5 Tips when Converting to a Dairy Farm System

Ballybar Ireland cows
As you may know we converted to Dairy 3 years ago from a Beef and Tillage operation and as more and more farmers seem to making the transition I thought I would give you the heads up on  a couple of things I wished I had of known if we were  to make this switch again or things I think we got right.
  1. Make the decision at least 2 years before you want to start milking. We, however made the decision and then started milking 365 days later. Yep completely crazy, but we got there in the end. Fortunately everything went our way and we didn’t have any major hiccups. Time gets away so quickly especially if you having to wait for grant approval or planning permission so you need to get things going early on.
  1. Add at least 20% contingency into your budget. We made this allowance and used every last penny. Maybe this is a reflection on my budgeting skills but there were so many unknowns. All the little bits and pieces add up like gate latches here and there, hose fittings, water softeners that we never needed before, the list is endless.
  1. Ensure you have at least 7ft distance for when the cows turn to come out of the parlour. This I believe is imperative. Apart from cows bunching up at the corner and possible slips, it’s the bulls that suffer the most. Exiting our parlour we have 6ft but when our delightful, ever annoying Charolais bull heads into the parlour there is no stopping him digging into the nuts. We have found that the excessive turning on the concrete when he leaves the parlour has given him White Line in his hooves – Not great for a working bull.
  1. Invest in top genetics. Whether you purchase heifer calves and rear them or buy Cows in Calf source the highest performance females money can buy. This will pay off in the long run and you will not be chasing your tail trying to improve performance through breeding when you have only just begun. Not to mention cows with better pedigrees and highly desired EBI, by right should be more efficient there for lower feed bills.
  1. A shit catcher – I’m not sure what the technical term for them are but they like a feed trough that sits behind the cow in the parlour and when they shit it catches it. What a brilliant idea, we don’t have one but I would literally sell my first born for one now. It saves time on the wash down, you wont have to power hose so frequently and you will never get that sneaky one on top of your head.
All in all I am delighted we made the transition, it has given us financial stability, more structure to our days and it’s very humbling to now see heifers we bred are now being milked and kicking goals too.