Having recently spent three weeks in New Zealand on a Farm Study Tour organised by Positive Farmers, Peter Farrell brought home five key lessons he’s bringing home to his dairy farm in Co Meath.
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Speaking at the recent Positive Farmers conference in Cork, the young dairy farmer spoke about the key aspects that drive success in New Zealand, after visiting farms with multi-site owners, share milkers, contract milkers and also a large-scale heifer rearing unit.
1. Focus on the basics
Many of the successful farm businesses that the group visited had placed a huge emphasis on “non-negotiables” to constantly achieve high profits, Peter explained.
These included high body weight cow, correct P and K levels, correct pre-grazing and residual levels, achieving target closing covers and correct body condition scores of cows at calving and bulling season, according to Peter.
“These farmers it was very simple, they get 4tn of grass down the cow’s throat and that was there stocking rate. So, if they could utilise 16tn of grass they could stock at 4LU/ha, if they could only utilise 12tn they stock at 3LU/ha, it was a simple as that, marginal milk wasn’t even entertained,” he said.
“No farm we went to had low soil fertility, and if we went to a new farm (recently purchased) it was corrected day one and it was allowed for in their budget when they were budgeting for these farms.”
2. Good understanding of science behind the system
All farmers that the group visited were able to back their production system with scientific research and, according to Peter it gave them the confidence to implement it in a commercial basis.
He said for the farms that they visited, it was a priority to have a clear understanding of the science behind the research and the advice they got.
3. Profit over production
The majority of farmers the group visited were unable to recite off what the average yield per cow was or their current average performance, Peter said. He said for these farmers, the main key performance indices that correlated with profit were costs per kgMS, grass utilised per ha and kgMS/ha sold.
4. Repeating success
After these farms showed resilience to poor milk price years and were able to make sufficient profit, farmers chose to replicate the system instead of intensifying the operation to attain the last 5-10pc of efficiencies, according to Peter.
“When they mastered the first arm, rather than chasing the last 5-10pc efficiency and possibly adding extra cost they invested their money in another farm. They found the simpler the system was the easier it was to implement on the second farm and also more importantly it was more profitable.”
5. Ensure public perception is reality
Consumer perception of dairy farming continues to be a fight New Zealand farmers are battling today and said that is important for Irish Dairy Inc to continue to be perceived in a positive way and ensure it is a reality.

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