Now in its third year, the Irish Farmers Journal Dairy Day has established itself as one of the main events in the dairy farming calendar. The combination of excellent seminars, demonstrations and workshops and trade exhibitors means there is something for everyone on the day.

There are three information areas this year. Jack Kennedy will host the Beyond the Parlour stage, Aidan Brennan will host the Skills Hub, while The Paddock will be home to the Irish Farmers Journal specialist team. The event will take place on Tuesday 19 November in Punchestown, Co Kildare, from 9am to 5pm.

Skills Hub

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The Skills Hub is all about the skills needed to be a dairy farmer today. There are seven sessions and each session is repeated in the afternoon so those attending will have an opportunity to attend while not missing out on other things happening in the arena.

The purpose of the Skills Hub is to present practical advice to dairy farmers and to present some of the new skills that will be required to be a dairy farmer as we head into the next decade. The following is a flavour of what to expect at the Skills Hub for 2019;

Jack Nolan, senior inspector with the Department of Agriculture and a Bord Bia representative will join Aidan Brennan in carrying out an environmental self-assessment for a typical dairy farm. This session will explain what the environmental issues are, what the current environmental status on the farm is and how the farmer can go about improving it. We hear a lot about sustainability, but what does it mean to be a sustainable dairy farmer?

With selective dry cow therapy set to become mandatory in 2022, Journal vet Tommy Heffernan will conduct a live demonstration on how this approach works.

He will look at how to identify the cows for selective treatment, how to do it and how to manage them after it. Tommy will be joined by dairy farmer and innovator Maeve O’Keeffe.

Despite all the talk of dairy expansion, a high proportion of dairy farmers are aging. Over 40% of all farmers are aged 65 and over, many of whom have no successor identified. Retirement, not expansion is what is on the agenda for these farmers. Since the removal of milk quotas, an increasing number of farmers have acquired second milking units and are now operating multiple units.

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Others are considering a second unit. We speak to Cork dairy farmer Shane Horgan about the reasons why he has taken on other milking units and how he makes it work.

In another session, Aidan Brennan will outline what he sees as the most efficient and best way to rear dairy calves. The whole process from birth to weaning and all things in between including housing, bedding and feeding systems will be analysed. How can workload and costs be reduced without affecting calf performance and welfare?

More speakers and sessions will be announced next week.

Beyond the Parlour stage

New Zealand-based researcher and entrepreneur John Penno is on his way from New Zealand to Dairy Day in Punchestown on November 19.

John is a leading figure in the New Zealand dairy industry and co-founded the Synlait Group. This grouping of dairy farms processed milk from their own farms for years and Chinese interests have now invested in the business.

Many Irish farmers will have met John in New Zealand over the last 20 years and many Irish dairy farmers will have worked on some of the Synlait farms down through the years.

It will be very interesting to hear at firsthand what John has to say on the New Zealand dairy industry given the many changes that are happening in terms of milk processing and on farm in New Zealand.

New Zealand dairy farmers are often used as an example of how to deliver efficient production from a grass-based model. In the last number of years, cracks have emerged on a number of fronts – a ceiling on dairy conversions, a move to higher levels of feeding, and the largest milk processor, Fonterra, meeting a number of challenges.

Where now for the global dairy giant? Will the Chinese influence on the dairy world continue? What effect will new regulations have on New Zealand dairy farming and its competitiveness? What lessons can Ireland Inc learn from recent New Zealand challenges?

International session

Alongside John Penno, the Beyond the Parlour stage will host a number of other international guests who will inform Irish dairy farmers on some of the trends and issues that are happening in other countries.

John Yu from the Newbaze project in Monaghan will give his views on whether China will continue to demand Irish infant formula. John is also deeply involved in setting up a new infant formula plant in Monaghan sourcing Irish milk powder.

Cristian Swett from Chile will be present to discuss where South America is on many of the issues facing dairy farmers – is the environment on their agenda at all? Will dairy grow further in South America? What restrictions are in place on farms in South America?

Closer to home, we will have strong European views from big players on the European stage, with Gisbert Kuegler from Germany, Oscar Meuffels from the Netherlands and Dr Judith Bryans, Head of Dairy UK. All three will outline the trends and challenges alongside the opportunities in the dairy world without quotas in the EU.

More Dairy Day details and speakers will be announced over the coming days.

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