Dairy cows have been dried off over recent weeks in excellent condition, according to Gerard McMahon, Teagasc’s Regional Manager for Cork East.

“This reflects the excellent grazing conditions that stock have experienced throughout all of 2014,” he commented.

“And this should set dairy cows up well for the year ahead.”

Gerard anticipates that dairy cows will start calving down again around the middle of January with the main push to come towards the end of the month.

“Herds may well start calving a week or so earlier in 2015,” he said.

“This is a consequence of the tremendous conception rates achieved on most farms during the first three weeks of the breeding season. In tandem with this, many herdowners are now using shorter gestation length bulls.

“The earlier the cows calve: the better the utilisation of grazed grass throughout the spring and summer months.”

Mindful that many farmers will be very conscious of their quota situation during the first three months of 2015, the Teagasc representative believes that milking fresh cows once a day is an option in this context.

“This approach will help to maintain cows’ body condition. And this is crucially important when it comes to ensuring that milk output can be maximised once we get into the months of April and May,” McMahon commented.

“We are also advising milk producers to feed a 14% to 15% protein concentrate to their fresh cows next year. This will serve to keep a lid on milk volumes. But it will also ensure that body condition scores are maintained.

“Farmers learned to their cost back in 2009 that keeping flesh on cows during early lactation is fundamentally important when it comes to determining subsequent production and fertility-related performance.”

Where grassland management is concerned McMahon is advising clients to start spreading urea at the rate of half a bag per acre, from the middle of January on.

“Dry, south-facing fields that have been re-seeded in recent years will benefit for this approach. Application rates can be built up gradually throughout the month of January,” he said.