Tipp farmers on achieving better milk solids after switch to once-a-day milking

Liam and Catherine Millierick with Teagasc OAD advisor Brian Hilliard
Liam and Catherine Millierick with Teagasc OAD advisor Brian Hilliard
File photo
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Tipperary couple Liam and Catherine Millerick are currently milking their 121 Jersey crossbred herd once a day (OAD) and achieving better milk solids per cow compared to what they were milking on twice a day (TAD) just six years ago.

In 2013 the Millericks had 69 cows milking TAD and sold 394kgMS/cow to their co-op. After deciding to convert to the OAD alternative predominantly for the lifestyle benefits, last year they finished the season with 417kgMS/cow on average.

The first-year milking OAD went better than expected, considering 40pc of the herd that year were heifers. They admitted that the good ilk price herd held the cost of the conversion.

“We’d to be seeing a cow milk her weight in milk solids on about 250kg of meal per cow going forward,” Liam said at the Positive Farmers conference in Cork recently.

The first year of OAD was the last year male calves were kept on the farm, having opted to ‘streamline’ the farm. The farm near Fethard is now home to three groups of animals -cows, calves and in-calf heifer.

Preparation

After making the decision to change their system, they started breeding crossing the herd with purebred Jersey sires after research suggested they would work best for the new system.

The first time they saw crossbred calves the neighbours thought we were going mad, and that was before they even knew we were going OAD,” Liam said at the conference

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Challenges

In 2014, they said they did struggle with SCC and identified the source of the problem as a stray current going across the yard. Catherine did say that they have to address any rise in SCC immediately before it develops into a problem.

Over conditioned cows were initially a problem and one of the hardest parts of turning to OAD was waiting for grass, that would make good quality silage grow until it would make in the mid-60s silage, so as to restrict the diet in the cows.

“One problem is we sometimes over condition cows when they’re dry and that brings its own problems at calving,” Liam told the conference.

“it was one of the hardest thing to do. When these cows are dried off the following day they’re putting on weight, so they have to be restricted.

“So when the silage would have been ready normally, we wait now and wait for it to go down to the 60’s DMD. It’s drilled into you when you’re milking TAD that good quality silage is the most important thing to do all year. OAD is completely different,” explained Catherine.

Profit

Catherine said that making profit on an OAD herd is possible, however careful planning and patience is required. In 2017, the Millerick’s net profit €1,041/cow according to their profit monitor data and €2,014/ha net profit and BPS.

The Tipperary pair start the day at 6am – as Catherine said, old habits die hard – and have cups on at 7am and are usually back at the house for 9.30am for the tea.

“Our day is done if we so wish, and we can either head back out to the farm or head out for the day,” she said.

“Neither of us work outside the farm, were full time farmers and we depend on those 121 cows as our income and that’s it.”

“Once a day is not for everyone, it’s an option is it suits some and not everyone. It’s really hard to divide up the seven milkings a week,” she said.

Online Editors


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