31 July 2019
Best in class

Irish organic farming student wins top prize

31 July 2019
HAWL bursaries

Bursaries offered for three-day homoeopathy courses



21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

D2: Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying project – innovation needs for dairying

Chair: Susanne Padel (ORC)

The SOLID project is aimed at addressing the needs of dairy farmers using innovative ap-proaches that are sustainable and low impact. This participatory workshop will discuss practical problems and research initiatives to address them. (Organised with IBERS)

Session summary

The Sustainable Organic and Low-Input Dairying project is using an innovative approach to ensure that the research carried out is totally relevant to dairy farmers by including the farmers in the process of identifying what research is needed to improve the sustainability of their systems and subsequently providing the support for farmers to carry out this research on their own farms. This session started off this process by hosting the first of many workshops that aimed to get everyone in the room involved with identifying and developing ideas for on-farm research activities. The dairy farmers in the audience assessed their own farm in terms of various aspects of sustainability and, with others in the industry, discussed what research topics they felt were most important to investigate.

The three groups all identified soil health and quality as the key area of interest, with the need for a simple tool to allow them to assess their soils themselves as a basis for deciding on future soil management actions. Animal health and welfare was also highlighted as an area for improvement, including behavioural aspects, the impact of delaying juvenile separation, and how to increase the number of lactations and longevity of cows, as well as the interaction between feeds and breeds. Better feed management was raised as a topic, for example, comparing different grass and legume mixtures and their long-term performance, including under drought conditions. One of the primary conclusions that came out of the discussions was that while it was felt that there is much information available on these topics, this information is not available in a format that allows farmers to relate it to what’s going on in their own fields and system.

Topics identified:

  • Understanding soil biology, quick assessment of soil microbiology (all groups mentioned soil)
  • Nutrient budgets – calculate and compare with others
  • Importing carbon to restore depletion in the soil
  • Minimising the effects of high rainfall
  • How to increase the life of the cow
  • Feed and breed interactions – appropriate breeds for organic systems
  • New ways of feeding organic cows
  • Homegrown proteins, eg lupins
  • Performance of legume mixtures in different climatic conditions
  • Drought tolerant legumes eg lucerne
  • Breeding – with an eye on the market to control milk composition
  • Reducing farm energy use per hectare
  • Effective winter feeding effectively from own farm resources

Conclusions:

  • A better knowledge of their own soil quality and health is still of primary concern for dairy farmers
  • Animal health and welfare and impact on productivity and efficiency is important
  • Feed management, including novel species mixtures, is important for reducing reliance on imported feed
  • Knowledge transfer needs improving to maximise research impacts.

Action Points:

  • Investigate opportunities for extending LegumeLINK results for using legume mixtures in leys
  • Evaluation of workshop format for SOLID workshops.
  • Develop ideas for better transfer of research results and information for use on farm.

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Pip Nicholas (IBERS): Introduction to the SOLID project (PDF 169KB)
This workshop gives participants the opportunity to contribute ideas to a major research project. ORC, IBERS Aberystwyth, AFBI in Northern Ireland and industry partners OMSCo and Calon Wen are the UK members involved in the EU funded project on Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying known as “SOLID”. The main aims of SOLID are to facilitate the use of appropriate breeds and feeding strategies to maintain productivity, and improve animal health and welfare, while meeting the market requirement for high quality milk. Farmers are being consulted on the direction of parts of the research and will host on-farm trials. ORC is leading this work on participatory research methods across Europe and will develop a num-ber of on-farm projects in close collaboration with OMSCo and Calon Wen.

Katharine Leach (ORC): Participatory exercise: sustainability for your business – how can research help? (PDF 171KB)
Within the EU-funded SOLID project we have the opportunity for some on-farm research projects. This workshop will explore participants’ ideas of what sustainability means to them in their per-sonal situation. It will go on to develop ideas about the types of research that could help to improve various aspects of the sustainability of dairy businesses. Come prepared to contribute; your ideas are needed and will have the chance of becoming reality.