PICTURED - Lakeland Dairies launches innovative labour-saving booklet for milk suppliers. Alo Duffy, Chairman of Lakeland Dairies with dairy farmer Patrick O’Neill, Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford (centre), Colin Anderson (left) and Owen McPartland of the Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Development Programme (right).
As part of the third phase of the Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Development Programme, an innovative and informative 28-page booklet has been produced with recommendations, tips and case studies aimed at making farm life easier for Lakeland Dairies’ milk suppliers.
The booklet is being sent to Lakeland Dairies suppliers in the coming days. It uses real life examples from farmers across the Lakeland Dairies catchment area showcasing the best labour-efficient techniques on their farms to ensure a good work/life balance.
The booklet also takes a calendar-style approach to labour looking at key areas famers can address at every stage of the year from the dry period to calving and from breeding to grass management.
It was written by Colin Anderson with Adrian McKeague and Owen McPartland from the Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Programme - aimed at maximising efficiency and profitability for dairy farmers on a sustainable basis for the future. The programme uses the findings of locally and regionally based research that is directly relevant to the needs of Lakeland Dairies milk suppliers.
Adrian McKeague said,
“As herd size has expanded in recent years, we wanted to showcase simple, time efficient farming techniques, already working across our catchment area for our milk suppliers, with this booklet.”
“Total hours worked on a farm is an important element in planning dairy expansion and is often overlooked. An additional labour cost should be included into expansion planning.
“Practical advice includes moving milking from late evening into the afternoon, milking just once a day in February and how best to prepare for the calving season including ongoing calf management. The importance of having a proper grazing infrastructure in place is also emphasised with the intention of having cows grazing to the maximum possible extent.
“Herd management techniques are covered including the need to have a fixed breeding season and also to remove late calving cows from the system, which helps to maximise milk yields on the most appropriate basis. Additionally, it’s essential for dairy farmers to match the size of their milking units to the actual size of their herd as this helps to reduce overall working time on the farm. There is also a useful section on how best to use the services of contractors on the farm.”
The booklet analyses the factors influencing working time on the farm. It places a strong emphasis on health, safety and wellbeing for dairy farmers, underpinned by an improved work-life balance and effective systems which allow farmers to take more regularised time off on a routine basis. It concludes with tips on compliance and a useful ‘labour improvement calendar’ outlining some of the key considerations that farmers need to take into account each year.
Lakeland Dairies Chairman, Alo Duffy said the need for a strategic approach to farm labour has never been greater and that Lakeland Dairies is taking a very proactive approach to the issue with this booklet.
“As herd sizes grow, so too does workload which needs to be handled as efficiently as possible to avoid undue pressure for the farmer. The overall balance that needs to be achieved comes from knowing what is already tried and tested, implementing practical initiatives while taking time to plan out the farm’s activities and also getting advice and assistance.
“Everything needs to be tailored to the individual circumstances of each farm and decisions need to be taken on the balance of work to be achieved between the farming family, employees and contractors. I thank Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Programme and the dairy farmers who have taken part in preparing this research which is directly relevant to the dairy farming families of Lakeland Dairies.”
Michael Hanley, CEO of Lakeland Dairies said,
“Dairy farmers work long and hard, day in and day out. As they continue to grow their milk production, this raises important issues around the provision of labour to cope with this expansion. It’s one of the biggest challenges facing dairy farmers today. Our mission is to promote and secure the livelihoods and sustainability of our 3,200 dairy farming families. It is a very pressurised job where managing workload requirements can be a key element of the success and wellbeing which we want to establish for all of our dairy farmers.”
Teagasc figures indicate that as many as 6,000 people will be required to fill on-farm roles in Ireland over the next decade with many of those on dairy farms.
Over 93% of Lakeland milk suppliers have said they will stay in milk production for the future, according to research undertaken by the co-operative in recent years.
In addition to farmers who have already significantly grown their output, Lakeland milk suppliers said they will further expand their milk production by approximately 5% in each year to 2022.
Just over one-third of Lakeland milk suppliers currently employ staff on their farms. Of these, 8% employ staff on a full time basis and 28% on a part time basis.