The vast majority of spring-calving herds have dried off their remaining cows and the dry period has begun – so now seems like a good time to look back at the number of herds that milk recorded in 2021.

The use of milk recording on farms has become an important tool for monitoring cow performance and generating data for dairy farmers.

Some of the advantages of milk recording include:

  • Tracking the best and worst producers;
  • Detecting high somatic cell count (SCC) cows and controlling the herd’s average SCC;
  • Being useful as a culling tool;
  • Adding value to a herd through improved records.

With the changes in antibiotic usage on farms coming in January, the use of milk recording is going to become very important on dairy farms.

This will see the end of the use of blanket dry cow therapy, with the use of selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) to increase.

Milk recording

In 2020, less than 40% of dairy farmers completed a recording, with Covid-19 playing a major role in hampering uptake.

According to the latest figures from the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF), we can see that there has been a 19.1% increase in the number of cows recorded in 2021.

Meaning, 8,058 herds have completed a recording in 2021; this accounts for about 45% of the total herds in the country.

This means there has been an increase of 5% in the number of herds milk recording their cows.

It also means that a further 45% of dairy farmers need to take up milk recording for the Department of Agriculture’s target of 90% by 2030.

Table source: ICBF


Uptake in 2020 was slow mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the continued slow growth in 2021 cannot be blamed on Covid-19.

This year we saw a number of Co-ops introduce subsidies for milk recording, which seems to have increased uptake with suppliers.

Some of the reasons why farmers haven’t started yet include:

  • Infrastructure (milking parlour not suitable);
  • Bad experience;
  • Poor cow identification;
  • Don’t see the benefit.

According to the milk recording companies, 99% of milking parlours are suitable for recording – so that should not hold anyone back.

The use of freeze branding is a good way to identify cows during recording, so that may be something to consider doing.

Some of the many benefits of recording have been highlighted already. But arguably, the most important benefit is the data it provides farmers about their cows.