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Episode 20

Use of once-a-day milking to reduce labour demand

On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to Waterford based dairy advisor Brian Hilliard about the use of once-a-day milking across the entire lactation.

Brian explains that there are 40-50 dairy herds across Ireland milking their herd once a day as a means of reducing overall workload and improving lifestyle. Brian weighs up the pros (reduced labour, improved animal health and fertility) and cons (reduced milk and milk solids yield, increasing SCC, reduced profitability in first 2 years) of once-a-day milking systems.

Production on established once-a-day farms can be quite high at 400 kg milk solids, which is comparable with the national average dairy cow that is milking twice-a-day. Brian points out that while dairy farmers are running successful once-a-day herds, the first few years can be quite challenging due to a reduction in milk revenue and increased culling levels as unsuitable cows exit the herd.

He urges anyone who is interested in once-a-day milking to talk to their Teagasc dairy advisors and get out to see existing once-a-day farmers to learn more about the system.

Episode 19

Why robots are the future of milking

Are robots the future of milking? On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to Caroline O’Sullivan, manager of the robotic unit at Teagasc Moorepark and Caroline gives an insight into how robotic milking systems work including the number of milkings robots are capable of per day, the ideal number of cows per robot and what her work looks like from day to day.

Caroline emphasises the importance of grassland management in robotic systems, aiding the movement of cows from the paddock to the robot throughout day and night. Finally Caroline explains the current feeding and milk production of the dairy cows, where cows are producing 2.1 kg milk solids from a predominately grazed grass diet.

Episode 18

Striking the balance between silage quality and quantity

Dairy Specialist, Joe Patton discusses silage production, from the cost to key metrics for quality and the optimum cutting date.

Joe explains what to look for when analysing the quality of grass silage and what quality and quantity of silage is required for the various groups of stock on the farm.

Finally, Joe debates optimum cutting date to maximise quality and quantity. Importantly, one silage paddocks reach heading date, quality will decline by 0.5-1 unit per day.

Episode 17

How to achieve fertility targets during the breeding season

On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to dairy specialist Martina Gormley about 6-week calving rate, the leading metric for dairy fertility performance.

Firstly, Martina identifies where the national dairy herd 6-week calving rate is and how it compares to target. Martina sets out the benefits and subsequently, the financial implications of achieving target. In short, for each 1% increase in 6-week calving profitability will increase by €8.22 per cow, which will increase profitability by €822 per year for a 100-cow herd.

Furthermore, she acknowledges concerns some farmers may have about concentrating calving over a short period of time.

Finally, Martina gives some tips on management practices to aid farmers in achieving high fertility performance for their herds.

Episode 16

The use of genomic selection to maximise profitability

On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to geneticist Donagh Berry about the use of genomic bulls as part of the breeding programme for your farm. Firstly, Donagh explains what genomic selection really means and how it compares to the traditional method of selecting daughter proven bulls.

Donagh explains that the milk production, fertility, longevity, and consequently profit is greater in offspring from genomically selected sires than daughter proven sires. Interestingly, over 70% of dairy straws sold in Ireland are from genomically selected bulls.

Finally, Donagh considers the potential benefits of genotyping your dairy females and whether the benefits outweigh the cost.

Episode 15

Mid-Season Grassland Management

On The Dairy Edge podcast this week we speak to Grass 10 Campaign Manager John Maher about mid-season grassland management. Firstly, John talks us through the current grassland situation - with a lot of nitrogen out and soil temperature 2 degrees above normal, grass growth has taken off. Additionally, John takes through the grazing targets, fertiliser strategies and practical steps to achieve six grazings per paddock during the mid-season

Episode 14

Rebuilding depleted silage stocks

On this week's episode of The Dairy Edge podcast, dairy specialist Joe Patton has advice on how to maximise silage yields with the view of replenishing silage stocks on farms across Ireland.

Joe emphasises the importance of fertiliser in the form of N, P and K and also talks about the balance between quality and quantity, and target cutting dates to achieve a good 1st and 2nd cut, with the possibility of additional forage harvesting in the form of 3rd cut silage or bales.

