The Fitzgerald farm in Effin, Co. Limerick was the venue for last weeks Teagasc/ NDC Milk Quality Farm Walk.

Edward and Olivia Fitzgerald were awarded the top prize in the 2013 NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards and hosted the event, which was organised by Teagasc.  The event highlighted the importance of milk quality to the production of quality Irish milk products which are sold around the world, while also outlining the steps taken by the Fitzgerald family over a number of years to achieve high milk quality standards. The Fitzgerald’s are milk suppliers to Kerry agribusiness.

Host farmer, Edward Fitzgerald, acknowledged the foundation laid by his father, Michael: “There has been a focus on milk quality on this farm for a good number of years. My father, Michael, was runner-up in the same competition during the 1990’s and is still involved in running the farm today”. In terms of expansion, the Co. Limerick farmer said that while milking 75 cows this year, he would consider expansion in the future, but only “up to a herd size that we can manage comfortably, while sustaining the quality of the cow and the quality of the milk.”

Asked for the one practice which has really helped in delivering such high quality milk on an on-going basis, he had no hesitation in identifying milk recording. “All cows are milk recorded and have been for as long as I, or my father, can remember. Without a measure of milk quality on an individual cow basis, you cannot make decisions about treatments or culling. We consider a cow with a SCC reading greater than 200,000 cells/ml as a problem cow.”

Practices and routines identified by the Fitzgerald’s contributing to excellent milk quality:

1. All cows are milk recorded. Edward considers a cow with SCC reading of over 200,000 as a problem cow. Four cows in the herd have readings over 200,000.

2.The Fitzgerald’s adhere to the following procedures at different stages of lactation:

a. Procedure at Drying Off Time:

  • All cows milked twice a day for 4 days with reduced feed.
  • All cows milked once a day for 3 days, again with reduced feed.
  • After last AM milking, cows are dried off (16 cows at a time).
  • Cows’ teats are wiped with methylated spirits before infusion of a long acting dry cow tube. Teat sealers are not used. Teats are dipped before cows are let out.
  • All cows receive dry cow treatment.

b. Procedure during housing – pre calving

  • Cubicle beds limed and saw dusted once a day during housing.
  • Cubicle beds are scraped off twice a day.

c. Procedure Post Calving

  • Cubicle beds limed and saw dusted twice a day (saw dust in use since 2004).
  • Cubicle beds scraped off twice a day.

Procedure at milking time

  • Teats pre-sprayed before clusters are put on.
  • Teats dried before clusters are put on.
  • Teats stripped before clusters are put on.
  • Clusters applied.
  • Clusters off.
  • Post milking teat spray applied. Each teat receives 2 sprays until a drip of teat disinfectant is present at the end of the teat.
  • Gloves are worn at milking time.
  • Clinical cases are milked last and tubed until clear. In 2013, the herd experienced 8 clinical cases of mastitis. In 2014, the herd has had 6 clinical cases to date.
  • Cows not clinical, but where the ICBF Mastitis Incidence Report shows readings of 400,000 – 500,000 are milked last.

3. Washing Procedure: Milking Machine

  • Outside of the clusters washed with running water and cups put on.
  • The plant is rinsed with 2.5 gallons of cold water per unit and the water run to waste.
  • The plant is further rinsed with 1.0 gallons of water a second time. e lter sock is removed at this stage and it is changed every day.
  •  A Hydrosan hot wash powder solution is now made up and the plant is washed with a solution of 2.5 gallons per cluster. e solution remains circulating for 10 minutes. is hot wash is carried out aer evening milking and the wash is le in contact with the machine overnight.
  • The “wash” is rinsed out of the plant before morning milking.
  • A descaler is used once a week.
  • Liners are changed twice a year.
  • Machine serviced once a year and also checked for stray voltage.
  • Council water supply for dairy