Advice on milking from the Greenfield Farm

AT the very well attended Greenfield Dairy farm walk in Clara last week the milking facilities attracted a lot of interest. Milking is the main chore on dairy farms. In the past, most dairy farmers focused on having about ten cows per milking unit and space for additional units was in many cases omitted. In future, there will be a requirement to have a milking parlour with a high output in terms of litres of milk produced per operator per hour of total milking process time. The number of milking units that an operator can safely handle is now a major issue and all forms of automation are being considered to reduce labour demand in milking parlours.

AT the very well attended Greenfield Dairy farm walk in Clara last week the milking facilities attracted a lot of interest. Milking is the main chore on dairy farms. In the past, most dairy farmers focused on having about ten cows per milking unit and space for additional units was in many cases omitted. In future, there will be a requirement to have a milking parlour with a high output in terms of litres of milk produced per operator per hour of total milking process time. The number of milking units that an operator can safely handle is now a major issue and all forms of automation are being considered to reduce labour demand in milking parlours.

Over 23 per cent of herds in Ireland now exceed 100 cows and this is likely to further increase driven by the abolition of the milk quota system in 2015. Against this background, many farmers are milking in unsuitable milking parlours and need to invest in a new parlour to suit their needs. With high labour costs, including problems accessing skilled labour, the recent trend has been to install milking parlours with a greater number of units to be handled by one operator. Installing a new milking parlour with associated infrastructure is an expensive, once in a generation investment and must be planned carefully.

Key Points

l Plan new milking facilities carefully paying particular attention to specifications set out by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Teagasc/ IMQCS Recommendations for the Installation and Testing of Milking Machines.

l Plan to milk (cups on/off) the expanded herd in no more than 1 hour 30 mins.

l It is recommended to change milking liners after 2,000 cow milkings or six months whichever comes first. Milk yield losses of about 5pc occur if liners are not changed.

l It is better to focus on having adequate milking units at the expense of high levels of automation. Plan to add automation at a later date.

l Plate cooling can reduce milk cooling costs by 50 per cent.

l Bulk tanks should be sized to allow for an expanded herd.

l A minimum hot water requirement is 9 litres of 80°C water per milking unit for each hot wash cycle plus a reserve for bulk tank washing, typically 1-2 per cent of the total volume of the tank.

Lessons from the Greenfield Farm: Milking Infrastructure

1) Construction of a new milking facility requires the co-ordination of a large range of suppliers and contractors; this takes time and planning. Allow at least six months for planning and a further six months for construction.

2) A good cow flow set-up has a much bigger effect on milking efficiency than investment in automation: critical cow flow factors are orientation of parlour, good milking routine, separation of lame cows and good farm roadways

3) In a seasonal system the labour requirement in the milking process will vary enormously, requiring flexibility in working routine; in busy periods it is not necessary to use all clusters, thereby saving the requirement for cluster removers.

4) Operation of a separate herd of mastitis/high SCC cows milked after the main herd was the most critical factor in controlling the spread of mastitis.

Nitrogen use

You should now be on your 4th Nitrogen round in May. If not, you are short of N in the soil and will not grow enough grass to have adequate area closed for 1st cut silage. You must know your overall farm stocking rate to make sure you stay within your N compliance limits.

The amount of Nitrogen to use depends on stocking rate (S.R.):

0.95 - 1.03 acres per livestock unit: 44 units per acre.

1.07 - 1.12 acres per livestock unit: 28 units per acre

1.18 acres per livestock unit: 23 units per acre

1.24 + acres per livestock unit: 14-16 units per acre

CAN should be used at this stage as ground conditions are very dry. All this nitrogen can be applied over the whole farm on one day. This saves labour and there will only be a very small Very small reduction in grass yield compared to spreading after each grazing, which is very demanding on labour each day. It also makes it more practical to apply the lower application rates that are advised for the remainder of the year.

From the middle of May start using Sulphur on light sulphur deficient soils, particularly if the weather is dry. Use 20-25 units/acre over the whole summer, either in small quantities (5unit/application) or all in one go now. It will increase summer grass yield by10-50 %, depending on soil type.

A missed heat costs Advice on milking facilities from the Greenfield Farm

At the very well attended Greenfield Dairy farm walk in Clara, Co. Kilkenny last week the milking facilities attracted a lot of interest. Milking is the main chore on dairy farms. In the past, most dairy farmers focused on having about ten cows per milking unit and space for additional units was in many cases omitted. In future, there will be a requirement to have a milking parlour with a high output in terms of litres of milk produced per operator per hour of total milking process time. The number of milking units that an operator can safely handle is now a major issue and all forms of automation are being considered to reduce labour demand in milking parlours. Over 23 per cent of herds in Ireland now exceed 100 cows and this is likely to further increase driven by the abolition of the milk quota system in 2015. Against this background, many farmers are milking in unsuitable milking parlours and need to invest in a new parlour to suit their needs. With high labour costs, including problems accessing skilled labour, the recent trend has been to install milking parlours with a greater number of units to be handled by one operator. Installing a new milking parlour with associated infrastructure is an expensive, once in a generation investment and must be planned carefully.