Finally, Joe considers the overall farm system, placing particular importance on the ability to grow grass with an estimated grass budget of 5 tonne DM for each cow.

Episode 13

Dairy Farm Profitability

On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to dairy specialist George Ramsbottom about farm profitability. Firstly, George differentiates between the profitability figures in the eProfit Monitor and the National Farm Survey. George identifies the main differences between the average and top dairy farmers, namely consistently higher quality output and lower costs.

He also speculates where farm profitability will be at the end of 2018, taking cognisance of the high milk price and profit year in 2017, and the additional costs incurred on the majority of dairy farms in Ireland this spring.

Finally, while George demonstrates clear value in quantifying the costs and profitability on dairy farms, the level of dairy farmers completing the profit monitor each year remains low!

A full analysis of 2018 profit monitor will be published by Teagasc in the coming weeks.

Episode 12

After a tough spring, how to get cows fit for breeding

With the breeding season just around the corner and cows in low body condition after a tough spring owing to poor grass growth and weather, we speak to fertility expert, Stephen Butler about how to get cows fit for breeding.

Stephen sets out the fertility targets and the management practices to help achieve high levels of performance from your herd including how to deal with non-cycling and thin cows and synchronising protocol for heifers

Episode 11

Sire selection for the upcoming breeding season

On this week's episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we're focusing on sire selection for the upcoming breeding season and speak to Dairy Specialist George Ramsbottom while Donal Patton from Ballyhaise fills us in on the upcoming event at Ballyhaise Agricultural College.

George explains the changes to the Sire Advice application on ICBF Herdplus. New features include the ‘female selector’ where farmers can earmark cows for breeding to an alternative breed or a beef sire.

He recommends the average EBI for a team of bulls for your farm as well as a breakdown of each EBI sub-index and emphasises the importance of using a team of bulls. Finally, George explains the priority traits to focus on when selection bulls for use on heifers.

Donal Patton from Ballyhaise fills us in on the upcoming event at Ballyhaise Agricultural College where there will be the latest research in grassland, breeding, heifer rearing, as well as a grassland demo and a careers forum.

Episode 10

How to deal with the current grassland situation

On this week's episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we're finding out how to deal with the current grassland situation on dairy farms across Ireland after the recent challenging weather conditions.

Episode 9

Once-a-day calf feeding

On this week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast we speak to calf expert Emer Kennedy about once-a-day calf feeding.

Emer Kennedy talks us through labour saving techniques around the calf rearing process from now until weaning. She explains that once-a-day calf feeding will reduce the labour input around calf care by one-third. Research has shown there is no difference in average daily gain between calves fed once-a-day or twice-a-day but there was a significant reduction in labour.

Episode 8

Managing the dairy cow and grassland after Storm Emma

On this week's show, we focus on the recovery on dairy farms after Storm Emma.

Aidan Lawless, farm manager from Teagasc Johnstown Castle, explains how they are coping with the heavy snow. Aidan gives an insight into the change in diet of the spring and autumn calving cows in the last week, with the spring calving cows shifting from a grazed grass and concentrate diet to silage and concentrate indoors. He also mentioned the implications of rehousing cows, such as cases of mastitis.

Joe Kelleher, dairy advisor from Newcastle West, gives advice on how to manage the dairy cow and grassland as conditions remains challenging on a lot of farms in the aftermath of the storm. Where cows are housed Joe emphasises the importance of practices to maintain high milk quality; keeping cubicles scrapped and limed, and stripping teats prior to milking. Joe recommends getting out with nitrogen to drive grass growth, Urea between now and St Patrick's Day and 18-6-12 from then on to provide a source of phosphorus and potassium to the growing grass plant.

Episode 7

Advice and tips on udder health

On this week’s show we focus on udder health. Don Crowley, mastitis expert and dairy advisor based at Teagasc Clonakilty, talks through the common strains of mastitis identified in Ireland and the declining trend of somatic cell count in the national dairy herd.

