Cow choice post 2015

Cow choice for post milk quota removal in 2015 was discussed at yesterday’s Irish Grassland Association dairy conference in Kilkenny.

Two top dairy farmers with different systems outlined why they have made their choices and their targets going forward.

Crossbred cow

Shane Chambers from Cork operates a low to medium input system using crossbred cows. He believes his cows are more profitable and have fewer health problems.

In 2006 on Chamber’s farm started to milk his first crossbred cows. He said: “We found the Jerseys were outperforming the Friesians on milk solids year on year to a significant amount.”

His decision to go down the crossbred route was also motivated by herd health. He noted: “We have a lot fewer health problems. We don’t have cows going down at calving. They are up straight away into the milking parlour and out into the field.”

His targets for the next five to 10 years:

• Shorten the breeding season to 11 weeks.
• Submission rates 95 to 100 per cent, empty five per cent, replacement rate 18 per cent.
• Plans to do five weeks of AI, followed by six weeks of a high EBI stock bull.
• I am not yet convinced by sexed semen.
• Plans to have a fertility sub index of 140.
• The target is 450kg of milk solids per cow.
“My post quota cow will be a cross bred cow with a €200 plus EBI with a strong fertility sub index. Looking for a calf per cow per year. that will produce a good net return for me,” he said,

Chambers also noted: “The industry needs to keep an emphasis on health and fertility traits. I’m not convinced by the current push towards milk,” he said.

Black and White

In the opposite camp was Jim Delahunty who is farming in Tipperary. He outlined his reasons for not going down the crossbred route saying: “To my mind the main benefit to crossbreeding is to improve herd fertility.”

“My herd both now and historically has had good fertility so I didn’t feel the need to change on that bases. I felt the genetic gain going into the future would be greater with black and white. Also I have a smaller milking platform so the advantage of small cows with long walks wasn’t an issue for me.”

Delahunty cited: “In terms of solids I had a fear if I went for a smaller cow I wouldn’t get the 500kg milk solids target, I have set for the farm. I felt there was enough variation in the black and white breed to deliver a cow that could work efficiently on a grass-based system,” he added.

Delahunty’s targets for his farm post quota are as follows:

• Healthy cow, low calving difficulty.
• High fertility.
• Producing 500kg milk solids.
• Cow that lasts six lactations.
• Herd that calves down in 10 weeks

Profit per ha

Also speaking at the conference yesterday was Paidi Kelly of Teagasc. His presentation focused on the drivers of profit per ha on dairy farms examining the best farmers and what makes them the best.

According to Kelly, with quotas going in 2015, the amount of milk farmers produce will no longer be a limiting factor on farms.

With this being the case he said the profit per ha will be a more accurate way of determining farm profitability over taking profit per litre.

Of note in his presentation, Kelly outlined that current research has indicated on dairy farms that are expanding as more cows are milked on a given area often profit per litre or profit per cow is reduced while in contrast profit per ha increases.

More reports from yesterday’s Irish Grassland Association dairy conference to follow

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