Could once-a-day milking work on your dairy farm?
Teagasc is not promoting once-a-day milking for every farmer in the country, but it is a system that can work and is already working for some, according to Brian Hilliard of Teagasc.
"Over past number of years there has been a growing interesting in once a day milking from advisors around the country.
"We are not here to promote it for every farmer in the country but it is a system that can work and is working for some. It has a future and it does work well," he told the recent Teagasc once-a-day milking seminar.
One of the main attractions of once-a-day milking, he said, is the ongoing issue of labour on dairy farms.
"We've had more queries from farmers last year that they can’t find labour or good labour. Last year was a particularly difficult year for farms."
Lifestyle, he said is also a huge factor. Even if it's to pick up the children from school in the evening, while it makes farming a more attractive career for young people to see there parents having a life.
The reduced amount of walking for cows, he said, means things are also a lot easier for cows if they are currently walking a distance.
With the increased number of outside farms, many farmers are looking at a twice a day herd at home and looking to establish a second dairy unit on outside bock and milking once a day on it.
He also said that once-a-day milking will allow more and more farmers an off-farm job and can offer farmers a means to retirement.
"Many farmers in their late 50s or 60s want to keep up the routine of milking cows, but don’t want to retire. There is less stress on the operator and it's hard to put a value on that."
Impact on Cow Health
While herds will experience a drop in yields, there will be better fertility and health and potentially a higher price/litre.
Cows are healthier so less vet bills, he said, while there are lower costs for labour, electricity and the parlour.
According to Gillian O'Sullivan, the Zurich Insurance/Farming Independent Farmer of the Year, moving to once-a-day milking saw an immediate drop in milk solids.
But, once a day suited the farm layout and landscape. "It's fragmented, with one block 5km away and a 400ft climb for cows to get to the milking parlour."
She said that by halving walking distances lameness became virtually non existent on the farm.
Fertility improved, she said, but it was a profit V profit, lifestyle and family decision for her and her family.
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