2020

Speakers at the Irish Grassland Association Dairy Summer Tour Live Webinar in Limerick included Tadhg Buckley, AIB dairy farmers Henry Walsh, Galway, David Kerr, Laois, Conor Creedon, Kerry, Stuart Childs, IGA and Paul Hyland, IGA president

DESPITE Covid-19 restrictions, large gatherings were held in the Irish Grassland Association’s Dairy Summer Tour, which took place in an on online format from Monday to Wednesday 20-22 July.

Revisiting three farms that hosted the event from 2014 to 2016, video clips from the locations aired on Twitter and Facebook, looking back at where the farmers were at the time they hosted the tour, where they are now and where they see themselves going in the future.

On Thursday 23 July, all three hosts joined the Irish Grassland team and sponsors AIB for an online meeting to answer questions about the direction in which their farms have gone and about their plans for the future.

Commenting at the launch of this year’s summer tour, Tadhg Buckley, head of agriculture with AIB, said: “We are delighted to continue our support of the Irish Grassland Association Dairy Summer Tour. The approach taken by the association this year has been necessary in response to the global pandemic and the cancellation of large-scale events. This year’s event will allow us catch up with some of the previous tour hosts and see how things have changed since they hosted the summer tour in terms of development, changes in performance and future strategy.

“The live webinar on Thursday evening also offered the opportunity to ask our hosts any questions and concerns they may have had.

David Kerr from Ballyfin hosted the event in 2014 and its theme was ‘Successful strategies for expansion’. His strategy was based on increasing herd size from within his highly fertile dairy herd with investment in low-cost slurry storage and cow accommodation. More than 450 farmers from around the country attended to hear how David operated a predominantly grass-based system of milk production on his 160-acre farm.

Milking 140 cows that year, just prior to quota abolition, David also reared his replacement heifer calves, but the yearling heifers were being contract reared off farm. That year, the cows were on course to produce 400kg milk solids. At a farm stocking rate of close to one cow per acre, he expected grass growth to exceed 14 tonnes of dry matter on this mixed free-draining and peaty farm.

Irish Grassland Association president Paul Hyland is a dairy farmer from Ballacolla. He farms in partnership with his brother David running a Friesian and crossbred herd comprising of 400 cows milked on two farms. All young stock are reared for sale or replacements on an outside farm in Co Kilkenny. Paul has spent time working on high-input farms in Holland and also worked on grass-based farms in New Zealand. This has led him to believe that “no one system is correct; rather, we need to embrace the best of both and run our business with a very open mind”.

To view the webinar, log onto the Irish Grassland Association website www.irishgrassland.ie.

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