Low-Cost Grass-Based Milk Production Key

IRELAND - “My expenses are someone else’s profit, so I choose wisely what I spend”, was the advice from New Zealand dairy farmer Louis Kuriger to the 500 farmers attending the Teagasc National Dairy Conference in Mullingar yesterday.
calendar icon 19 November 2009
clock icon 2 minute read

The Kuriger system of dairy farming is a low-cost all-grass system making them one of the lowest cost milk producers in the world.

Profits on dairy farms in Ireland have declined sharply over the last eighteen months due to low milk prices, with only the low cost milk producers generating any profit. In his address to the conference, Louis Kuriger advised farmers not to spend money with the sole aim of saving tax.

”If you don’t need the product in the production system, don’t purchase it. Measure and monitor everything, but most importantly measure pasture output. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, he said.

Milk producers have been looking for ways to counteract milk price volatility.

Laurence Shalloo, from Teagasc advised that Irish dairy farmers will have to place a greater emphasis on business planning, grass budgeting, animal breeding and the adoption of low-cost labour-efficient systems, to counter the fluctuating milk price.

The Fanesiders dairy discussion group is a group of 16 farmers who are working together with Teagasc to achieve this.

In a paper presented to the conference, this group of farmers outlined how they have reduced the common cost of producing a litre of milk down, from 17.9 cent per litre in 2008 to 15.3c/l in 2009. The target for the group is to lower this to 13.0c/l for each member by 2014. The key to achieving this has been to increase the amount of grazed grass in the diet.

Dairy farmers at the conference also heard about a new Teagasc/Germinal Seeds initiative; the ‘Grass Roots’ project provides a specialist grass budgeting service to 17 host farmers located across 11 counties.

Teagasc dairy adviser Abigail Ryan outlined how cows are being kept out at grass longer through better management of grass leading to a reduction in feed costs, increased production of milk solids per hectare, and higher profits.

Cows on farms participating in the Grass Roots project will spend 310 days at grass in 2009, compared to the national average of 220 days.

The environmental benefits of a longer grass grazing season were also highlighted. A trial measuring greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cows at Teagasc Moorepark, shows that a herd fed on 100 per cent grazed grass produced less methane emissions than a herd fed indoors on a total mixed ration.

Every additional day that cows spend at pasture offers the opportunity to reduce the GHG emissions, associated with feed production, from the whole farm.

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