In recent years, Teagasc has invested in research programmes aimed at identifying efficient farm infrastructure systems that will promote sustainable milk production.
The research topics encompassed under the umbrella of farm infrastructure are diverse, and cover areas such as grazing infrastructure, land drainage, energy usage and milking technology.
These areas all share the common goal of delivering the best advice to farmers on how to achieve farm facilities that promote optimal use of scarce resources, such as labour and finances, to deliver easily managed and profitable farms.
The approach taken to assess the status of grazing infrastructure on Irish farms is an example of one such relevant research topic.
Recent Teagasc research has shown that significant improvements could be made to roadways and paddock size to improve both cow walking comfort and ease of grassland management
Improved grassland management relies upon robust grazing infrastructure that encompass suitably sized paddocks, serviced by roadways of sufficient quality and supplied with ample access to drinking water.
Larger herds have placed pressure on existing infrastructure, which has knock-on effects on grass utilisation, cow performance and labour input.
Recent Teagasc research has shown that significant improvements could be made to roadways and paddock size to improve both cow walking comfort and ease of grassland management.
The next steps in this project will fully assess the grazing infrastructure on 55 farms and will quantify both economic and labour savings that can be achieved through implementing best practice in relation to grazing infrastructure.
Milking performance is dependent on the milking facility
Similarly, a study is under way to quantify time savings that can be made through the implementation of best practice in relation to milking management and milking facilities.
Milking, and its associated tasks of herding (pre- and post-milking) and washing post-milking, in a pasture-based system accounts for 33% of the total annual farm labour input.
Milking performance is dependent on the milking facility, which, in turn, is dependent on herd size, labour availability and the level of automation in the parlour.
Recent Teagasc research has shown that milking efficiency varies significantly from farm to farm, even among similarly sized herringbone milking systems (eg from 52 to 200 cows milked per hour) with farmers spending between two hours and almost six hours per day at milking.
Future research will investigate the factors driving these milking time differences across farms and highlight the most effective management strategies and most valuable infrastructure items that can deliver the highest performance per euro invested.