Project Team: Dr Jim Harkin (PI), Malachy McElholm, Neville Graham / Gary Watson, Martin Mulholland, Jason Osborne and Dr. James McGreer Organisations Involved: Ulster University, Dale Farm Ltd., CAFRE, UFU and McGreer Consulting Background: Milk production is a major global farm-based industry which is at the core of food production in Northern Ireland, ROI and the UK. The primary fixed costs of farming are headage and farmyard facilities, while the cost of energy is the major variable expense after feed and labour with the potential to contribute to more than 20% of the cost of...

Project Team: Dr Debbie McConnell, Dr Stephanie Buijs, John Archer and Alan Gordon Background   The overall objective of this research project is to improve the efficiency of N.I. dairy farms by providing key performance indicators and new information to optimise management of robotic milking systems.  Increasing herd sizes and a reduction in the agricultural workforce has led to increasing pressure on labour on UK dairy farms.  During 2005 and 2014, average labour hours per cow fell by 22% on UK dairy farms to 39 hours per annum (Eurostat, 2016). Creating a labour efficient working...

Project Leader: Debbie McConnell Project Summary: A detailed on-farm survey will be designed and distributed to dairy farmers across Northern Ireland. This project aims to better understand the barriers to improving both grass production and utilisation, and milk from forage. Project Objectives: Evaluate current farmer attitudes towards grassland production and milk from forage Consider the reasons behind the decline in milk from forage production Understand the factors affecting farmers attitudes to grassland production and utilisation and milk from forage Identify major perceived...

Project Summary Fresh grass is the cheapest feed source available for ruminant animals. It is Northern Ireland’s competitive advantage to grow grass the majority of the year and this advantage must be optimised to ensure maximum efficiency within our dairy industry. In Northern Ireland, grazing remains a major component in dairy cow diets during the spring and summer months and can significantly influence animal performance and profit during this period. Individual animal grass DMI and consequently performance at pasture is influenced by a range of factors including: the animals’ genetic...

RCF-03/2017 - Improving efficiency within feed-to-yield concentrate feeding systems for dairy cows: understanding drivers of performance, milk quality, cow fertility and health
Objective Concentrate feed levels have increased on Northern Ireland dairy farms, with concentrates now comprising 60-70% of the variable costs of milk production. However, CAFRE Benchmarking data has highlighted that concentrate use efficiency on dairy farms is hugely variable, while overfeeding of concentrates contributes to the Northern Ireland phosphorus (P) surplus.  As concentrate feed levels have increased, concentrates are increasingly being offered to dairy cows on a ‘feed-to-yield’ basis, with feed levels in excess of 20 kg concentrate/cow/day not uncommon with higher...