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Full house at Teagasc’s once a Day Milking Conference

Expansion of the national herd and the challenge associated with sourcing and retaining labour on farms is causing farmers to look at different options to keep the workload manageable on dairy farms’.

Over two hundred dairy farmers attended Teagasc’s ‘Once A Day milking’ (OAD) conference held on Friday, 12 January, at the Horse and Jockey Hotel, Thurles, County Tipperary.  Responding to a growing level of interest in the OAD system, organiser of the Conference, Teagasc dairy advisor Brian Hilliard said: ‘We’re not surprised at the level of interest in OAD milking.  Expansion of the national herd and the challenge associated with sourcing and retaining labour on farms is causing farmers to look at different options to keep the workload manageable on dairy farms’. 

‘The increased risk of mastitis needs to be managed carefully and remains one the biggest risk factors.  Going OAD is not recommended if you’re herd cell count averaged more than 150,000 last year’, advised Don Crowley, Teagasc Business and Technology Dairy advisor.  Speaking at the event, Donagh Berry, Teagasc Researcher, Moorepark, evaluated the performance of cows on OAD farms and found that the EBI can be used to select suitable bulls for OAD herds. 

Donal O’Loughlin, a dairy farmer from Ballymacarbry, County Waterford, spoke of his experience with milking over 180 cows OAD producing 400 kg of milk solids in 2017.  ‘I’ve been milking OAD for the past 7 seasons.  Initially I adopted the OAD option for quota reasons but haven’t gone back to ‘Twice a day milking’ (TAD) because the OAD system means less walking for the cows, a more manageable workload for me and allowed me to spend more time with my young family’. 

Teagasc dairy specialist, George Ramsbottom presented a case study which compared the economics of a 125-cow dairy herd remaining in twice a day milking (TAD) or transitioning to OAD.  ‘The costs of transitioning to OAD were estimated to average €30,000 for the first three years as the herd adapted to the system change.  Thereafter the profitability gap narrowed to approximately €18,000 per year.  We’ve included a higher replacement rate and a 20% reduction in milk yield in the calculations in the first and second years of the analysis’. 

Brian Hilliard compared the 2017 Teagasc eProfit Monitor results for a group of established OAD dairy farmers.  ‘’They produced an average of almost 380 kg milk solids per cow, with just short of 9% fat and protein, combined with excellent fertility performance, and a 20% replacement rate.  From a profitability perspective, their costs of production were €920 per cow, with a net profit of €890.  Compared to their TAD counterparts, the profitability of the OAD farmers was €100 less per cow and €200 less per hectare’.  Concluding Brian said: ‘Many of the farmers considering the OAD option will need a two to three year lead in period.  They need to milk record to identify the high SCC cows and breed a larger number of suitable replacements as you can expect a higher replacement rate in the first couple of years.  As profitability is likely to be lower, at least in the first couple of years, careful budgeting will be needed to make sure that you can successfully transition to the system’.

Teagasc has identified three dairy advisors to support farmers considering the OAD option.  

Teagasc advisor Counties covered
Brian Hilliard, Teagasc Office, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford Waterford, Offaly, Wexford, Laois, Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Tipperary
Eoin Horgan, Teagasc Office, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare
Trevor Dunwoody, Teagasc Office, Monaghan Galway, Dublin, Sligo, Roscommon, Louth, Donegal, Longford, Cavan, Mayo, Westmeath, Monaghan, Meath, Leitrim

The presentations by the speakers at the conference are available at   https://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2018/once-a-day-milking-seminar.php

Of the attendance at the conference, an estimated 10% of attendees are practicing OAD, around 15% are considering switching to OAD in the next two years, and the remainder are still evaluating the option.