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2018 Spring Dairy Visit to Ballyhaise Agricultural College

Event Details

  • Date: 22 Mar 2018
  • Venue: Ballyhaise

A group of Ulster Grassland Society members and Greenmount students visited Ballyhaise Agricultural College to see at first hand Donal Patton’s dairy research programme. Donal Patton said that the dairy project objectives are (i) to demonstrate best practice grassland management; (ii) to develop high profitable and sustainable systems of milk production for farmers in wetland soils and (iii) to produce quality research that will have a positive impact on the dairy industry.

Studies in Ireland in the past have questioned the viability of milk production on wetland soils due to reduced grass production and utilisation. Donal Patton stressed that profitable dairying is closely linked to grass utilisation (tons DM/ha). He also said that increasing stocking rate is only profitable when grass utilisation increases.

Donal Patton has demonstrated that high yields of grass production are possible on wetter soils but utilisation is more challenging. At Ballyhaise College yield of 15.5 tonnes/hectare have been grown but the average is 13.7 t/ha.

The Ballyhaise 40 ha milking platform is divided into 4 experimental units with low (2.5 CE/ha) and high stocking rates (2.9 CE/ha) on extended grazing and low and high stocking rates with average turnout dates. The cows in the extended grazing group are usually turned out in mid-February and housed about 10th November whereas the other 2 group are turned out in the third week of March and housed about the third week of October. Production per cow in each of the groups was similar but more concentrate feed was feed in average grazing season treatments and extended grazing groups were self-sufficient for silage whereas average groups were short of winter feed.

Donal Patton concluded that highly profitable grass based systems are possible in the wetter regions provided there is high grass production, long grazing season, a high EBI herd and compact calving.

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