What are the key advantages of milk recording?

It is not too late to “reap the benefits” of milk recording in 2020, according to one prominent agricultural services firm.

Farmers interested in beginning milk recording are advised to get a minimum of two recordings done in the second half of the year, according to Progressive Genetics milk recording manager Stephen Connolly.

The manager highlighted that it is important to starting building a story of one’s herd somatic cell count (SCC) before the ban on blanket use of antibiotic at dry-off in 2022.

“Your SCC records from milk recording will be needed to make better management decisions on your herd to deal with this change in policy and ensure your held has a smooth transition,” Connolly advises.

Based on one’s milk recording results, a farmer can:
  • Identify cows to cull from the herd;
  • Identify which cows not to breed replacements from;
  • Identify more suitable artificial insemination (AI) dairy bulls for certain cows with a high udder health sub-index in the Economic Breeding Index (EBI); and
  • Modify dry-off procedures or dry cow housing facilities.

Connolly also highlighted that one’s milk recording will allow a farmer to start making culling decisions and breeding decisions on his/her herd by: identifying high SCC cows; establishing which cows to dry off of grass, which may need longer dry cow periods; and by conducting pregnancy test cows that may not be in calf.

Other benefits include conducting a Johnes test through the milk; and managing an increase in bulk tank SCC in the back-end to ensure no co-op penalties.

Connolly also pointed to a recent Teagasc study, highlighting that herds that milk record have higher production levels of milk per cow, lower SCC levels, a higher margin per cow and a higher overall farm gross margin.

Steven Carter, of Ransboro Dairy Shorthorns, commented on the benefits of milk recording in his view.

We milk record to identify each cow’s solids, milk volume and SCC. Using the milk recording info, we can make much better breeding decisions, in a two-way approach.

“We can pick which cows are more suited to breed replacements and bulls from; we find that recording dams is important when it comes to bull sales. Bull sales and surplus heifer sales are a big part of what we do.

“Milk recording also highlights the under-performing cows, the cows costing you money. Often these cows look great with good calving intervals but the recording just tells you so much more; for us we beef serve these cows – thankfully there are only a few of those about,” he added.

Carter noted that one of his cows, Ransboro Blossom 41st, gave over 8,000kg with almost 600kg of solids in her first lactation.

She is projected for just shy of 7,600kg in her second, with 4.15% butterfat and 3.5% protein, the farmer added.