Conference to help dairy farmers reduce labour demand and improve productivity

Date published: 29 November 2023

CAFRE, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and The Dairy Council NI will be hosting an event on Labour Sustainability on Tuesday 5 December 2023 from 10:30am - 3.00pm in the Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Ballynahinch.

Don Morrow (CAFRE), Ian Stevenson (Dairy Council), Anna Truesdale (CAFRE), Bill Brown , William Irvine (UFU), Conail Keown (CAFRE).

Conail Keown, CAFRE, Chairperson of event commented: “Dairy farming is going through a tough time currently with a long period of difficult weather conditions and extremely tight financial margins. But the daily work of milking, feeding and managing the herd goes on throughout the country. This conference is an opportunity to look and discuss a core ingredient which your milk producing business could not exist or operate without. That key ingredient is labour, and in many cases YOU. Yes, you are the single most important asset on your farm, even more important than the tractor.”

This conference will feature innovative and inspiring sessions that will increase your understanding of trends and technologies relevant to your farm. Regardless of whether you are a sole operator or a manager of people, the focus will be on the development of skills and understanding required to better meet the workload requirements of your business. Moving forward, sustainable dairy businesses must be informed, resilient, proactive and efficient. This conference aims to place, you, as the dairy farmer, in a position to better meet the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. Some local farmers have focused on improving labour and time management on their farms:

Chris Hamilton – Carrowdore, Newtownards. Utilising technology to improve time management.

“We have completed one breeding season now with the activity meters on the 130 cow herd. Heat detection is a big part of herd fertility, when using any manual heat detection like scratch cards or tail paint it requires time to administer and monitor. The activity meter has cut all this time out and now just sends me a message when a cow is ready for breeding. My empty rate for the herd this year was only 1.5% in 10 weeks.”

Ryan McCarthy – Kircubbin - Focusing on cowflow and reducing daily workload.

“We are milking 300 cows twice a day on the farm, any modifications, or improvements in cowflow are considered on this farm, even if it’s a simple swinging gate in the correct place or the removal of a drinker in the wrong place holding up cow flow. The single best investment we have made on the farm, which has dramatically reduced daily workload, and increased the speed which cows can return to cubicles has been the cubicle sweeper. One person can now clean and bed 300 cubicles in 15 minutes on the farm. This has removed a bottle neck in the process especially for those first 3 rows of the parlour which, before the sweeper arrived, had to wait until cubicles got prepared.”

Gareth Taylor – Glastry farm – Kircubbin. Outsourcing work to streamline daily work routine.

“Contracting out the heifer rearing is now a key part of the production system on this farm. Replacement heifers leave the farm weaned off milk and return at the point of calving, this effectively creates time to focus on the milking herd. We looked at other options like purchasing replacement stock, but we wanted to remain in control of the genetic development of our heifers. It works for us.”

To attend the conference, please visit the CAFRE website. Tickets cost £15.

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