Reduced workload, more time to look after and pay attention to calf rearing and human health benefits are all cited as good reasons for farmers to seriously consider a once-a-day (OAD) milking system this spring.
The workload on many dairy farms will hit an all-time high this spring, as a result of increased stock numbers compounded with labour shortages, so milking freshly calved cows OAD in the month of February is a concept that is becoming increasingly popular each year.
Teagasc’s Dairy Business & Technology Advisor, Brian Hilliard, has been advocating OAD milking on farms where labour is a major problem and has been advising farmers on how to implement it without compromising on productivity.
According to Brian, if opting for OAD milking system this spring, under the right management farmers can expect a reduction in yield of 6% (approximately over the entire lactation) if milking OAD for a month, however, they are likely to see an improvement in milk solids (fat and protein) which will actually have a positive impact on milk price.
Some simple management techniques; such as being more aware of high SCC cows and treating where appropriate will be paramount. Brian’s advice is to ensure cows are milked out properly and more attention is paid to teat hygiene.
Morning milking is the advised approach but if a cow calves later that day she should be milked at calving and not again until the main herd is milked the following morning.
A lot of emphasis is put on issues with SCC but when you consider the benefits to both animals and humans, OAD for a month to six weeks could be a real method for relief this coming spring.
Human health benefits extend to less stress in a time that is deemed the busiest period of the year on dairy farms. Brian explains that a reduction in workload will have a positive impact on mental health and help in the fight to reduce farm accidents at a time when fatigue is high.
When it comes to stock, less stress on dairy cows leads to improved BCS at breeding; better six-week in-calf rate, resulting in more compact calving the following year.
Once farmers are equipped to deal with and manage high SCC cows and pay extra attention to hygiene, a spring OAD system is a worthy consideration.