The best time to stop AI

Decide on your last calving date in 2013, with a view to tightening up the calving pattern.

Decide on your last calving date in 2013, with a view to tightening up the calving pattern.

If you are serious about eliminating late calving which is very uneconomic, the following dates should be set as the absolute limit on ending the breeding season; dry land on 18 July and late land on 25 July. Scan all cows during the first week of July if not already done. This will help to reduce culling. You will be able to identify cows not in calf, and under veterinary advice, take remedial action. You will then have one last chance to get those cows in calf.

With 2-3 weeks of the breeding season remaining vigilance is required to identify all bulling cows. The pay off will be great with fewer cows not in calf and less cull cows. So continue to look for the signs of cows coming in heat and continue to tail paint. Put a chin-ball on the stock bull so as to identify the expected calving date.

Good replacement calves

Calf weight at 6 months has a major influence on bulling weight, therefore, assess the situation and take action. In many cases first calvers are yielding 500-1000 litres of milk below their potential, mainly because they are too small at calving. Research has shown that moderate calves on 1st July can make good weanlings on 1st November if grazing management between July and November is good. If you have them on good grass they will gain 0.8 kgs/day.

Practice the Leader-Follower system. Calves graze in front of the big cattle and will “do” really well while the cattle will also perform well. Don’t graze too tight and top if necessary. Parasites will have no effect on the calves. Alternatively let the calves graze some of the cow paddocks. Turn them into covers of 900-1,100 Kgs DM, let them graze out the area in 3-4 days and move on. Some farmers let them graze in front of cows, moving out of the cow paddock 3-4days before the cows are due to graze the paddock. The calves spend 2 days in the paddock with the result they only graze the tips of the leaf, therefore, they make great progress.

All farms have late, “weak” calves. How do you manage them to gain most weight? Let these graze in front of the main bunch of calves on the very best of grass. If that isn’t possible give them fresh grass in front of cows or cattle. 1-2 Kgs of meal could be justified to these but don’t keep them near the house in a “calf paddock” to feed meals because parasites will prevent thrive. Another option is to put 2 small calves in each cow paddock and leave them there, even as cows come to the paddock. They will thrive really well and no meal or dosing is needed.

This is called the “buddy-buddy” system of management; all
you need are 2 strands of wire.

It is best to give good quality grass and no meals than to give them poor quality grass with meals. Move calves into after grass, particularly on outside farms and keep them on it for as long as possible. No meals should be fed to strong calves. The response is poor, requiring 8 Kgs of meal to give 1 Kg weight gain. To prevent stomach worms with minimum dosing, give a white or yellow dose in early July and move to aftergrass for as long as possible.

Water is essential

Lack of sufficient water will cause serious stress to all livestock during the dry spell. Milk yield will be reduced, SCC will increase and weight gain will suffer. A milking cow requires up to 40 gallons of water per day. To supply enough water a flow rate of 3-4 gallons/cow/hour to troughs is required. Trough size should be at least 2 gallons per cow, e.g. for 50 cows you need 100 gallons, 150 cows 300 gallons,

Pipe size is critical for good supply. The main pipe should be 1-1½ inches, the larger size for larger herd. The pipe from main supply line to water troughs should be 1-1.25inches in large herds. Where the supply is marginal, extra water must be supplied at or near the milking parlour.

To save on water usage water from the plate cooler should be collected and made available for cows. Reduce the quantity of water used for power washing of collecting yards by scraping the slurry off the yard.

Target correct grass covers - To maintain the highest quality grass and minimise topping, grass cover should match stocking rate and rotation length.

Teagasc Moorepark Milk Quality Tool to assist standards on farms

A new tool to improve milk quality standards has recently been developed at Teagasc, Moorepark. It comprises a series of video clips showing critical stages of the milking process and provides guidelines and recommendations for the production of high quality milk.

This user friendly tool provides valuable information on all aspects of quality milk production (e.g., TBC, SCC and residues). Specific topics addressed include: milking management on smaller (12 unit parlour) and larger (24 unit parlour) farms; and milking management on farms with adequate labour (two-people milking) and those with some automation (automatic cluster removers and cluster flushing).

A critical prerequisite for the manufacture of quality dairy products is to start with milk of the highest quality. The milk quality criteria requested by milk processors and by customers generally are becoming more strict and rigorous. This tool will help inform milk producers on improved quality milk particularly in light of new pressures from expansion of herds and the reality of reduced labour supply.

The tool will also be of benefit to milk quality advisors, veterinarians and milking machine manufacturers. The video series and additional information on the chemical composition of cleaning products and procedures for cleaning equipment can be accessed at: Videos can also be seen on the TeagascMedia YouTube channel: