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Meeting the challenges of managing large dairy herds

January 4, 2023

Applications are invited for a study tour to Great Britain

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is offering dairy farmers the opportunity to travel to Great Britain to learn about large dairy herd management. 

Average herd size has steadily increased in Northern Ireland.  A number of units are now milking in excess of 200 cows.  This increase has resulted in owners and managers being faced with a range of new challenges. This study trip will look at how both cows and staff are managed to achieve key performance targets and at the protocols which have been developed to help achieve these.

The tour will include visits to two large scale dairy farms in Yorkshire. Both these businesses are milking in excess of 650 cows with annual production in excess of 11,000 litres milk sold per cow per year. Each business employs large numbers of staff, many of whom are part time and have little previous farming experience. Both have very detailed protocols for each activity on the farm.

This study tour is part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme which is being delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

The areas that will be studied in more detail on the trip include:

  • Managing large herds to achieve optimum performance
  • Recruiting, training and managing staff
  • Developing and implementing clear work protocols

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on the morning of Monday  6th March and return on the evening of Tuesday 7th March.  The tour will be led by CAFRE Dairying Advisers . 

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business that milked 200 cows per year in 2020/21 or 2021/22, is over 18 years old on the application closing date and not in full-time education. Preference will be given to applicants who complete physical and financial benchmarking of their dairy business. To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return.  Sixteen places are available and these will be allocated on a competitive basis.

The Farm Innovation Visit Scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland and meals when in Great Britain.  Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs, including farm relief and travel insurance.

Dairy farmers who are interested in participating in this study tour can find out more details and complete the online application by following the link:

Applications open on Monday 2nd January 2023 and close on Friday 13th January 2023 at 4.00 pm.