Key Points

l Plan new milking facilities carefully paying particular attention to specifications set out by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Teagasc/ IMQCS Recommendations for the Installation and Testing of Milking Machines.

l Plan to milk (cups on/off) the expanded herd in no more than 1 hour 30 mins.

l It is recommended to change milking liners after 2,000 cow milkings or six months whichever comes first. Milk yield losses of about 5pc occur if liners are not changed.

l It is better to focus on having adequate milking units at the expense of high levels of automation. Plan to add automation at a later date.

l Plate cooling can reduce milk cooling costs by 50 per cent.

l Bulk tanks should be sized to allow for an expanded herd.

l A minimum hot water requirement is 9 litres of 80°C water per milking unit for each hot wash cycle plus a reserve for bulk tank washing, typically 1-2 per cent of the total volume of the tank.

Lessons from the Greenfield Farm: Milking Infrastructure

1) Construction of a new milking facility requires the co-ordination of a large range of suppliers and contractors; this takes time and planning. Allow at least six months for planning and a further six months for construction.

2) A good cow flow set-up has a much bigger effect on milking efficiency than investment in automation: critical cow flow factors are orientation of parlour, good milking routine, separation of lame cows and good farm roadways

3) In a seasonal system the labour requirement in the milking process will vary enormously, requiring flexibility in working routine; in busy periods it is not necessary to use all clusters, thereby saving the requirement for cluster removers.

4) Operation of a separate herd of mastitis/high SCC cows milked after the main herd was the most critical factor in controlling the spread of mastitis.

Nitrogen use

You should now be on your 4th Nitrogen round in May. If not, you are short of N in the soil and will not grow enough grass to have adequate area closed for 1st cut silage. You must know your overall farm stocking rate to make sure you stay within your N compliance limits.

The amount of Nitrogen to use depends on stocking rate (S.R.):

0.95 - 1.03 acres per livestock unit: 44 units per acre.

1.07 - 1.12 acres per livestock unit: 28 units per acre

1.18 acres per livestock unit: 23 units per acre

1.24 + acres per livestock unit: 14-16 units per acre

CAN should be used at this stage as ground conditions are very dry. All this nitrogen can be applied over the whole farm on one day. This saves labour and there will only be a very small Very small reduction in grass yield compared to spreading after each grazing, which is very demanding on labour each day. It also makes it more practical to apply the lower application rates that are advised for the remainder of the year.

From the middle of May start using Sulphur on light sulphur deficient soils, particularly if the weather is dry. Use 20-25 units/acre over the whole summer, either in small quantities (5unit/application) or all in one go now. It will increase summer grass yield by10-50 %, depending on soil type.

A missed heat costs E250

May is the most important month on the farm in the whole year. A missed heat now will cost you E250 in lost profits next year, therefore you can’t become complacent in identifying bulling cows. Getting cows in-calf requires an enormous amount of time. Are you applying all the techniques to identify bulling cows? Let me briefly remind you how difficult it is for you to identify bulling cows, because some farmers do not believe they ever miss a bulling cow.

Each cow’s bulling lasts 2-30 hours, averaging 10 hours but interruptions, such as dogs and milking, stop bulling activity with the result it may be shorter.

Bulling cows are mounted 3-30 times, averaging 9 or 10.

A cow is identified as bulling when she stands to be mounted and she only stands for 2-3 seconds (very short period). You only have 20-40 seconds to see a bulling cow standing to be mounted. Therefore, you need help and you must know when is the best time to observe cows bulling.

You should observe cows at least twice, other than milking times, at 7.00a.m., when 30% of cows exhibit bulling, and 9.00p.m., when 40% of cows come bulling. By using heat detection aids, such as tail paint, many farmers have reduced heat observation down to one 20 minute period per day.

You must spend 20 minutes at each observation, identifying and noting (in a notebook) bulling cows, cows coming into heat and cows going off heat. Tail paint, correctly applied (9 x 2”), is an absolute essential. A vasectomised bull with a chin-ball is also extremely useful, but do not introduce him until week 4 of the breeding season. You need one for every 30 expected bulling cows.

A stock bull might appear to be the ideal solution but:

Daughters by a stock bull are E110 less profitable for every year of their milking life compared to a high EBI AI bull.

A stock bull costs E1,000 - E1,500 per year in feed costs, opportunity costs and depreciation costs. One bull per 20-25 cows is recommended, which results in a cost of E40 - E60 per cow.

One bull in 10 is infertile, while one bull in three becomes infertile periodically throughout the year.

