‘A May-calving cow will cost you €200/head more compared to a February calver’

Late-calving cows or stragglers as they are often known as can be commonly found in dairy herds and, in some cases, many farmers are guilty of keeping them on for another year.

According to Teagasc, over the last two years, 27% of the national dairy herd have calved in April, May and June – which is well above the target of no more than 10% of cows should be calving in April and none in May or June.

Talking about the consequences of holding onto these late-calving cows, Teagasc advisor John McCabe said: “There are a few consequences. I suppose the main one is the extra cost of milking these late-calving cows.

Compared to a February-calved cow, an April calver will cost you €150/head more to milk. A May calver will cost €200/head more and it’s nearly €300/head more for a June calver.

“These costs come in the form of extra silage, meal and overheads – such as running the bulk tank and milking machine.

“Ultimately, farmers that are calving a large proportion of their cows in April up until June aren’t too concerned about calving them down during that period because they can’t directly see that money that they are losing.

“Although, what they can see is the potential loss of income if they didn’t milk these cows on through the winter period.

“People with lots of these late calvers sell a lot of their milk throughout the winter period because they have to.

“If a farmer is not milking over the winter, for example, if they are drying off at the start, or the middle, of December then there is a lot of milk lost by calving cows down in May and June.”