Once a Day milking is a way of dairying that has become increasingly popular worldwide, with many Irish farmers now contemplating making the switch. But what does it involve? What are the benefits and potential issues? And how will the profit margins be affected?
Teagasc recently held their Once a Day (OAD) milking seminar at the Horse & Jockey Hotel in Co. Tipperary (January 12th) offering farmers information on all aspects of making the switch to OAD.
But why make the change?
There are many different reasons to make the switch from OAD to Twice a Day (TAD) milking, the first of which is for farmers to gain a better life outside the farm gate.
As it obvious, switching from TAD to OAD also saves on labour with up to 300 less milkings per year and 2.5 hours less labour per day! Many farmers have undertaken the switch so they can work off-farm and ensure the future of their farming enterprises with extra funds.
Another reason for switching to OAD is fragmented land on farms. OAD eliminates the excess travel associated with herding the cows from paddocks located far away from the parlour.
But what are the risks?
As is the case with any business venture, there are always risks and potential issues.
The first major issue associated with changing to an OAD system is the hit to farm incomes for the first 2-3 year period. According to Teagasc Dairy Specialist, George Ramsbottom, a recent case study on a 125-cow milking herd switching from TAD to OAD milking showed that the cost of transitioning for the first three years was an average of €30,000.
He noted at the recent conference that this subsequently dropped to €18,000 per year as the herd adapted to the change-over. This is due in part to the high replacement rate.
‘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.” He said at the recent conference.
“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 was also speaking at the event and informed attendees of 2017 Teagasc eProfit Monitor results for a group of OAD farmers. The results showed that the profitability of OAD farms in comparison to TAD-run systems was €100 less per cow and up to €200 less per hectare.
“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” he explained.
“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’. He stated.
It is not all doom and gloom in terms of profit margins and making the switch as after the original transition period of 2-3 years, you should witness significant cost reductions. The results of a case study on a 124-cow OAD dairy herd presented at the seminar showed that Vets costs (cost/LU) dropped from €102 to €90. AI costs were also down (-€3) and labour and power costs also witnessed decreases (-€11 and €11).
|TAD (Cost/Lu)||OAD (Cost/Lu)||Reduction|
Other issues -
Other issues farmers are likely to encounter are Mastitis control issues and trial and error when it comes to breeding.
Mastitis becomes a problem at the start due to fewer milkings occurring. This also means any infection is not going to be noticed as quickly as in a TAD system, impacting the cure rate. Post-dipping with barrier dips, conference attendees were informed, proved very effective for SCC and Mastitis control.
When making the switch, farmers are urged to milk record a few years prior, so they can identify any low-yielding, High SCC cows to cull from the herd. Farmers should also identify and cull any animals with poor udders or which are slow milkers.
Breeding was also focused on at the recent Teagasc Once a Day milking seminar, with Dairy farmer, Donal O’Loughlin, from Ballymacarby in Co. Tipperary stating that he found a 50/50 Jersey/Friesian cross at a weight of 500kgs was the ideal cow for OAD. Breeding should hold extra importance within the herd and the breeding of high-quality replacements should be a priority for farmers.
Donal explained that he had previously experimented with genetics from Norwegian Reds, Swedish Reds and Jersey and Kiwi crosses.
Conclusions and tips -
In conclusion, making the switch to and OAD system will save you up to 300 milkings per year or two and a half hours per day!
This would not only give farmers the ample opportunity to rest and reclaim their social life but also source extra work off-farm. Though making the switch will dent the funds during the transition phase, these costs should reduce after a few years.
Get further information on the recent OAD seminar and speakers involved via the Teagasc website here.