Future of Greenfield Farm in doubt
Glanbia is poised to withdraw its support from the dairy farm project, which could see it close.

The Greenfield Farm dairy project in Kilkenny may be coming to the end of its days. It is understood that the board of Glanbia has made the decision to end its involvement in the demonstration farm.

Glanbia is one of the three equal partners in Greenfield Farm, along with the host family, the Phelans, and the Irish Farmers Journal. This means any two partners effectively have the numbers to bring the project to a close should they wish. The Phelan family is understood to also want to bring the project to a conclusion.

Farm development

The farm was initially set up in 2009 and commenced milking the following year. Set up in the knowledge that the quota regime that had stymied both dairy expansion and new entrants to the sector would end in 2015, the farm was developed "to demonstrate best practice in the design, construction and operation of a low-cost, grass-based milk production system to Irish dairy farmers".

A dairy herd of 330 cows was established on 120ha, with the project envisaged to last until 2025.

Open days

Since being established, the farm has hosted national open days, weekly discussion groups, schools and published numerous reports on the progress and experience of setting up a farm from scratch on leased land.

Teagasc was involved in the project in the management and initial design role. There was initial sponsorship from FBD Trust, and milk quota provided by the Department of Agriculture. The farm loan was borrowed from AIB.

Justin McCarthy, Irish Farmers Journal editor, said: "The Irish Farmers Journal remains committed to the Greenfield dairy demonstration farm, which has delivered great learnings to the dairy farming community for the last 10 years.

"I believe the farm is ideally placed to deal with some of the new challenges an expanding dairy industry has to manage."

Glanbia chair Martin Keane, speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at the Glanbia plc AGM on Wednesday said: “[Greenfield Farm] has lived through that 10-year period and had fantastic results, proving the model capable of dealing with market variations.

“Overall, we in Glanbia feel the project was very well worth doing, we’re happy that thousands of farmers got a lot of information on performance.

“We feel the project has served its purpose and that this is an appropriate time to bring it to a close. There’s a new challenge now, in addressing issues like labour and sustainability.

A delegation of concerned farmers is to meet Keane on Friday to express their disappointment at Glanbia’s withdrawal.

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Loss of nitrates derogation would undermine progress
The rapid expansion in the output of Irish dairy farming was a response to a Government plan for the sector, the IFA dairy chair says.

Any loss of the nitrates derogation would be a betrayal of farmers, IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan said at a meeting in Carlow on Tuesday.

“It was the Government who oversaw the blueprint for dairy expansion back in 2010,” he said. “It called for a 50% volume increase in dairying, and we delivered.” IFA environment executive Thomas Ryan said farmers had “a legitimate expectation” that the current nitrates directive, put in place until 2021, would not be altered before then. He urged farmers to forward submissions to the consultation process before Friday’s deadline. IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney called on the Department to adopt the positive mindset present in the Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (SSAP), which he described as “collaborative and voluntary”.

A new leptospirosis vaccine now available
A new lepto vaccine in the Irish market has given farmers who found themselves without vaccine a chance. Tommy Heffernan discusses the options

Over the last number of months farmers will be aware of shortages of lepto vaccines in the Irish market. Leptospirosis is endemic in many herds, which means the bacteria is present. It is my long-held view that the disease can affect both you and your cows. This vaccination is a must for Irish farmers and their herds.

The disease can cause high temperatures, milk drops and abortions at cow and herd level. The risk period was thought to be at grazing time, but potentially is an all-year-round issue/risk. It can also be shed in urine, affecting humans making it a zoonotic disease.

For farms who haven’t vaccinated yet this year, they can now use this vaccine as part of their herd control plan

With the current two vaccines on the market out of stock, farmers now have an option to purchase BioBos L, a lepto vaccine brought into Ireland by co-operative animal health and Glanbia.

Glanbia vet Shane McElroy has verified that the Biobos L product meets the required quality, efficacy and safety standards to protect animals from the bacterial disease

For farms who haven’t vaccinated yet this year, they can now use this vaccine as part of their herd control plan. Heifers require two doses to begin with while cows and animals previously vaccinated will only require one shot.

Should I wait for my own product to come back into stock?

Each farmer can find out when the two existing products will be back in stock. Every month that passes increases the risk and realistically if the gap between doses is greater than 16-18 months then you need to consider starting primary dose of two shots again.

So if you can't get other alternatives in the next six weeks, a discussion must be had around the alternative product on the market.

Should I vaccinate while breeding?

The advice from Glanbia is to vaccinate now during breeding, their question is: why wait and increase the risk? I think this risk is farm specific and, where possible, farms can vaccinate or some could wait until main bulk of breeding is done for another month.

As time goes on the risk does increase, but the risk is lower in closed herds that have the previous vaccine administered. Heifers are of course priority right now and can be vaccinated straight away.

Each farm needs to talk about the timing of vaccines with their own vet who can decide the risk and best options for your herd.

Long-term farms need to decide what brand they move forward with, it seems with lepto vaccines you can move between brands in situations where supply issues arise.

However, this is a complication most farmers would be happy to do without.

Award-winning Monaghan dairy farm to open gates for farm walk
Dairy farmers and those thinking of entering the sector have been encouraged to visit the McKenna farm, winners of the 2018 Milk Quality Awards, on 12 June.

The McKenna family farm in Co Monaghan, winners of the 2018 Quality Milk Awards, is to host a farm walk and seminar on 12 June 2019.

Organised by the National Dairy Council (NDC) in association with Teagasc, Ornua and Lakeland Dairies, the farm walk will follow a seminar focusing on food and sustainability.

Members of the public are invited to visit the 105-cow dairy farm run by Darran and Denise McKenna from 1.30pm.

Teagasc dairy knowledge transfer specialist Tom O'Dwyer urged farmers to avail of the opportunity to visit the farm: “The McKenna farm is great example of a top-class dairy farm and all dairy farmers and those thinking of entering the sector should come along on 12 June to see the farm for themselves and meet the family.”

Investment

Investment in the farm began in 2007, when sheds, parlour and tunnels were constructed to allow the fifth generation farming in Derrygasson build cow numbers from 60 to 105.

On the farm walk, groups will be led around the McKenna farm to cover the following topics:

  • Farm performance, both current and historical.
  • Producing high-quality milk with low SCC and TBC.
  • Sustainable milk production while caring for the environment.
  • Reduced antibiotic use – the case for selective dry cow therapy.
  • Sustainability seminar

    The morning’s seminar will include speakers Dr Marianne Walsh, who is senior nutritionist with the NDC, and award-winning chef and owner of Kai Restaurant in GalwayJess Murphy.

    Jess said: “Food waste is one of the world’s biggest sustainability issues, but [is] easily preventable with the introduction of food education.

    "Not only would this help individuals become more adventurous with what they’re eating, it would help save their hard-earned money.

    “The area of land needed to grow the food that ends up in landfill is larger than the size of China.

    "We have to focus on increasing awareness and education, [they] will be key to tackling this global issue."

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