Why if you’re milking cows after 6pm, you’re doing something wrong
As Ireland’s national dairy herd increases and farmers expand their herds, the need for efficient workflow can result in a big impact on the amount of time spent working.
The national dairy herd has grown from 1.1m cows in 2010 to 1.4m cows in 2017. During that same period, average herd size has increased from 58 to 75 cows, with half of all cows now milked in herds of in excess of 100 cows.
However, these extra cows have posed a significant workload challenge and led to a renewed focus on labour efficiency and the sustainability of the workload farmers are undertaking.
Research from Teagasc shows that work practices need to be adapted so that extra cows can be managed without taking more time. Making changes to how work is done on the farm can save time without any reduction in farm performance, and often with very little cost, it says.
Important factors to reduce workload include having suitable high EBI cows that do not require individual attention, an appropriate calving date and stocking rate for the farm that minimises the need for supplementary feed, good grazing infrastructure that facilitates easy movement of animals to and from grazing and adequate well organised farmyard infrastructure.
Visitors to the Teagasec Ballyhaise open day this week, were told that highly efficient farms finish evening milking by 6pm, feed calves once a day from three weeks old and had a good milking parlour setup.
Working too hard can lead to health and safety risks on the farm - for everyone on the farm - and ensuring farming involves a sustainable workload is essential for a number of reasons, Teagasc research shows.
On some farms, it finds, that nearly 50pc of the total hours worked on the farm occur during February, March and April.