A current farm journey to Finistère in Brittany with my dialogue group was not solely an incredible purpose to get collectively, but additionally turned out to be a useful studying alternative.
When visiting conventional French farms previously, maize silage, robots and all-year-round-milking have been widespread traits – however not this time.
See additionally: Farmer Focus: Attitudes to once-a-day milking are altering
Finistère has a local weather much like Ireland, with annual rainfall round 900–1,300mm. This has resulted in excellent grass-growing circumstances and a distinct segment group of farmers who take full benefit of the scenario.
All 4 farms we visited had been natural, 100% grass-based and milking as soon as a day (OAD).
While we realized a large number of classes, it was the folks we met that made a long-lasting impression.
Erwan LeRoux, an agricultural adviser and researcher-turned-dairy farmer, was a kind of people.
He started dairying 21 years in the past with just a few core ideas round which he wished to develop his farm system.
The authentic herd when the farm was bought consisted of Holstein-Friesian cows, milking all 12 months spherical and producing 11,500 litres, half of which was produced from maize with 1.7t focus.
What’s the issue, you would possibly ask?
Erwan’s core ideas had been about price of manufacturing and workload-to-profit ratio.
He additionally needed a return on funding and to scale back the environmental footprint on the pure sources of the farm.
When he utilized these aims to the unique herd bought, he determined to alter over to a spring calving system, milking cross-bred cows OAD on a full grass eating regimen with no focus.
This system delivered when it comes to workload and resilience. It focuses on low-volume, high-margin milk that’s constantly worthwhile regardless of market fluctuations in milk value and farm inputs.
Erwan’s “nurse” cows had been a novel concept for me – these cows reared his alternative heifers from beginning to November dry-off, once they reached eight months of age.
This produced wholesome, sturdy, quickly rising heifer calves whereas eradicating a substantial diploma of labour.
There had been no reported problems with suckling different cows as soon as they rejoined the milking herd as first-lactation cows.
It was nice to listen to from a person with such a broad and regarded view of dairying.
We left with loads of meals for thought and a renewed motivation to view our personal farm techniques from a brand new perspective.