Arrabawn’s ‘Milk Supplier of the Year’ award winner has said that the focus on quality is even more essential now with margins tightening due to global market prices.
Speaking following his acceptance of the award at the co-op’s AGM in Nenagh, Shevoyre, Terryglass, dairy farmer Garry Horan, 38, said that the higher milk quality farmers deliver, the better they will weather the storm.
Mr Horan is a fifth generation farmer and third generation dairy farmer and today milks 92 cows, having grown the herd from 48 when he took over the farm from his father Martin in 2007. And he gives his father much of the credit for his own focus today on driving milk quality.
“My father taught me a simple message when I was starting out and it was that if the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. He always insisted the yard is clean. It’s a simple philosophy; if you are paying money to put down concrete you should be able to see it.
“We keep the place tidy and the cows are kept tidy. That then looks after an awful lot. If you are going to keep the cows right and clean, then they are not going to be picking up infections and you won’t have high cell counts.
“Mastitis control is a priority and the Arrabawn milk recording and support from the lab is a huge help. I can readily identify if I have problem cows and I have adopted a three strike rule for this; if a cow gets mastitis more than three times, she’s gone. Otherwise, it’s going to carry from cow to cow if you’re not careful.
“I have very little mastitis now, perhaps at the start of the year with calving and you would eliminate that. When I was growing the herd I had some difficulties with mastitis as I was bringing it in from other farms but I’m on top of it now because I worked hard to cut it out.”
He says that the benefits from cutting out mastitis are both personal and financial. “Eliminating disease and getting your cell count bang on is hugely beneficial. At a personal level you are not stressed with trying to weed out cows with mastitis any more. Financially, if you have it you’re going to be treating animals with antibiotics and perhaps run the risk of antibiotics getting into the tank and a fine for this.
“If you don’t treat it, it will get worse. If you can get through the milking without running to the fridge for antibiotics or sprays, there’s a lot less hassle. Once you get the cell count down, I find it quite easy to keep it low but it’s down to the right in the yard, the parlour, keeping the cows clean, etc.”
As for the year ahead, Garry admits it will be challenging but he remains optimistic. “There is a lot of pessimism out there but there has been before and there will be again. We had one good year and forget very easily that it wasn’t always that good.
“I’m hopeful prices will go up in due course. If it goes as low as 21c, you are working at break-even, but only if you have your quality right. If you don’t, you are losing money. You just have to ride out the storm if it goes as low as that. Then you have to really keep your costs under control. Having good quality milk helps there in a big way as you have lower veterinary and medical bills. But it also ensures your cows are yielding more and you are culling a lot less.”