Make the decisions for good milk yield in winter
Producing quality milk for a decent price is do-able if you choose your options with care
Every winter, some dairy farmers consider the possibility of continuing to milk their cows in an attempt to boost overall milk sales. In fact, this winter could be one of the most tempting for the foreseeable future as it becomes more likely that the country will still be under quota next March.
Given that this is an unlikely scenario in the run-up to the dismantling of quotas in 2015, coupled with many outstanding bills remaining unpaid from last year, many producers will be weighing up their options for the coming months.
However, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. The supply of quality milk during the winter period is a bigger challenge than at any other time of the year. When milking during the housing period, attention must be paid to issues such as cubicle maintenance, late lactation cows and housing hygiene. Quality bonuses and premium prices are at stake.
Two of the biggest issues affecting quality milk during the winter months are somatic cell count (SCC) and lactose.
Lactose is a natural sugar occurring in milk which gives milk its sweet taste. It is synthesized in the cow's udder and its average content in milk varies between 4.50pc and 4.80pc.
Milk lactose is very important and reflects the processing potential of milk and dictates the range of products which can be produced. It is also an indicator of cow milk yield. As milk lactose decreases, milk volume decreases, SCC increases, yields will drop and corresponding lactose levels will drop.
Supplying quality milk through the remainder of the season requires careful management and important ongoing decisions to optimise yield and milk price. A herd of cows should be assessed and decisions made in the best interests of the cow.