The Irish Grassland Association are having their 2019 Dairy Summer Tour in Athlone, Co. Westmeath on Thursday, July 23rd.
Milk production rates in Westmeath have been one of the highest in the country in recent years with a significant number of them being new entrants to dairy.
Peter Hamm and Robert English were both new entrants to dairy in 2014 and the tour will examine their contrasting approaches to dairy farming and tell their stories of how they have become well run and efficient operations.
While the scale of resources and opportunity presented to both farms were vastly different, the outcome was common to the success of both operations – they both focused being amongst the top-performers and prioritised soil fertility, grazing infrastructure and cow genetics.
Peter Hamm was farming 25 suckler cows on a 16-hectare farm of owned land, with a rented out-farm of 8 ha. The farm was a secondary operation to the main day-job: working in his own construction business.
Despite the limited land base, he developed a business plan to run a 50-cow dairy farm.
He began milking in 2014 with 30 bought-in heifers, with a minimal investment of €40,000 to get up and running with milking facilities, housing adaptations and grazing infrastructure.
One of the key foundations to his success overtime was the quality of these heifers. Of the original 30 in-calve heifers that were purchased, 27 calved down in 2015, and the cull rate of this batch of animals was limited to just 1 cow per year over the following 2 years.
"When you’re in small numbers, every single cow matters, so being able to keep those cows in the herd kept replacement rates low and helped build numbers," he explained.
Mervyn & Robert English
The opportunity of converting a block of 113 hectares of owned land into a dairy farm was what attracted Robert English to switch career from being a civil engineer to return home to farm in partnership with his father, Mervyn.
Up to 2013, the farm was under beef and sheep. Before deciding on dairying, Robert took advice to go and work on a dairy farm to make sure he knew what he was taking on.
After six months on a dairy farm close to home, and with a business plan in place for development, he started milking cows in 2014.
The dairy enterprise commenced with 50 bought-in heifers filling milk quota allocated from the National Reserve.
Cow numbers and facilities developed over the succeeding years to reach 166 in 2018, as did herd performance, hitting 537 kg milk solids per cow in 2018.
The herd (EBI 2019 = €151) has taken on cross-breeding, mainly driven by Robert’s ambition to reduce the cow maintenance requirements.
Opportunity knocked in 2018 when an additional 28 ha neighbouring parcel of land came available for lease.
Cow numbers have been increased to 260 for 2019 as heifers were purchased and the additional ground is reseeded and ready for cows.
'Good practice is essential'
On the road to development, both of these farms concentrated on being top performers. While the scale is contrasting, the message is the same: ‘Good practice is essential’.
Focussing on grass and cows has served both well. In both cases, the farms started from zero to maximise the return from the resources available.Information
Book Early - This event sells out early every year so book now to secure your place and early booking discounts of 25%.
To purchase your tickets, you can post back your booking form and payment in the pr-epaid envelope which all members received.
Alternatively, you can also make a reservation here, or phone Maura at 087-9626483.