Glanbia holds milk price for third consecutive month
Following an increase in June, the price received by Glanbia suppliers has remained unchanged.

The board of Glanbia has decided to hold its milk price for September supplies. Glanbia suppliers will continue to receive 30.36c/l (excluding VAT) for milk supplied, at 3.6% butterfat and 3.3% protein.

Glanbia increased its milk price last month but removed a co-op support payment, meaning the price was unchanged. Following an increase in June, the price received by Glanbia suppliers has remained unchanged.

Challenging

Glanbia chair Martin Keane said: “In a year that has been extremely challenging from a weather perspective, September conditions were ideal for milk production. Our milk supply for the month was very strong compared with the same month last year.”

Favourable weather and supplementary feeding has also boosted milk constituents, resulting in an actual average payment for milk this month of 38.35c/l.”

He added that there had been a rapid decline in European butter markets and that the board would continue to monitor developments closely.

On Tuesday, Lakeland Dairies announced it was holding its milk price for September.

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Glanbia sets August milk price

Long read: succession and progression on a Cork dairy farm
Since taking over the farm from his father, this Cork farmer has been progressive in developing a system that works best for him.

Joe Morrissey is milking 110 Holstein Friesian cows on a grazing platform of 31ha. He has two leased blocks of land comprising 13ha and 14ha each. The farm is situated in Rostellan, just outside the market town of Midleton in Co Cork. Joe lives on the farm with his wife Olivia and their four kids, Eoghan, Leah, Conor and Daniel.

Joe took over the farm from his father Tom who still works on the farm alongside him.

Since taking over the farm from Tom, Joe has been progressive in developing a system that works for him – providing a quality of life and ensuring the farm has a definite direction and long-term sustainability.

Joe has begun focusing his business model around utilising more grass and offsetting the increased labour demand that came when quotas went. He is in the middle of a period of investment for the farm with €200,000 put into handling facilities over the last number of years.

Joe also has plans to upgrade his parlour which is currently a 12-unit herringbone with no ACRs. He has been milk recording since 1994 when he returned home from Kildalton Agricultural College.

“After coming home to farm I suggested that we should go milk recording, so my father came on board and it has progressed the farm no end.”

Joe bringing in the cows with Daniel and Conor.

Balancing progression with workload

As Joe took over the farm from his father, he began to grow the herd and with that came an extra workload. Joe explained how his father always looked after himself and had a healthy work-life balance and following the same philosophy, he has attempted to find ways to increase the output and expansion of the business without overloading himself with work.

His efforts to create an easier and more manageable working environment led to Joe’s involvement in the Lean farming programme with Dairygold. Since starting the programme in 2017, he has made several changes to the systems and operations around the yard. He has replaced an old meal bin which has put a stop to him shovelling 80t of grain a year.

“It is a secondhand one and it is just a push of a button now. It didn’t cost the world, but the saving is priceless.” Using a pedometer to track his steps each day Joe found at peak times on the farm he walks an average of 16km per day. During intensive busy periods, he reaches 21km to 22km per day.

“The pedometer does not consider the side-to-side movement in the parlour. Anything that is wasting time or money needs to be looked at on the farm because time is money. My father and I know the value of rest, so we don’t intend on burning out for the sake of the farm,” Joe says.

The plan is to use the pedometer again this spring and see have the changes he has made around the yard helped in saving him time and effort.

All the cows are 100% AI-bred.

Uniformity key to good production

The breeding on the farm consists of AI with the heifers for three weeks followed by an Angus bull to clean up for the remaining six weeks. The cows are 100% AI-bred with their breeding season lasting for 13 weeks altogether. This has led to Joe having a very high replacement rate of 33% and a young herd. He has been keeping all replacements over the last number of years. He has a six-week calving rate of 80%, which he hopes will continue to increase with his breeding programme.

This year, out of the 41 heifers bred, 40 have scanned in calf and the scanning showed that most of the seemed to have held to the first service. With the large amount of AI on the farm, Joe needs to minimise the amount of labour going to areas with a lower return.

In general, facilities on the farm are good but Joe is still evolving the farm to obtain better cow flow and fluidity in the system. The current parlour needs a revamp as the shed is small and doesn’t allow light into the parlour which restricts cow flow. One side of the standing area is 4in smaller than the other, which is a small thing but does cause an extra few seconds per row to move the cows on.

