Mounting interest in once-a-day milking as peak-pressure period draws closer

A growing number of farmers are giving serious consideration to once-a-day (OAD) milking; that was the general consensus from today’s Teagasc once-a-day milking conference in Co. Tipperary.

Some 200 farmers – a mixture of established dairy farmers and potential converts from beef farming – attended the event to hear about the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of OAD milking.

Many travelled to see is OAD milking a potential solution to ease some of the pressure associated with modern day, spring-calving, dairy systems.

In the coming weeks, dairy farmers will enter into a peak-pressure period – which will only intensify with a move towards a 90% six-week calving rate.

The benefits and potential downfalls of OAD milking were discussed at length. However, one of the more surprising developments was that 46 of the farmers in attendance (approximately 23%) were considering a move to an OAD system going forward. This was discovered in a straw poll carried out at the event.

On the back of a growing interest in this production system, Teagasc has strengthened it’s OAD milking advisory team.

Brian Hilliard, the organiser of today’s event, has worked extensively in this area over the years. Now two other advisors – Eoin Horgan and Trevor Dunwoody – have been appointed to offer the necessary advice to farmers throughout the country.

Today’s event featured a number of presentations from Teagasc staff and dairy advisors. Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom presented a paper on the potential differences between maintaining a twice-a-day (TAD) milking herd or making a transition to an OAD system.

Ramsbottom explained that there’s a significant transition cost from making the switch; but, this narrows considerably as the years progress.

Donal O’Loughlin, a Tipperary-based dairy farmer, spoke of the benefits he has witnessed since making the switch to OAD milking.

Teagasc’s Brian Hilliard also presented a comparison of the returns generated from OAD and TAD milking.

Comparing eProfit Monitor results from eight established OAD farms and 267 TAD herds (the first farmers to have submitted eProfit Monitor data for 2017), he said that – on average – OAD farmers received a milk price of 43.8c/L last year; this was 5.4c/L higher than the TAD farmers.

This increase in milk price was driven largely by an increase in milk solids; particularly butterfat percentages.

On a cost per cow basis, the preliminary results indicated that OAD total costs stood at €920/cow (€2,226/ha); costs associated with TAD were closer to €1,148/cow (€2,715/ha).

Looking at profitability, the Teagasc representative explained that OAD farms generated a net profit of €890/cow (€2,154/ha) last year. Meanwhile, TAD farms produced a net profit of €992/cow (€2,366/ha) last year.

More from today’s conference will be published over the coming days.