Once-a-day milking of additional cows is the most feasible option for farmers wishing to expand their business, using land that is not adjacent to the home farm, according to 2013 Nuffield Scholar Sean O’Donnell.

Speaking at the Dairy Seminar, hosted as part of this year’s Virginia Show, the Mayo man said that he had investigated four dairy expansion options as part of his Nuffield study.

“These were putting up a new milking parlour on the new site and milking cows either once or twice day, zero grazing the additional cows and installing a robot on the new unit.”

O’Donnell based his costings on an expanded herd of 70 cows, yielding 5,000L per year and an average milk price of 28c/L.

“Zero grazing is not a cheap option, either in terms of the overall costs incurred and the time required on the part of the operator,” he said.

“Once-a-day milking consistently came up tops in terms of the margins that can be generated from an additional dairying enterprise. Yes, cow yields will drop off in the first year or so. However, this will be compensated for in terms of the higher milk solids produced by cows in subsequent lactations.”

O’Donnell called on Teagasc to instigate a research programme to identify the type of cow that is best suited to a once-a-day milking scenario.

He also questioned the viability of installing a robot on an out farm.

“My figures indicate that this is a very expensive option, relative to the overall margin that can be generated by the expanded basis,” he said.

“However, I would not rule out the use of robotic milking on a home farm, particularly in cases where farmers want to maintain cow numbers, but are also seeking off-farm employment. Obvioulsy, this is very much a life style decision.”