Focus On Profit Programme
“We will empower our client farmers with up-to-date technical advice, financial expertise to set and achieve financial goals, provide a blueprint for profitable and environmentally sustainable farming and ensure an enhanced quality of life”
The joint Kerry Agribusiness/ Teagasc “Focus on Profit” Programme focuses on improving the technical and financial performance of dairy farms in the Kerry Agribusiness catchment area. Consistent with the mission statement, the programme aims to provide Kerry Agribusiness milk suppliers with tools to increase farm profit by focusing on sustainable improvements in farm productivity.
The Kerry Agribusiness/Teagasc “Focus on Profit” Programme is structured as follows:
- Monitor Farm Programme comprising 10 Monitor Farms and 5 Heavy Soils Farms.
- Discussion Group Programme with 40 Discussion Groups.
- Monitoring of grass growth across the Kerry Agribusiness catchment.
- Targeted campaigns on grazing management, soil fertility, milk quality and farm systems.
- Farm Info-Zone events to enhance programme participation among all suppliers.
All Kerry Agribusiness milk suppliers can participate in a range of meetings, farm walks and workshops throughout the catchment.
Monitor Farmer Focuses On Labour Efficiency
Dermot O’ Connor, Kerry Agribusiness Monitor farmer, farms with his family near Shanagolden in Co. Limerick. Since 2008 he has increased the herd from 80 to 170 cows. This was achieved by improving soil fertility, doubling the amount of grass grown per hectare, increasing the milking platform area, improving roadways and paddock layout and a huge focus on improving grassland management.
Spring is obviously a very busy time and having recently completed the “QQI Accredited Labour Skills Workshop” facilitated by Kerry Agribusiness and Teagasc, Dermot has put a particular focus on improving labour efﬁciency and on-farm management for 2018:
• By now cows have been divided based on expected calving date, heifers trained to the parlour and cows tails clipped. Calf housing and calving failities have been improved over the years to accommodate the extra numbers, a calving camera installed which is linked to the phone, automatic feeder for heifer calves and whole milk pumped to the calf shed for the bull calves. Cows tend to calf easily as bulls are selected with a focus on calving ease.
• To facilitate a better separation of farm work and family time, Dermot recently installed a new portacabin for use as a farm ofﬁce. This allows for improved work organisation and facilitates farm meetings. With two staff on farm at various times during the busy spring period the addittion of 4 new whiteboards facilitates improved communication with the team, task delegation and organisation. The new ofﬁce has wi-ﬁ allowing Dermot to register calves, input grass information onto PastureBase and complete other online tasks.
• Dermot completed a grass walk on the 5th February and had an opening cover of 960kg DM/ha, having grown 3.5kg DM/ha/day over the winter period. He has a clear spring grazing plan, knowing what paddock will be grazed ﬁrst and a target to have close to 30% of the farm grazed by March 1st.
• All fertiliser required for spreading until the end of May is in the yard already with 50% of the farm having received a half bag of urea to-date. Low P & K index soils have had an application of slurry. The whole milking block will receive two bags of 18:6:12 per acre in March as he focuses closely on soil fertility and nutrient management, with an aim to grow over 14t DM/ha.
Dermot believes completion of the recent Labour Skills Workshop proved very helpful and provided an insight into changes being made on other farms which improve efﬁciency such as delegation of tasks, improving communication, creating standard operating procedures, induction of new staff, yearly wall planners, improving calf rearing facilities, employing casual labour/relief milkers, making better use of contractors and streamlining movement of animals around the farmyard.
Monitor Farm Update
The 10 new farmers on the Focus on Profit Programme have focussed strongly on improving grass production in year two (2017) of the current Programme. Increased grass measurements allowed the farmers to make more accurate and timely decisions relating to grassland management, fertiliser use and surplus silage harvesting. The group increased grass measurement by walking their farms 35 times during the grazing season compared to 25 times in 2016.
Spring growth was excellent compared to previous years. The monitor group recorded total grass production of 1 tonne/ha up to April 10th compared to 0.3 tonnes/ha in 2016. The mild spring helped as did the application of some early Nitrogen in Jan/Feb (23kgs Urea/Ha).
Mid-season 2017 grass growth was well ahead of 2016 (7.7 tonnes/ha v 6.5 tonnes/ha). The excellent weather in April/May helped as did the early grazing achieved in Feb/March, setting up the farms for high quality summer grass growth.
Autumn 2017 was more problematic for grass growth with heavy farms, in particular, suffering from the lack of dry days after Aug 1. However, Autumn growth held at last year’s level (3.7 v 3.8 tonnes/Ha).
An increasing emphasis on soil fertility, particularly lime application and increased usage of high P/K compound fertilisers has meant increased grass production overall.
Monitor farms grew an additional 1.7 tonnes Dry matter/Ha in 2017. A combination of increased measurement, better decision making & better soil fertility all helping to increase the amount of home grown feed produced from these farms in 2017.
The final grass measurements taken in late November indicate higher than usual quantities of grass being carried over into 2018 (+20% v winter 2016/17). The poorer grazing opportunities meant that some heavy grass covers were not grazed off and this will have implications for grass quality next Spring - if early Spring grazing opportunities are not availed of.