Why should I be milk recording?

Milk recording results could be used to predict methane emissions and dry cow tube requirements in the coming years, through research conducted by Teagasc.

Of course, there is an on-going discussion amongst farmers; and between farmers and their advisers; around the whole topic of milk recording.

However, many farmers are uncertain as to the reasoning behind milk recording and what the benefits really are.

Dairy farmers are either on the fence when it comes to milk recording; proactively milk recording; or are occasionally milk recording when it suits.

Milk recording should be carried out – at least – four times over the milking season. These should be spaced out evenly; with the first recording usually taking place in early April or January in the case of winter milk herds.


Some farmers are of the opinion that the only advantage accruing from milk recording is the identification of high somatic cell count (SCC) cows; when in fact it is useful for so much more.

Uses of milk recording results:
  • Track your best and worst producers;
  • Detect high-SCC cows and control your herd’s average SCC;
  • Useful as a culling tool;
  • Add value to your herd through improved herd records;
  • Increase compensation in the case of a positive TB result.

Your milk recording records are a very effective way to pick under-performing cows for culling. A new tool developed by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) – which is only available to farmers who milk record – called  ‘cows own worth’ (COW), ranks cows based on their expected profit potential for their lifetime.

Knowing your best/worst cows can be very useful when it comes to the breeding season. Under-performing cows – not suitable for breeding replacements – can be chosen by farmers to either not breed off at all or serve with an easy-calving beef breed.

The results can additionally be used for pregnancy diagnosis and for genetic evaluations; giving your cows an EBI with a higher reliability.

Reading the results

Milk recording is aimless unless the farmer is able to make sense of the results.

It is important to note that the SCC results below are counted in thousands.

A: This shows the average SCC of each lactation and the number in each lactation greater than 200,000.

In this report (above) cows are ranked in order of their percentage contribution to the herd’s average SCC. The highest cows in this list should be examined immediately and treated accordingly.

B: This, in one instance, is the animal’s percentage contribution to the herd’s average SCC. In another instance, it shows the animal’s latest SCC.

C: This shows lactation number and days in milk.

D: This is the predicted total milk yield and total milk solids for the year.

E: This is the predicted fat and protein percentage for the year.

Getting started

If you’re considering milk recording this year, now is the time to make the decision.

The whole herd doesn’t necessarily have to be calved in order to milk record.

The sooner you identify sub-clinical mastitis cases, the higher the cure rate and the lesser chance of it spreading to non-infected cows.

There are several companies which offer this service. Simply get in contact with your local service provider to get set up.