Feed costs on Irish farms have increased by 54% since 2021, according to Teagasc researcher Brendan Horan.

Brendan was speaking at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference, where he chaired the workshop on grazing management.

He said that the cost of alternative feeds to grazed grass are becoming increasingly unaffordable, so farmers should refocus their efforts on grazed grass as the main source of feed for their herds.

Also speaking at the workshop was Joe Dunphy from Grass10, who said that feed and fertiliser costs accounted for 15c/l of costs in 2022, which he said was almost the same as the drop in milk price this year alone.

Kilkenny dairy farmer Joe Murphy outlined his approach to grazing management. A graduate of the professional dairy farm manager course, Joe and his parents Michael and Catherine converted to dairy five years ago and are now milking 125 cows on a 41ha farm.


Performance is excellent, with the herd delivering 540kg MS/cow in 2022, with 940kg of meal fed per cow, although Joe says this has reduced this year and they are on track to feed 750kg of meal per cow in 2023.

Joe measured grass 36 times in 2023 and has 50% of the farm with good clover contents. He has been oversowing clover with the help of a contractor with a quad and spinner for the last three years and finds it successful, provided it is done in mid-April.

Joe completes a grass budget and aims to have a closing cover of 750kg/ha and an opening cover of 1,000kg/ha, which Brendan says is essential to have enough grass in the diet in the first round.

Key point

According to Joe Dunphy, for every 100kg/ha of average farm cover below target, the cost is €30/cow in increased feed costs and lower animal performance.

Another key point from Dunphy was to ensure that the spring rotation planner and the spring budget are completed in December or January, before the busy calving season commences.

Joe Murphy said that he found the spring rotation planner a big help last year when rationing out area to the cows, particularly as he went slightly over target area grazed as a result of the good weather in February.

He says if he needs to feed silage in order to stretch the grass, rather than feeding 3kg of silage per cow per day, he will look at the weather forecast and say that if there are two or three wet nights in the week the cows will stay in those nights, thus getting the silage into them and not do any damage to the land.


Joe Dunphy said that another trick when doing the grass budget is to use the expected calving dates from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation to help with predicting how many cows will have calved each week.

It was also said that being short of grass in the run-up to 'magic day' is something to be avoided, as having to feed silage then, which is an inferior feed, will reduce peak production, as will keeping cows restricted in April as a result of having too low average farm cover.

Brendan Horan said that aiming for a demand of 65kg/ha/day is a good policy, as it means the likelihood of running out of grass is reduced and if surplus grass arises, it can be taken out in silage.