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Free trip to learn innovative heifer raising techniques

Northern Ireland dairy farmers are being offered a free opportunity to learn about the latest and innovative practices about rearing heifers by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Applications are being sought from local farmers for a study tour, which will include a number of visits to farms in the south-west of England, and will be delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

Rearing dairy herd replacements always represents a major investment for dairy farmers seeking to safeguard the future of their business.

So, it’s crucial that heifers are reared in the most cost-efficient manner possible in order to maximise performance throughout their lifespan, according to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. 

Two-day study tour 

The two-day study tour will, therefore, hone-in-on innovative practices in rearing and managing dairy heifer replacements that will help achieve key performance targets.

Areas that will be covered during the 48-hour trip will include heifer nutrition and management to meet target growth rates, an examination of simple and low-cost heifer rearing systems, management of the first lactating heifer in the herd and the overall economics of rearing heifers.

Who can attend? 

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One member or employee of a farm business, which reared at least 25 heifers per year in 2017-18 or 2018-19, and who is over 18 at the time of the event and who is not in full-time education, is eligible to attend. Preference will be given to those who complete physical and financial benchmarking of their dairy business including heifer replacements, the statement outlined.

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, breakfast, lunch and evening meals when in Great Britain.

Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs, including farm relief and travel insurance.

The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on the morning of Tuesday, February 25th and return on the evening of Wednesday, February 26th.

The tour will be led by CAFRE advisers, Gavin Duffy and Jane Sayers. 


Applications opened on Wednesday, January 2, 2020, and will close on Monday, February 3 at 4pm – further information can be found here.

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