No change to Aurivo and Carbery milk prices for September
As co-ops continue to set September milk prices the trend as been no changes, but many boards have issued warnings of weakening market returns.

Both Aurivo and Carbery have held their September milk prices. The co-ops are the latest to announce September prices after Glanbia, Lakeland, Kerry and Dairygold all held their prices.

Carbery suppliers will continue to receive 32.8c/l excluding VAT. Those in Aurivo will receive 30.4c/l excluding VAT.

However, an Aurivo spokesperson said: “The decision to hold prices comes despite weakening market returns, which Aurivo will continue to monitor in the coming months.”

Milk supply across Ireland was up by about 10% for the month of September compared with the same period last year.

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August milk prices hold steady

Fast-track visas not in time for calving
It could take six months for workers to gain full approval, meaning much-needed dairy labour won't get here for the peak spring-calving season.

The Government’s fast-track visa application system for farm workers is not likely to deliver people in time for the busy spring period on farms.

Farm Solutions Ltd, the southeast-based farm labour recruitment company, is concerned that it could take up to six months for full approval to be gained, twice the hoped-for 12 weeks.

“Having gained trusted partner status in November, we are investing resources to get suitable candidates.

They must have not just dairy skills, but also language skills and ability to take responsibility,” explained Joe Rowe, managing director of Farm Solutions.

“There is competition in the marketplace for such skilled workers.

"New Zealand and Saudi Arabia can process applications and visas within two months, candidates we have lined up could be poached away.

"The €1,000 fee per candidate is significant, but the 50 permit limit for farm workers is more likely to be a limiting factor and we hope that can be revised upwards.

"It’s a significant commitment to seek labour in countries like the Philippines.”

45% surge in demand for dairy workers
As the national dairy herd, grows the demand for spring labour has continued to outstrip supply.

Demand for dairy workers has grown by at least 45% since the abolition of quotas.

Padraig Madden, operations manager for Farm Relief Services (FRS), said efforts were under way to source additional operators.

With 250 operators recruited last year and a further 100 sought for this spring, FRS has never had as many people on its books, but yet it cannot meet demand.

Teagasc has estimated that 6,000 new dairy workers would be required by 2025

“We have over 1,500 operators working for us. The way things are means labour demand is still outstripping supply,” Madden said.

Approximately 504,000 cows will be calved in February and 336,000 will be calved in March, representing 60% of the 1.4m cow national dairy herd.

Teagasc has estimated that 6,000 new dairy workers would be required by 2025.

Challenges

Demand for workers is mainly among farmers with 50 to 150 cows who do not require a full-time labourer and only need extra help at calving.

Madden said this makes it difficult to retain workers as the busy period is followed by a lull in work.

He said the challenge was to retain good workers, especially in a growing economy.

FRS has been targeting drystock farmers and women in agriculture to bridge some of the gap.

“There are other options but if people realise there is good work on their doorsteps, guaranteed hours and flexible hours then they might consider it.

“We know they have the skillset and some of them may have the time to step in on another farm and earn valuable money.”

Potential sources

FRS has recruited 40 workers through its Dairy Operative Skills Programme. Most of them have come from non-farming backgrounds. Madden said these workers would become more important as the number of students in agricultural colleges falls.

There is also a continuing search for workers outside of Ireland. Programmes have been set up to bring seasonal workers from the likes of New Zealand and Lithuania. Northern Spain and Ukraine are also being explored as other potential sources.

“There’s not really one fix,” Madden said. “It’s something that will be sorted through a multifaceted approach.”

Watch: unusual underpass brings cows straight into rotary shed
The innovative farm has also recently installed a new internal 32-unit rotary. WIlliam Conlon reports

In 2016 an underpass was constructed on the farm of Kevin and Michael Gunn from outside of Strokestown in Co Roscommon.

In recent years the farm has moved to milking 180 cows and with a busy country road separating the farmyard from the vast majority of the 90ha milking platform.

This was adding a considerable workload when bringing cows in for milking.

It was also a major safety concern for both the family and road users.

Underpass design

In an unusual design, the underpass leads cows directly into the shed with cows entering the shed between the cubicle shed and the recently constructed milking parlour.

The roadway leading to the underpass is 3.5m wide while the tunnel itself is 4m wide.

“We decided to go with a wider tunnel than the roadway so that the underpass would not slow down cows,” Michael explained.

The culverts were supplied by Shay Murtagh Precast Concrete from Co Westmeath.

As slurry on the farm is spread through an umbilical system, a fixed pipe was fitted when the underpass was installed for spreading

Cows will then move up a grooved ramp up into the shed. Here they can turn left towards the collecting yard or right into the cubicle shed.

Cows will then enter a large holding yard which has capacity for the 180-cow herd on the farm.

As slurry on the farm is spread through an umbilical system, a fixed pipe was fitted when the underpass was installed for spreading.

This eliminates the need to run the pipe through the underpass every time slurry needs to be spread and is a simple, labour saving addition.

Exit

Once cows exit the parlour they are over a slurry channel until they either exit the shed or go back into the cubicle shed.

Cows can also be drafted to a separate holding area if required or guided back towards the underpass and out to pasture.

The Gunns also recently installed a new 32-unit Boumatic internal rotary on their farm. Read all about the new parlour here.

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Watch: breaking the mould with an internal rotary