Prudent Use Case Study - Dairy
Martin Davin farms at Eglish near Rathdowney in Co Laois. Joining the panel of farmers in the Teagasc Glanbia Monitor Farm Programme in 2015 helped him to focus his priorities and since then he has expanded his farm based on a solid plan.
The total area farmed is 68 hectares (ha) including four hectares of rented land. Martin milked 76 cows in 2014 prior to joining the Monitor Farm Programme. He now milks 125 cows. Longer term he sees 130 cows as the optimum number for his spring calving herd on a milking platform of 38 ha. Martin has seen average milk yield increased from 5,160 litres per cow in 2014 to 6,406 in 2017 and average milk solids produced per cow increased from 402 kg in 2014 to 516 kg in 2017.
There is a big emphasis on milk quality on the farm. Martin’s partner, Lena Sheahan, is a vet and actively helps on the farm during the busy calving period. Martin and Lena also work with Glanbia’s vet Shane McElroy on herd health planning and vaccination Programmes, using an online facility which sends text reminders to him in advance of vaccinations.
Dry-off procedure before 2017
Prior to 2017, cows on the Davin farm were blanket dried off using antibiotics and teat sealant. Figure 1 below shows the bulk milk Somatic Cell Count (SCC) levels on the farm since 2011.
Prior to 2017 dry cow antibiotics were administered to all cows at drying off. The data in Figure 1 shows that bulk milk SCC levels have been maintained at a low level for the past 8 years. Concern about the risk of antibiotic resistance and the belief in reducing their use antibiotics at drying off time prompted Martin and Lena to consider drying off cows without the use of antibiotics which they have successfully done for the past four years.
We started reducing our use of dry cow tubes four years ago. In the first two years we were very careful about the cows we chose to try it on. For the last two years half of the herd was dried off without antibiotics. We don’t have a number in our head. The decision is based on the milk recording results and cows with a SCC of less than 100,000 are picked out to get a teat sealant only.
You’ve got to be a lot more careful when drying odd without antibiotics. It’s like surgery. Before we start we’ll have clipped tails and trimmed udders a couple of days in advance. We do a maximum of two rows a day (24 cows). You need plenty of help. We use surgical spirits to thoroughly clean the udder, someone to restrain the cow, one person with clean gloves administering the teat sealant and another to record and pass the tubes to me. At the start of the drying off season we put freshly dried off cows in a paddock away from the parlour. Later on the cows are dried off and go directly into the cubicle shed. The beds are limed twice a day for a week until cows are fully dried.