Dairy farmers are spending too much time in their milking parlours –Teagasc

Milking parlour.
Milking parlour.
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Dairy farmers are spending, on average, 260 minutes a day in the milking parlour, more than the time recommended by Teagasc.

The Moorepark study concluded that milking times have increased in recent years since the abolition of the quota, due to an increase in herd size and milk production.

From the 37 farms studied, there was an overall trend towards increasing herd size, with average herd size increasing from 106 cows in 2014 to 125 cows in 2016.

Most farmers in this study started the morning milking between 6.30am and 7.00am. Evening milking commenced between 3.00pm and 5.30pm. The average morning milking duration was 134 minutes, while evening sessions lasted 120 minutes on average.

The average milking duration was 254 minutes per day across both 2014 and 2016. But milking duration increased by 5pc to 260 minutes in May 2016 compared with May 2014, the figures show.

While this average increase of 5pc seems quite benign, according to Teagasc, it is hiding some large increases at the individual farm level.

For example, four of the farms in the study experienced an increase in milking duration of 15pc or greater, along with a herd size increase of 34pc, resulting in total daily milking duration exceeding five hours and 30 minutes per farm.

On the other hand, there was six farms in the study where farm size increased by 20pc, while achieving a reduction in total daily milking time of 10pc.

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Irish milk output has increased by 30pc since the recent abolition of milk quotas according to 2018 data released from the Central Statistics Office, the reason for the increase in time spent in the parlour according to Teagasc.

John Upton and Michael Breen of Teagasc, who carried out the study, concluded that the average daily milking time does not paint a sustainable picture of milking efficiency or labour utilisation, especially given that these times did not include any herding tasks, or time spent cleaning down the milking facilities after the milking machine was turned off.

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