Dairy farming isn’t easy. Profit margins can be thin and in a competitive landscape, any advantage you can muster can make a huge difference to your balance sheet. Let’s be honest. Life would be easier with a crystal ball.
The next best thing is to seek the advice of experts. People who spend their working lives ruminating on the key challenges and opportunities facing dairy farmers.
So let’s do exactly that. With antibiotics reduction, dairy automation and the small matter of Brexit all on the agenda in 2019, we ask two dairy farming experts for their views.
Interview 1: Neil Birkett
The right balance of fatty acids in a dairy cow’s diet enhances milk yield, helps to maintain body condition and improves fertility. One man who knows that better than most is Neil Birkett, nutritionist at Volac Wilmar - the manufacturers behind Megalac, Mega-Max and other dietary fat supplements that have been proven to get results for dairy farmers. Here are Neil’s thoughts on what 2019 holds for dairy farmers.
1. What song best describes you?
Banana Splits by The Dickies. It still makes me laugh every time I hear it.
2. What's new for dairy farmers in 2019?
Nutritional supplements will benefit from continued research that has helped to create new products that improve milk yields and fertility among dairy herds.
3. What dairy tech are you most excited about in 2019?
Potential new developments in computer feed rationing programmes.
4. If there's one piece of advice you'd give to dairy farmers in 2019, what would it be?
No matter how you choose to spend money with your business, never lose focus on return on investment.
5. What should dairy farmers be considering in preparation for Brexit?
It’s too difficult to predict the outcomes. Just keep doing what you do best.
6. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to time travel into the future.
Interview 2: Peter Hynes
Having been crowned the Zurich/Farming Independent Farmer of the Year in 2017, most dairy farmers could learn a thing or two from Peter. We paid a visit to his grass-based 104-hectare dairy farm in Aherla, Co Cork in Ireland to get his thoughts on dairy farming in 2019.
1. What fictional place would you most like to go to?
I'd love to go to Pemberley from Pride & Prejudice with my wife Paula. She is fascinated with life in olden times and it would be wonderful to experience it firsthand as well as see the livestock and farming traditions from that period. All topped off with a date night at one of Pemberley’s gala balls.
2. What's something you like to do the old fashioned way?
I think we have so many regulations now regarding food production that it would be wonderful to get back to rearing various livestock on farm to produce all of our own food, with a butcher on the farm. I'd also like to experience being in a drover team taking livestock to market and seeing the hustle and bustle of an old traditional market.
3. What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Go on safari with the Maasai. Forget the jeeps and guns, head off on foot with them tracking animals to see them in their natural habitat. With more and more animals becoming endangered, we need to appreciate them in their home where they belong. I highly recommend it; an experience I'll never forget.
4. Dairy automation: what do you think?
I think we need to embrace dairy automation. Technology is all around us and can be a huge labour saver. These days we can get so much more data back to improve efficiency. Robots won't suit every farm but we can go hi-tech without going down the robot route. For instance we use GPS on the farm a lot, have a hi-tech parlour and MooMonitor collars on every cow. It's amazing how much control I have over the farm with my smartphone.
5. What are your concerns about dairy in 2019?
My big concern for dairy in 2019 is Brexit. So much uncertainty is not good for business. Thankfully dairy markets are on the rise, as a slump in dairy markets paired with Brexit could have been the perfect storm. We also need to keep a close eye on AMR. Antibiotic usage has to be reduced and selective dry cow therapy will become compulsory by 2021.
6. If there was one thing you could change in dairy this year, what would it be?
It's hard to know what change I would make to dairy in 2019. Ideally I would change all the false campaigning against dairy. The research is there to show the benefits of consuming dairy, and with global demand for food set to double by 2050 it's vital we have food security and people understand the benefits of a healthy diet. Hopefully the weather in 2019 will behave and I wish you all a successful year.
More fat, more profit...
Feeding the right fats, at the right time, to your dairy herd can transform your productivity and your profits. Want to know how? Come right this way.
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