OAD is an attractive option but it takes a lot of fine-tuning
Why don't more farmers consider once-a-day milking?
This was the question going through my head as I left Michael, Neil and Gillian's yard. Their figures are startling, and initially appear to be contradicting Teagasc research that showed that milk solids decrease by 20pc when a twice-a-day herd is compared with a OAD herd. In fact, when Laurence Shalloo and Brendan Horan compared two 90 cow herds in 2009 and 2010, with a milk price of 32c/l and a labour cost of €12.44/hr, they found that the twice-a-day herd produced over €30,000 more profit than the OAD set up. This was despite the obvious savings on labour, detergent, electricity, improved cow fertility and body condition.
However, there are some key differences with the O'Sullivan's 2014 figures in Colligan. Firstly, the O'Sullivan's numbers are from a herd that is six years into the system. Neil and Gillian noted that it was five years before they had optimised OAD, and expect their milk solids to continue improving as the cows adapt further to the regime.
The second point is harder to quantify, but how much would Neil and Gillian be able to produce if they were milking twice-a-day? They are equalling the Glanbia average, but clearly these are excellent operators that would fit in well with the top 10pc of any milk producer group. Milk solid yields in this upper echelon are approximately 10pc higher.
So the question is whether a 10pc lift in output would be worth the extra effort and expense? There is no question that OAD is an attractive option for those that have something more valuable to do with their time. Proof of this is the recent formation of a OAD discussion group with operators from Wexford, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway.
As with many things in life, it's probably a case of horses for courses, but OAD looked like a very attractive one down in Colligan last week.