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Dairy Newsletter - December 2023

08 December 2023
Type Newsletter

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In this month's edition:

  • Top five tips for December
    • Feed your best quality silage to weanling heifers. Heifers need 73+ DMD plus 1kg high quality concentrate to meet growth targets. If silage is lower quality, 2kg+ concentrate is needed. 
    • This year has been difficult for costs – cash will be tight next spring. Complete a cash flow for four to six months and examine your costs using profit monitor. 
    • Worm, fluke and lice burdens – are they under control for your stock? Some farms are reporting issues with lice burden this year and this will affect thrive. 
    • Are you sorted for extra help next spring? It is a good time to introduce new part-time workers to the farm.
    • Finally, most dairy farmers will be glad to see the back of 2023. Many challenges have been laid at the door of dairy farmers this year, but like before they will be met with ingenuity and a partnership approach. 
  • Key points on mineral specifications for dry cows
    • Dry cows should receive at least six weeks of dry cow minerals 
    • Magnesium (Mg) is essential for milk fever prevention – target 22-25% on the label;
    • phosphorus (P) should be 2-4% (high if low- P silage is being fed); 
    • vitamin D should be at least 120,000-150,000 units per kg;
    • vitamin E should be 600-1,000 units per kg;
    • use a mineral with high levels of trace minerals (selenium (Se), copper (Cu), iodine (I), cobalt (Co), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn)) to promote health and immunity; and,
    • include protected trace minerals where there is a history of issues or if the silage has a high iron (Fe) and/or sulphur (S) content.
  • Breeding tips for winter milk herds
    • Identify a start and end date for the coming breeding season. For the majority of winter milk herds (<50% liquid contract) starting to calve in October will suffice to meet contract targets. 
    • Use the Sire Advice tool on Herdplus to develop your team of bulls, create a mating plan and avoid any inbreeding. 
    • Using your herd records. Identify the lower performing cows in the herd. Either mark them for culling or breed them to high-DBI beef bulls. Do not breed your replacements from cows with low milk solids, poor
      temperament, poor fertility, high somatic cell count (SCC), lameness, etc.
    • Select a panel of high Economic Breeding Index (EBI) (>€300) bulls from the active bull list (more than seven bulls for a herd of up to 100 cows). Your bull team should be balanced for both the milk (>€100) and fertility (>€120) sub-index. 
    • The health sub-index has shown a direct correlation to SCC performance; therefore, select bulls that are positive for health, with a team average >€5.
    • Avoid extremes with regard to type/conformation in order to breed a medium-sized, functional cow that will last in the herd. 
    • Select two to three bulls within your bull team with low calving ease proofs for use on your replacement heifers.
    • Target to breed all replacement heifers in the first 10 days of the breeding season. A simple synchronisation programme will help achieve this.
  • Solar energy opportunities for dairy farms
    Electricity costs on dairy farms have increased rapidly over the last two years. The guide cost is €12.00 per 1,000 litres of milk sold or an average consumption of 25,000kWh/year per 100 cows (excludes domestic usage). Solar panels have potential on some farms to help reduce this cost.
  • 12 steps to reducing emissions
    Over 12 months, the Teagasc advisory newsletters will outline one action per month farmers can take to reduce their emissions. This month the focus is on step 12 incorporate white clover into grassland swards.
  • Health and Safety - Staying safe over Christmas
    It is important to be mindful of the safety of children during this time. Ensure there is a safe secure play area in place when children are outside. When children are in the farmyard they must always be supervised. Easy to read danger signs should be in place and these signs should be explained to children.