Many farmers use stock bulls at the end of the season to ‘clean up’. Unfortunately, long gestation bulls make the breeding season more scattered.

Finally, stock bulls do maim and kill humans, so be careful.

If possible, walk stock bulls or vasectomised bulls long distances from fields to the parlour.

Try to put them into the fresh grass (be careful) while cows are gone for milking. Also, if they wear a chin ball they are inclined to raddle some cows on the roadway or in the collecting yard which may confuse you.

A major cause of poor conception rate is the cows moving from one plane of nutrition (energy in diet) to a lower nutrition level the next two weeks after bulling. This can happen inadvertently on a farm; cows may go onto stemmy grass, may be made graze tighter, weather may become wet resulting in inadequate levels of grass intakes or cows may have been on too high a meal level for the two weeks before bulling and reduced afterwards. You need to make sure that the level of nutrition is kept as constant as possible.

Money for Dairy Efficiency Programme being paid out

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has announced that that payment under the Dairy Efficiency Programme has begun issuing to successful participants. The qualifying payment for each participant is E975 as there were more than 6,000 successful participants. The programme continues in 2011 and has been very successful in getting new technology adopted on dairy farms through the medium of discussion groups.

Important Event

A Teagasc Sheep Farm Walk will take place on the farm of Sean Quirke, Whitepark, Ballyfoyle, Co. Kilkenny on Friday, May 20th at 11.00 am. Teagasc advisers and specialists will discuss maximising lamb performance from grass, parasite control pre weaning and weed control on sheep pastures. All are welcome.250

May is the most important month on the farm in the whole year. A missed heat now will cost you E250 in lost profits next year, therefore you can’t become complacent in identifying bulling cows. Getting cows in-calf requires an enormous amount of time. Are you applying all the techniques to identify bulling cows? Let me briefly remind you how difficult it is for you to identify bulling cows, because some farmers do not believe they ever miss a bulling cow.

Each cow’s bulling lasts 2-30 hours, averaging 10 hours but interruptions, such as dogs and milking, stop bulling activity with the result it may be shorter.

Bulling cows are mounted 3-30 times, averaging 9 or 10.

A cow is identified as bulling when she stands to be mounted and she only stands for 2-3 seconds (very short period). You only have 20-40 seconds to see a bulling cow standing to be mounted. Therefore, you need help and you must know when is the best time to observe cows bulling.

You should observe cows at least twice, other than milking times, at 7.00a.m., when 30% of cows exhibit bulling, and 9pm, when 40% of cows come bulling. By using heat detection aids, such as tail paint, many farmers have reduced heat observation down to one 20 minute period per day.

You must spend 20 minutes at each observation, identifying and noting (in a notebook) bulling cows, cows coming into heat and cows going off heat. Tail paint, correctly applied (9 x 2”), is an absolute essential. A vasectomised bull with a chin-ball is also extremely useful, but do not introduce him until week 4 of the breeding season. You need one for every 30 expected bulling cows.

A stock bull might appear to be the ideal solution but:

Daughters by a stock bull are E110 less profitable for every year of their milking life compared to a high EBI AI bull.

A stock bull costs E1,000 - E1,500 per year in feed costs, opportunity costs and depreciation costs. One bull per 20-25 cows is recommended, which results in a cost of E40 - E60 per cow.

One bull in 10 is infertile, while one bull in three becomes infertile periodically throughout the year.

Many farmers use stock bulls at the end of the season to ‘clean up’. Unfortunately, long gestation bulls make the breeding season more scattered.

Finally, stock bulls do maim and kill humans, so be careful.

If possible, walk stock bulls or vasectomised bulls long distances from fields to the parlour.

Try to put them into the fresh grass (be careful) while cows are gone for milking. Also, if they wear a chin ball they are inclined to raddle some cows on the roadway or in the collecting yard which may confuse you.

A major cause of poor conception rate is the cows moving from one plane of nutrition (energy in diet) to a lower nutrition level the next two weeks after bulling. This can happen inadvertently on a farm; cows may go onto stemmy grass, may be made graze tighter, weather may become wet resulting in inadequate levels of grass intakes or cows may have been on too high a meal level for the two weeks before bulling and reduced afterwards. You need to make sure that the level of nutrition is kept as constant as possible.

Money for Dairy Efficiency Programme being paid out

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney has announced that that payment under the Dairy Efficiency Programme has begun issuing to successful participants. The qualifying payment for each participant is E975 as there were more than 6,000 successful participants. The programme continues in 2011 and has been very successful in getting new technology adopted on dairy farms through the medium of discussion groups.

Farm walk in Ballyfoyle

A Teagasc Sheep Farm Walk will take place on the farm of Sean Quirke, Whitepark, Ballyfoyle on Friday, May 20 at 11am. Teagasc advisers and specialists will discuss maximising lamb performance from grass, parasite control pre weaning and weed control on sheep pastures. All are welcome.