As the quota situation on many dairy farms becomes increasingly perilous, Teagasc has issued advice to farmers in an over-quota situation in its most recent edition of ‘Todays Farm’.

Teagasc dairy specialist George Ransbottom outlined some short-term options for farmers in this position, particularly once-a-day milking (OAD) and feeding calves.

Ransbottom noted research has shown milk volume can be reduced by 30 per cent from the date of calving using OAD milking. This practice can also have the effect of increased milk price, due to an increase in milk composition by one percentage point. He also noted OAD milking also has a positive effect on cow body condition score provided the diet of the cow is the same as if she was milking normally.

However he stressed this option should not be considered were herds have evidence of high SCC levels. He cited SCC levels in milk will double for a couple of weeks after you begin OAD.

Ransbottom also noted farmers are often concerned about the longer term implications of OAD milking on the cow’s performance. He outlined  research has shown there are no carryover effects either within or beyond lactation. However he cited farmer experience was more mixed with reports that black and white cows with lower yield potential don’t perform as well on OAD milking, they tend to get fat and milk yield tends to decline faster in the second half of the lactation.

In outlining the feeding calves option, Ransbottom said assuming the calves were fed 10 litres/day, seven litres/day and five litres/day for the January, February and March-born calves, respectively. Milk sales can be reduced by 510/litres per cow.

Positives with this option are that early-born calves will be well grown due to the fact they would be receiving large amounts of milk. However he also noted that when compared with OAD milking there will be no improvement in body condition scores of cows or in the milk price.

Ransbottom also stressed farmers must remember that all elements of milk quota regulations will apply up to and including the 31 March 2015. He said milk carried over in April 2014 will put pressure on expanding farmers the following spring.

Ransbottom highlighted in particular the case of farmers looking to begin milk production during the January/ March period of 2015. He said these farmers who may not have any quota will not be able to supply milk to the buyer until the first of April 2015.

Image: Shutterstock