How to approach the last three months of milk quotas

Co. Meath-based dairy farmer Joe Leonard is currently 32,552L over quota but he outlined his plans for the last few months of milk quotas at the recent Irish Grassland Association Dairy Conference.

“We’re already over quota but we see a number of positives. Our cow numbers give us economies of scale, we have good calving patterns, and we closed of with more grass than usual which will mean we will only need about 10t of concentrates to get up to April.

“We’ve come off a couple of good years of milk prices, so while 2015 won’t be good, it’s important to remember the positives.”

This time last year, he said, the farm was over quota also and they knew that 2014 would be a tight year, so they went to once-a-day (OAD) milking from the start of calving to April 5.

OAD milking benefits

The benefits he finds in OAD milking he said are:

  • Reduced spring work load;
  • Reduce loss of cow condition;
  • Increased fertility; and,
  • Time for grass measuring.

In 2015, he said, he is planning with a low milk price in mind, but warned farmers there were some corners they should not cut.

“The three places not to cut costs are: fertiliser; breeding; and, the family budget. But question all other costs.”

Reseeding, contractors, maintenance all should be looked at, he said.

Between now and the end of milk quotas he said the farm milk once a day, focus on grass and maintain cow fertility.

To do this, the farm has an average cover of 2,300kg DM/ha and 160 high-quality bales of silage which were deliberately kept for feeding this spring.

Last year’s experience, he said, of OAD milking and the little impact it had has helped remove worries about cow performance from April onwards when milk quotas are gone.

OAD milking, he said, would reduce volumes by 20-25% but milk solids should only be reduced by 15-17%.

Fertility, he said, on a dairy farm is key and because of this he refuses to cut on soil or cow fertility – as it can have far longer term consequences for the farm.

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