• Using models to establish the financially optimum strategy for Irish dairy farms

      Ruelle, Elodie; Delaby, Luc; Wallace, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence; European Union; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 11/S/132 (Elsevier, 2017-11-02)
      Determining the effect of a change in management on farm with differing characteristics is a significant challenge in the evaluation of dairy systems due to the interacting components of complex biological systems. In Ireland, milk production is increasing substantially following the abolition of the European Union milk quota regime in 2015. There are 2 main ways to increase the milk production on farm (within a fixed land base): either increase the number of animals (thus increasing the stocking rate) or increase the milk production per animal through increased feeding or increased lactation length. In this study, the effect of increased concentrate feeding or an increase in grazing intensity was simulated to determine the effect on the farm system and its economic performance. Four stocking rates (2.3, 2.6, 2.9, and 3.2 cow/ha) and 5 different concentrate supplementation strategies (0, 180, 360, 600, and 900 kg of dry matter/lactation) resulting in 20 different scenarios were evaluated across different milk, concentrate, and silage purchase prices. Each simulation was run across 10 yr of meteorological data, which had been recorded over the period 2004 to 2013. Three models—the Moorepark and St Gilles grass growth model, the pasture-based herd dynamic milk model, and the Moorepark dairy systems model—were integrated and applied to simulate the different scenarios. Overall, this study has demonstrated that the most profitable scenario was a stocking rate of 2.6 cow/ha with a concentrate supplementation of 600 kg of dry matter/cow. The factor that had the greatest influence on profitability was variability of milk price.