This has been an exceptional year for dairy farmers, although we have grown 1,000 kg/ha less grass on our farm than the last average.
The sector overcame rising input costs. I wish I could understand how the international dairy markets reached such stratospheric heights in the autumn.
International consumers continue to value the health and nutritional benefits of milk, and global consumption is increasing by more than 1 percent each year.
Remember all the pre-quota abolition concerns that the world would be flooded with milk, causing Irish milk prices to collapse? These fears have proven spectacularly unfounded.
All around us in Galway I still see farmers switching from dairy cattle and dry cattle to dairy as they strive to make a better living from their farms.
I see nothing but a steady increase in national milk production.
The real challenge for dairy farmers in the future will not be oversupply, but increased input costs, higher interest rates, labor availability and environmental considerations.
The latter is within our own control as we follow the Teagasc MACC which will help us improve our soils. This allows us to cover the nutrient requirements of our farms in a more targeted manner and reduce the amount of chemical fertilizer.
There has to be a balance: commercial farms must have the ability to produce the food needed to feed a still-growing world population while working with the environment.
Knowledge transfer will be essential on this journey to guide us as we continue to develop our farming practices. We are in a new era where the overuse or waste of resources such as fertilizer or manure cannot be justified from an economic or environmental point of view on farms.
Here the herd is now completely dry and the workload will be reduced for the next few weeks so we can take it easy and enjoy Christmas with family and friends.
However, I find that this quiet period has become shorter in recent years as we tend to milk an extra week well into December while AI with a short gestation results in a larger percentage of preterm calves in February.
In order to reduce the workload in the spring, IBR and Lepto vaccinations are now also carried out in January and of course the profit monitor day.
Many of us need to manage our time better.
Teagasc has done good research on dairy farms and has highlighted the importance of having a start time and an end time for the working day and how the milking interval on farms can be reduced while maintaining performance.
Most dairy farms have met the ambitious expansion targets they set themselves and encouraged by the government’s Food Vision 2020.
Perhaps it’s time to envision where you want your business to go over the next seven years and set your goals accordingly?
Maybe make a New Year’s resolution to shorten the workday and hire more contractors or extra labor, maybe a local student?
It is so important to take care of our physical and mental well-being; Don’t forget to prioritize operational safety.
Henry and Patricia Walsh farm in Oranmore, County Galway with their son Enda and neighbor and side farm owner John Moran
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-advice/henry-walsh-why-you-should-make-a-new-years-resolution-to-shorten-the-working-day-42223083.html Henry Walsh: Why you should make a New Year’s resolution to cut the workday