The plan is to upgrade the parlour to 16-unit with ACRs and generally better specifications than what is currently installed. A new open-plan cubicle shed for 150 cows and feed space for that amount was built in 2008. In 2017, the herd produced 470kg of milk solids on 760kg of meal per cow and has an EBI of 133. The herd is relatively young as the replacement rate is high, but Joe explained he carries a few late-calving cows which will be automatically moved on from the system after calving.

I had to question whether I had too many heifers coming in and the obvious answer was yes

The drought has brought stress on cows and livestock across the country this year and, as a result, Joe has seen a rise in the SCC towards the end of the year. Joe’s response is going to be a severe cull on problem cows after they calve in February. This is where the high replacement rate will come into play. The replacements coming into the herd are of top-AI bulls and will serve the system well.

Speaking about the high replacement rate on the farm, Joe says he has assessed this side of the business.

“I had to question whether I had too many heifers coming in and the obvious answer was yes. However, the next question was, is it justified? The key for the farm is that cows that aren’t going to be working for the system are not kept. This practice of turning the cow around and second-guessing yourself just doesn’t make a lot of sense in my view. It’s not the way to progress the farm and get good uniform standards which is what I’m working towards across the business.”

Machinery on the farm consists of a loading shovel and a Massey Ferguson tractor. The loader is the workhorse of the farm and anything that can be done by machine is done by machine. The old wheelbarrow fell apart a few years ago and Joe didn’t bother buying a new one. All slurry on the grazing platform is applied by a contractor using an umbilical system.

Some slurry spreading is done by Joe but the less he does the better as contracting is just more efficient in general. Joe does his own fertiliser spreading with all the silage also contracted out. An 8ft Kverneland disc mower is used for topping when necessary and knocking some paddocks for bales.

The cubicle shed can hold 150 cows.

Alternatives to meeting fodder deficits

At the end of the summer, Joe was down an estimated 15% on normal grass growth for the year. He had between a 15% and 20% fodder deficit with a second cut to come. In a usual year, the 33ac block supplies all the silage with bales at the shoulders from the grazing platform.

“We are stocked quite high on the milking platform at 3.55 cows/ha, so we are usually buffer feeding silage during the spring and autumn when grass is at its tightest. Therefore, the forage requirement is higher on the farm and the demand for more grass needs to be met on the outblocks.”

The farm is very near the coast and is good grass-growing land. Joe assesses grass every week and estimates the farm to grow 16t Dm/ha on average per year. The quality of swarth is exceptional. He has a slight issue with rust on the farm and you could see that in the grass. Dry weather had stressed the grass and some paddocks were feeling the effects. A good grazing gets rid of the rust, but it is something Joe must be aware of.

“With a stocking rate of 3.55 LU/ha, the farm needs to be growing the amount of grass that it is,” says Joe. “If any year stretched the system, it was this one.”

The good autumn has really helped with rebuilding fodder stocks, Joe says.

“We have a good crop of rape coming through and because growth has remained more than steady we have been able to hold off buffer feeding which usually isn’t the case for us here. While we didn’t have the surplus grass to take third cuts or a lot of bales, the extra grass at the back end of the year was invaluable to easing the pressure,” he says.

Joe has grown rape in conjunction with a tillage farmer for baling this year to alleviate any pressure left with fodder deficits. He baled it in late October with double the netting, and extra wrap of plastic and stacked on the flat. With good weather when cutting, he gave the crop a three-day wilt before baling due to the low dry matter and high nitrates in the crop. He cleared a space in the yard, so he didn’t have to stack them more than one high.

The workshop is neat and tidy.

“The tillage farmer I get the straw off has a good working relationship with us at home so the opportunity to grow it presented itself, and we went for it. I have never baled it myself, but I know how good the feeding is and the cows go mad for it.”

In relation to the large investment on the farm, Joe says the large expenditure over the last 10 years is due to him not wanting to waste time.

“The way I see it is if you don’t spend it then it will probably be taken off you from a tax point of view,” says Joe. He now has feed space for up to 150 cows and an open expansive shed with top-quality handling facilities.

