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Reduce milking workload in early lactation

Reduce milking workload in early lactation

Once-a-day (OAD) milking in early lactation can help reduce workload during spring calving.

Moorepark research shows that initially there is a 20% reduction in yield, but when cows switch back to twice a day (TAD), yields recover quickly. By week 35 of lactation there is only a 2% difference in yield between cows that got four weeks of OAD and those that were milked TAD for the full year. At farm level there should be no difference in yield due to three to four weeks of OAD in spring, as not all cows will be on OAD for four weeks, unlike in the experiment.

Labour survey

Labour survey data shows a low uptake of OAD milking in February. Increased SCC is a genuine reason for not practising OAD. The practice is not recommended for herds that have an annual SCC of higher than 200,000 cells/ml. Look at your milk recording results for last year and see if this practice worth trying this February. Of the main reasons given in Table 1 for not practising OAD milking in February, habit was not included. Some farms that practise OAD for February milk in the morning and others milk in the middle of the day. The important thing is consistency. 

Table 1: Dairy discussion group members with 120-cow herd size on why they do or do not practise OAD milking in February

Reasons for not practising OAD in February Reason for practising OAD in February
  • SCC will increase.
  • SCC below 200,000 cells/ml annually.
  • Not that busy in February.
  • Takes pressure off in evening.
  • Takes longer to milk in morning.
  • Frees evening for cow/calf care.
  • Milking freshly calved cow/s anyway.
  • Easy to milk one/two cows.
  • Feed all whole milk to calves.
  • Milk replacer or have separate storage for whole milk in the evening.

Read the full Teagasc Dairy February 2024 Newsletter here