Ire­land is falling far short on milk record­ing fig­ures

Irish Independent - Farming - - INTERVIEW -

MORE farm­ers are seek­ing to ac­cess preg­nancy tests for cows through milk record­ing, with 30,000 tested this sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Mun­ster Cat­tle Breed­ing.

Mun­ster AI’s Terry Dil­lon said there has been an in­crease in up­take on the “sim­ple” test, car­ried out when milk record­ing as it re­quires “no han­dling”.

How­ever, he warned, for a coun­try that is pro­gress­ing strongly in dairy, we are falling far short on milk record­ing fig­ures in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“Around 50pc or less farm­ers are milk record­ing and if you don’t know what your cows are do­ing and the po­ten­tial they can get, then how can we make strides for­ward?” asked Mr Dil­lon. “It is like buy­ing a car — if you didn’t know the mileage, how would you know ex­actly what you were buy­ing?”

On the Hynes farm, Peter and Paula are us­ing their milk record­ing data to pick out the best cows to use to breed re­place­ments in their 150 cow herd. Their Tea­gasc ad­viser Grainne Hur­ley ex­plained how, in five years, the herd have gone from pro­duc­ing 285kg milk solids a hectare to now de­liv­er­ing 400kg-plus this year.

The calves on the Hynes farm are in the top 1pc in the coun­try, with 66pc of the cows milk­ing in their first and sec­ond lac­ta­tions, with the aim to be at 200 cows by next year. The six week calv­ing rate has risen from 20pc in 2012 to 68pc this year, with the aim of reach­ing 90pc by 2020. Cur­rently the net profit a hectare is at €720, with the farm aim­ing for €1,335/ ha by 2020 through an in­crease in cow num­bers, along with fac­tors such as im­prov­ing grass utilised and milk solids per cow.

“Peter is able to se­lect cows he wants to breed, and get his re­place­ments from, to really drive on,” said Mr Dil­lon. “It is also al­low­ing him to use se­lec­tive dry cow ther­apy for the first time and re­duce his an­tibi­otic use by get­ting his cell count really good.”

Don Crow­ley from Tea­gasc Clon­akilty was equally vo­cal on the fi­nan­cial and im­prove­ment gains to be made in herds from milk record­ing.

He pointed out the Danone in­fant for­mula plant was pur­chas­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of its milk from the Dairy­gold Co-op which meant the stan­dards for so­matic cell count (SCC) were set very high.

Mr Crow­ley pointed out an anal­y­sis of the costs of high SCCs from Tea­gasc and An­i­mal Health Ire­land found culling, a re­duc­tion in pro­duc­tion and the loss of bonus are the big­gest costs.

“The big­gest gain is when you go from 250,000 to 150,000. You see about €80 per cow in a 100 cow herd that is about €8,000.

“Maybe €10,000 or €12,000 can be picked up in go­ing from 350,000 to 150,000. That really stanto you in a dif­fi­cult year like the one that we had last year,” he said, with the SCC in the herd cur­rently at 101,000. “This year has been an ex­cel­lent year and hope­fully it’ll con­tinue.

“Where we are see­ing it is in the out­put per cow in a low cell count herd. About 75pc of the milk com­ing into Dairy­gold is qual­i­fy­ing un­der 200,000,” he said.

Mr Crow­ley said many of their farmer clients were stay­ing at the 200,000-300,000 mark. “It really pays from a busi­ness point of view to make the ex­tra push to come to 150,000,” he said.

Some of the points the Hynes farm has been tar­get­ing in­cluded ud­der clean­li­ness and teat dis­in­fec­tion. “Clip­ping the tails is a huge is­sue at farm level — we are not see­ing enough of that. It has a huge im­pact on ud­der clean­li­ness,” he said. Mr Crow­ley also pointed out cor­rect use of an­tibi­otics when dry­ing off to kill in­fec­tion in the teats was cru­cial.

“We are see­ing too many herds that are on the same an­tibi­otic for a long num­ber of years and re­sis­tance is com­ing in to that. They were go­ing well and when re­sis­tance de­vel­ops, they can de­te­ri­o­rate in SCC very quickly,” he said, urg­ing farm­ers to talk to their vet about it. He urged those ap­proach­ing se­lec­tive dry cow ther­apy by us­ing seal­ers with­out an­tibi­otics on cows with counts un­der 100,000 to be ex­tremely care­ful in terms of hy­giene. “You can do more harm than good in that sce­nario but it is prob­a­bly com­ing down the tracks,” he said.

On the Hynes farm, a Dairy­mas­ter back­flush sys­tem is used where a flush of per­acetic acid goes through af­ter the cow comes off to com­bat in­fec­tion spread­ing. “A staph au­reus cow will spread it to the next eight cows so a clus­ter-flush sys­tem will help mit­i­gate against that, as will draft­ing them un­til last,” he said.

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