Shrewd in­vest­ments key to a dairy suc­cess story

Irish Independent - Farming - - Front Page -

THE dairy op­er­a­tion of Jim and Pauline De­lahunty, at Bal­lyk­i­nash, Carrig, Co Tip­per­ary, is one of the finest you'll visit.

Lo­cated near the county bounds with Of­faly, just out­side the town of Birr, it at­tracted a good crowd for a Tea­gasc open day last Wed­nes­day.

Na­tional EBI win­ner in 2006, Jim has built the busi­ness on the back of a tar­geted breed­ing pol­icy, ex­cel­lent grass man­age­ment and know­ing his costs and mar­gins.

The De­lahuntys farm 58.7ha (145ac), which in­cludes 29.9ha (75ac) of a milk­ing plat­form, and a 28.7ha out-farm, which is used for re­place­ment stock and silage.

On these lands Jim car­ries 110 spring calv­ing cows sup­ply­ing a 592,000 litre quota, as well as 46 re­place­ment heifers and 50 calves. This gives a stock­ing rate of 3.7LU/ha (1.5LU/ac) on the milk­ing plat­form, 2.7LU/ ha on the farm as a whole.

In 2006, Jim was milk­ing 48 cows but five years later his herd size has more than dou­bled.

“Quota was the only lim­it­ing fac­tor for us. Once the quota trad­ing scheme came in at the end of 2006 I de­cided to buy,” Jim says.

In the in­ter­ven­ing five years he has spent €59,000 on the quota pur­chases, in­clud­ing 81,000 litres bought at 16c/l this year. This has taken his quota from 249,000 litres to the cur­rent 592,000 litres. Jim is adamant his de­ci­sion to buy quota was cor­rect.

“I couldn't af­ford to gam­ble on a su­per levy,” he says.

Jim has al­ways kept a close eye on his costs and mar­gins and has been com­plet­ing the profit mon­i­tor each year since 1996.

“I al­ways had the facts to back up the quota pur­chases,” he says.

In­vest­ment in build­ings and ma­chin­ery was lim­ited dur­ing this pe­riod from 2006 to 2009 even though he was se­verely short of hous­ing. How­ever, in 2010 he in­vested €80,000 in a cu­bi­cle house and slat­ted slurry tank which took the num­ber of cu­bi­cles to 138. “I had the stock on the ground when I went to the banks for money. You're in a bet­ter po­si­tion when you're talk­ing to banks about what you're ac­tu­ally mak­ing than bas­ing your fig­ures on pro­jected earn­ings,” he says.

All of the ex­pan­sion took place from within the herd, with the num­ber of re­place­ment heifers in­creas­ing in line with milk­ing cows.

Jim has used all AI bulls on the herd since 1995. The fo­cus ini­tially was on bulls that pro­duced high solids and later on high EBI sires.

The av­er­age herd EBI is €129 but that of the re­place­ment heifers and calves is €145 and €147 re­spec­tively.

The aim is to in­crease herd EBI. The av­er­age EBI of the bulls cho­sen for the cows this year is €228. The bulls in­clude SOK, UPH, KOZ, and BHZ. For the heifers he's us­ing sires with low calv­ing dif­fi­culty such as KGZ and KXV.

Jim main­tains the farm is at the limit in terms of stock­ing rate and any fur­ther growth in out­put will have to come from in­creas­ing milk solids pro­duced per hectare.

The herd cur­rently has an av­er­age mild solids out­put of 440kg/cow or 1,561kg/ha off of the milk­ing plat­form.

“The aim has to be in­creas­ing av­er­age yields to 6,000 litres and solids to 500kg. That may sound am­bi­tious but 470-480kg is pos­si­ble,” Jim says.

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