David Brady from Stradone, Cavan joins the Dairylink team

4th July 2015

David Brady from Stradone, Cavan joins the Dairylink team

Increasing measurment and management of the dairy business is a key goal for David Brady as he develops his dairy business.

David Brady from Tierlahood, Stradone, Co Cavan, recently joined the Dairylink project and will be featuring in this column in coming months. Achieving development on the farm is a key target for David, who wants to not only survive current financial pressure in the dairy industry, but actually deliver a return on money and time invested in the business.

David also runs a significant free range hen business which offers a steady cashflow with minimal labour input as the enterprise is very well established and the production system has been streamlined to achieve this. While the two areas of his business are very different, David would like to apply some of the successful management principles used in his hen business to help improve the dairy cow operation.

Land

The solely grassland farm has developed considerably over the past eight years with recent land purchases and a significant land improvement programme on the farm.

David operates on a total area of 53ha, 35ha of which is allocated to the grazing platform for the herd. The remainder is outlying land, both owned and rented, which is used to support replacement heifers and provide silage for the herd during winter months.

David attended Ballyhaise Agricultural College until the late 1990s and then he returned to the family farm where he worked in partnership with his father Brian to develop the free range hen business while at the same time milking a small number of cows. With the hen business now well established, David has been focusing more recently on improving the dairy herd. He currently lives on the farm with his wife Rachel, and their three young children Eoghan, Daniel and Kate.

Cows

Over the past four years, the herd size has doubled on the farm, which now milks 80 Friesian/Holstein cows. The breeding policy is focused on selecting sires with high milk solids and more than 150kg of milk on EBI ranking.

While David is not currently selecting sires based on fertility, he appreciates that good fertility performance for his herd is vital going forward. Within the past three years, he has moved his herd to 100% spring calving, and where historically half the herd would have calved in the autumn, calving didn't start until 28 January this year. Last year, the farm sold 5,300 litres per cow to Lakeland Dairies, and the performance in terms of solids was 4.19% fat and 3.45% protein, a total of 417kg of milk solids per cow excluding milk fed to calves.

Grazing platform

Good-quality grass and grazing infrastructure is fundamental for the farm. He feels the best investment he has made to date is the land improvement and reseeding recently undertaken on the farm. In the next four years, he plans to continue with this focus on reseeding, drainage, fencing, new roadways and water supply to paddocks.

One limiting factor on the farm is that the grazing block is split by the main Bailieborough to Cavan road, resulting in cows having to cross the road to access half the paddocks. Soil fertility is another area of concern, with low phosphorus and potash levels having been recorded on the grazing platform.

Dairylink plan

David is in a position similar to many other dairy farmers. He has significant financial borrowings but can see that substantial investment is still needed on his farm. He has specifically identified further investment in the grazing infrastructure as a priority to improve efficiency and maintain a low cost base.

However, David is cautious and wants to ensure that any future plans are in proportion to current financial pressures as a result of the depressed milk price and existing levels of debt.

At present, he is benefitting from his past investment in the grazing infrastructure and reseeding as this is keeping his cost base low, therefore allowing him to survive the current squeeze on profit margins.

The Dairylink project will help David identify the key areas which need development on the farm and provide a renewed structured approach to daily management of the herd. Routine measurement and monitoring of key aspects of the business will be central to this approach, and will provide the basis for future development.

The system

80 spring calving cows. In 2014 the business sold 5,440 litres per cow to Lakeland averaging 4.06% butterfat and 3.37% protein. Breeding targets high milk solids.

Farm development plan

To increase grass growth and utilisation on the farm. Monitoring grass growth will become part of the 2015 plan. To introduce more monitoring on the farm to improve management of both fertility and financial performance, and to help develop a sustainable plan for David’s business.

Work routine

Casual labour is employed at peak times and for relief milking. The agricultural contractor will do all silage making and some slurry spreading. David’s father Brian is still involved in the business but to a lesser extent in the daily work routine.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Irish Farmers Journal. Please click on the below Irish Farmers Journal logo to be brought to additional dairy articles

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