Benchmarking Labour Input on Irish Dairy Farms with Use of a Smartphone App
Deming, J.
Gleeson, D.
O Dwyer, T.
Kinsella, J.
O Brien, B.
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Deming J., Gleeson D., O Dwyer T., Kinsella J., O Brien B., 2017, Benchmarking Labour Input on Irish Dairy Farms with Use of a Smartphone App , Chemical Engineering Transactions, 58, 133-138.
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Traditionally, the average herd size for Irish farms has been relatively small with an average size of 68 cows in 2015, and could be managed by the farmer and family members. However, it is projected that the Irish dairy sector will grow by up to 50 % by 2020. Thus, it is important that labour efficiency be increased, both in terms of a low availability of labour sources and also a high cost of labour. Labour has been identified as one of the highest costs on dairy farms, thus optimizing labour efficiency is an important influencing factor in increasing farm profitability. The objective of this study was to quantify levels of labour input on spring-calving Irish dairy farms relating to a range of dairy farm tasks over a 1-year period. Between 2015 and 2016, 38 farms from across the country participated in the project. Labour input was recorded through an app on a smart phone and a monthly online survey. Data was recorded for 3 consecutive days each month and were sent directly to the cloud server. Herd sizes ranged from 79 cows to 534 cows and were grouped into one of three herd size categories for analysis. Herd size category (HSC) 1 were farms with < 150 cows, HSC 2 were farms with 150- 249 cows, and HSC 3 were farms with 250+ cows. Average total farm labour input was 4,017 hours per year with an average herd size of 193 cows. Average farm labour efficiency was 21.7 h/cow/y with HSC 1 and 2 being similar, but farms in HSC 3 were significantly more labour efficient, with an average efficiency of 17.5 h/cow/y. A seasonal pattern to labour demand on farm was witnessed with the highest labour input in the spring (February, March, April) at 1,777 hours, dropping slightly during the summer (May, June, and July) to 1,663 hours, again during the autumn (August, September, and October) at 1,412 hours and tapering off during the winter (November, December, and January) to 885 hours. While there was no significant difference in hours worked by the main farm operator across herd size categories, the proportion of the farm’s total work conducted by that person varied with the farmer doing 76 %, 56 %, and 37 % of the total farm labour in HSCs 1, 2, and 3, respectively. There were significant differences between hours worked by hired labour across HSC with HSC 3 utilising the highest amount of hired labour. Thus, optimising labour efficiency on Irish dairy farms is important on both the smaller family farms where the work-life balance needs to be maintained and equally on the larger farms where that same balance is required in addition to reducing costs of hired labour.
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