It is already clear that Joe has achieved a very impressive level of production with a very young herd. He is planning for the long term and is focussing on the areas of the farm where he can make the most improvement.

As with any good farming system there is nothing complex or overthought. Practicality and structure stand out throughout the yard. It’s the same with the man running the farm. With strong genetics and a young herd being looked after as well as they are, the sky is the limit for this farm business.

This article first appeared in Irish Dairy Farmer magazine.

More in dairy markets than some co-ops suggest – IFA
Co-ops have suggested a weakening of dairy markets is reflected in lower milk prices but IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan said the signs are there to hold the price.

Indications from co-ops have suggested there has been a decrease in returns from dairy markets which are reflected in lower November milk prices. However, IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan has said there are many signs that dairy markets will be tighter and prices firmer into the spring of 2019.

He said: “I believe there are very good reasons to expect a positive start to 2019, and I call on all co-op board members who have yet to meet to decide on November milk prices to make a firm decision to hold them at current levels into spring.”

Supplies

A recent report by Rabobank indicated dairy markets may move quickly upwards and catch buyers unaware in 2019.

It also showed output from the seven biggest export regions was slowing. Phelan said supply was coming back into tune with a steady growth in demand.

He said: “EU supplies in particular will be affected well into spring by weather-related impacts on feed/fodder quantity, quality and cost. The evidence is already there that France, Germany and the Netherlands, which between them account for 46% of EU milk production and 51% of exports, are producing far less milk at year-end, and even for the full year compared to 2017.”

Intervention

He also pointed to recent auctions which have seen a large volume of skim milk powder (SMP) move out of EU interventions. Many commentators had said large stocks of SMP were acting as a depressant on the market.

To date, 303,000t of SMP has been sold out, with 60,500t sold in an auction this week. Just over 102,000t remains in intervention and European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has indicated all stocks could be cleared in spring 2019.

Phelan said: “The minimum prices at which intervention SMP is being sold is fast catching up with fresh feed-grade powder prices of over €1,450/t, and without preventing fresh food-grade SMP spot quotes from rising this week to €1,700/t – intervention buying-in levels – for the first time in months.”

Although butterfat prices have eased, butter remains at a historical high of €4,640/t.

40% of calf registrations take place between 8pm and 8am
An IFA farm employment seminar heard the importance of increasing organisation on dairy farms in order to attract and retain staff.

Around 40% of online calf registrations with the Department of Agriculture take place between 8pm and 8am.

Teagasc’s Abigail Ryan revealed the figure at an IFA farm employment seminar held on 12 December in Portlaoise.

She said registering calves late at night increased the chances of mistakes being made.

In an effort to limit the number of late-night registrations, she recommended farmers set up an office that they enjoyed using.

Attracting staff

She also said that facilities, such as an office as well as toilets and a lunch area, can help to attract and retain staff.

The event focused heavily on how to manage staff and what the characteristics of a good employer are.

Abigail said simple things made the biggest difference, with communication high on the list.

“People are annoyed if things aren’t organised.

"Increasingly, dairy farming is moving towards a business approach.

"You need things like an induction and weekly meetings.”

She added that in cases where money became an issue, it was generally not the level of pay, but rather employees not being paid on time.

Labour source

John Brosnan and Padraig Madden of Farm Relief Services (FRS) admitted that as Ireland neared full employment and eastern Europe became more prosperous, it was becoming harder to find labour.

They said, for most farms, employing someone for 40 hours a week for 52 weeks was not attractive and 50 hours a week in March and 10 hours per week in September was not attractive either for the employee.

Padraig said: “We are looking at people outside of agriculture and the traditional sources of labour to meet the demand for part-time staff.

"We’ve looked for drystock farmers, for women in ag and for people on jobseekers allowance.”

Training

A recent initiative between FRS and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection piloted in Kilkenny and Waterford has seen over 40 people trained as dairy operators.

Padraig said there has also been success in attracting more women to work on dairy farms, due to the flexible nature of the work.

He admitted there was often a lack of willingness for drystock farmers to work on dairy farms.

He re-emphasised Abigail’s point that facilities such as toilets and canteens were important, as they showed staff that employers had respect for them.

The provision of on-farm accommodation was also noted as a factor growing in importance when it came to attracting staff.

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