According to Don, good milking procedure will contribute to lower SCC in early lactation. Furthermore, research has shown elevated somatic cell count leads to lower profitability, resulting from lower milk production, higher culling rates and veterinary treatment costs.

Episode 6

Dairy Breeding

On this week’s show we focus on dairy breeding with Morgan O’Sullivan, PhD researcher from Teagasc, who explains the differences he has observed between dairy cows with elite and average EBI. Morgan talks through the differences in milk production, fertility and longevity of elite and average dairy cows, and the consequences for profitability.

Episode 5

Spring Grassland Management

On this week’s show the focus is on spring grassland management with Michael Egan, Grassland Research Officer from Teagasc and Micheal O’Leary, Co-ordinator of PastureBase Ireland on the PastureBase/Agrinet merger

Michael Egan, Grassland Research Officer from Teagasc talks through the spring rotation planner, with an emphasis on the target of having 30% grazed by March 1st and the consequences of not achieving this. Weather conditions continue to present a challenge on farms this week and Michael considers methods of restricted access grazing in order to maintain grass as a primary feed source in the diet of dairy cows.

Micheal O’Leary, Co-ordinator of PastureBase Ireland explains what is involved in the PastureBase/Agrinet merger. The two grassland management software’s are currently merging to make a one larger centralised grassland database.

Micheal also takes the opportunity to fill us in on some interesting trends he has observed from farmers who measure grass using the PastureBase grassland measurement tool. Additionally, farmers that use PastureBase Ireland have access to weekly growth rates from all Teagasc research farms.

Episode 4

This week’s episode of The Dairy Edge podcast focuses on feeding dairy cows in early lactation.

Brian Garry, Nutrition Specialist from Teagasc Moorepark, explains the rapidly increasing energy requirements of dairy cows after calving, the intake capacity of freshly calved cows and the ideal diet to maximise energy intake.

Aidan Lawless, Farm Manager of the Teagasc Johnstown Castle Dairy Herd gives a breakdown of the mixed calving dairy herd at Johnstown Castle. He talks us through the diet and milk production of the autumn calving herd and gives an insight into how their breeding season is going so far.

Episode 3

On this week's Dairy Edge podcast Emma-Louise Coffey gets expert advice on caring for new-born calves from Teagasc’s Emer Kennedy.  Emer stresses the importance of colostrum management and feeding, while discussing key management practices to ensure maximum growth in young calves.

Episode 2

Pat Clarke from Teagasc Athenry has tips on how to reduce the heavy spring workload. He also outlines a labour survey that includes over 1,000 dairy farms (75 discussion groups), explaining the differences in work practices between the average and top 5% farmers included in the study.

Kieran Kelleher from Curtin's Research Farm, Teagasc Moorepark, explains what preparation is being put in place for the upcoming calving season. At Curtin's Farm, 150 cows will calf this spring, with 130 cows (86%) of the herd calving in the first 6 weeks of the calving season.

And John Maher, Campaign Manager of Grass 10, explains the initiative and sets out practical steps that famers can take to reach the Grass 10 objectives of 10 tonne grass DM per ha/year utilised and 10 grazings per paddocks/year.

Episode 1

On our first show, we focus on spring fertiliser and fodder.  David Wall, Research Officer from Teagasc Johnstown Castle talks about best practice fertiliser application during the spring period. He debates the best fertiliser type to spread in the first few months of the year. Additionally, he quantifies the value of slurry in terms of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium content.

John Leahy, Dairy Farmer from Athea, Co Limerick explains what he is doing to prepare for the busy spring calving period. John’s farm is classified as heavy and grazing conditions are difficult in February.  Consequently, John begins calving on February 10th and from there 90% of cows will calve within six weeks.

Fodder supplies are in short supply on some dairy farms this January, resulting from failure to make second cut silage and/or early housing due to deteriorating weather and soil conditions in the autumn of 2017. Brian Garry, Ruminant Nutrition Specialist from Teagasc Moorepark gave us some tips on how to stretch forage between now and turnout to grass.