Irish Shinagh Farm Looks to Boost Dairy Production

An increase in milk quota allocation from less than 100,000 litres to more than one million litres in 2014/2015 has given dairy production the green light in County Cork, Ireland reports Stuart Lumb for TheDairySite.
calendar icon 15 July 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Producing this extra milk will involve converting farms from producing beef into farms producing milk and in light of this a dairy research project has been set up.

The Shinagh dairy farm has been established on the Shinagh estate in Bandon, County Cork, some 10 miles from the sea. This is a collaborative project involving the four West Cork Co-ops and Teagasc (the Irish Farmers Advisory Service).

Shinagh is a commercial demonstration farm, comprising 83ha (200acres). It has a 15 year lease and is stocked with 200 head of dairy cows run by one manager/operator, along with casual labour when required.


Originally a beef farm, Shinagh is to be run at maximum profit, with high levels of productivity profiling best-practice especially with regard to milk quality, labour efficiency and animal health. Looking to the future the farm will be farmed in a sustainable manner with the objective of reducing its carbon footprint. Detailed farm financial performance data is published on a regular basis on the project website.

A certain amount of reseeding was needed plus making new roadways,along with the construction of a 20 unit parlour and revamping the cow sheds. The parlour has been built in the middle of the farm , to reduce the distance cows have to walk in from the fields to be milked. However it might be argued that it would have been more logical to have sited the parlour near to the cubicles and yards, so that less walking is involved especially in winter when the land is wet and there is more risk of leg damage.

Teagasc animal behaviourist Dr Laura Boyle has a special interest in dairy cow lameness. Dr Boyle argues that the practice of walking cows along roadways is a flawed one leading to lameness as the roadways often are made of rough stone, which might be alright for big tractors but not suited to cows' feet. As such she recommends farms should have cow walking tracks made of wood chippings or rubber chips derived from worn tyres, which are naturally a much kinder walking surface.


The cow sheds containing the cubicles were gutted and rebuilt. Investment was €3,500 / cow (excluding under slat slurry storage which was already on the farm). Dr Boyle remarked with reference to cow housing that some local dairy farmers had outdoor cubicles, which were roofed over when cash became available. Dr Boyle made a poignant comment that when the "Celtic Tiger was roaring " land cost €20,000 / acre." It is now €10,000/ acre".

The Shinagh herd was set up with 200 heifers but now stands at 178 2nd calvers plus 38 heifers as there has been culling since the herd was established. The herd has a spring calving policy, to coincide with the flush of grass, with 80 per cent of the herd calving in a six week period, with the cows being turned out to grass straight after calving.

Heifer calves are kept on the farm for eight weeks and bull calves for two weeks, thereby reducing the amount of manure produced.

An extra man plus a student are employed from February to the end of April, to cope with the extra work load.

Cows are fed Italian ryegrass based silage, delivered by a tractor and feedbox, using a contractor. In the cubicle house a concrete feed barrier separates the cows from the silage. This feed barrier is nine inches ( 23cm) wide.

A comment was made that the barrier is too wide for the cows' necks resulting in silage being pushed out and that reducing the barrier width to 4.5 inches(11.5cm) would make it easier for the cows to reach the silage.


Milking takes place at 7am and 4pm, with milk being collected every two days. Concentrates are not fed in the parlour, but in large troughs adjacent to the parlour. The ration, made up of citrus pulp, soya hulls and DDGS is delivered into the troughs by tractor and bucket. In theory each animal receives 2kg/ head/ day but the troughs have no dividers and so the greedy cows push out the more timid ones, so in practice feed intake is unequal. In parlour feeders are to be installed as soon as finances allow.

In terms of milk output the average lactation is 380kg, with heifers averaging 270kg, with milk being used to produce cheese. The farm has an annual contract as part of the Co-op quota, with payments being related to cell count and total bacteria count.

July 2012
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