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Animal Health and Milk Quality Central to Future Success of Irish Dairy Industry

High animal health status is key to trade and international market access and gives Irish milk producers and processors a competitive advantage. This was the main message to emerge from the Teagasc ICOS Dairy Expansion Seminar held in the Horse and Jockey on Friday 23rd January. The theme of the seminar was “Animal Health and Milk Quality at Farm and Industry Levels”.

Aaron Forde, CEO Aurivo and Chairman of the Irish Dairy Board acknowledged the central role that Irish milk producers play in current product positioning on international markets. “A premium quality product, such as Kerrygold butter on the German market, is only possible because of our premium raw material.” He challenged dairy farmers and others supporting the dairy industry to continuously seek ways to improve our animal health and milk quality status. He said:”We must guard against complacency in these areas as we are seeing the emergence of a more knowledgeable and demanding customer. Meeting existing quality standards is unlikely to be enough in the future”.

Joe O’Flaherty, CEO Animal Health Ireland, highlighted the decline in milk SCC level in the national herd. “This is a very positive development and will lead to additional revenues for both the primary producer and the processor in the future. The challenge is to maintain this positive trend as milk production and herd sizes increase once EU Milk Quotas are removed”, he concluded.

John Mee, Teagasc Moorepark, highlighted the cost of different infectious diseases to dairy farmers emphasising that “there is a positive cost/ benefit ratio to the control of most infectious diseases”. He advised dairy farmers: “Establish the disease status of your herd. Then use the results to decide on an appropriate control strategy. Control programmes are farm-specific but can include vaccination programmes, culling and changes in farm management.”

The importance of disease screening and surveillance was emphasised by Donal Sammin, DAFM Laboratory Services. “DAFM results indicate that three out of five post-mortem calves submitted have received insufficient colostrum. Ensuring that every calf born receives 3 litres of colostrum within two hours of birth is proven to reduce the likelihood of sick calves and to improve calf thrive.”

Three dairy farmers participated in a ‘farmer forum’ session identifying key practices which they have used to improve herd health on their farms. These included: participation in a herd health screening programme; getting the right people to give you the right advice; having management protocols in place for dealing with animal purchase, calf rearing , routine dosing etc. and the feeding of adequate amounts of colostrum so as to give heifer calves (your future cows) the best possible start in life.