Milk recording: Now is the time to be booking in the final milk recording of the year.
Milk recording agencies tend to get busiest from now on as most spring-calving farmers want to get a recording done before drying off.
The somatic cell count (SCC) information alone is critical, particularly if practising selective dry cow therapy (SDCT), which will be mandatory from next year.
You would probably want to have completed a milk recording within 30 days of drying off to make sure the information is accurate before using SDCT.
So it might be necessary to do another milk recording on the cows due to be dried off in December. This is particularly important if the bulk tank SCC rises between now and the end of lactation which can often happen.
First-lactation and early calving cows will be dried off in the coming weeks. First-lactation cows need a 12-week dry period. This is to allow them to recover from their first lactation and prepare for the next, which can often be a hard time as they are continuing to grow while at the same time produce a lot more milk solids than they did in their first lactation. So second-lactation cows calving in early February should be dried off in early November, meaning there is two weeks left to get them milk recorded. AHI is running a series of online events all next week aimed at improving SCC and reducing antibiotic use on farms.
Cull cows: A lot more cull cows have started to move off dairy farms in the past week or so. Reducing the herd by a little over 10% will increase the amount of grass available for all remaining cows by 2kg per day. While the good weather over the past week increased grass utilisation, some southern and western farms got a lot of rain last weekend and conditions are poor. The argument can be made that milk price is decent and these cows should be kept and milked on. That’s fine if you have plenty of grass for them. But if you’re having to put in a lot of meal (more than 2kg/cow) to all cows, then the sums change.
This is especially the case at higher stocking rates. Essentially, these cull cows become marginal cows and all the extra feed being purchased should really go against them. Plus, by keeping them on the farm you are reducing the total grass all the cows will consume between now and housing which increases the workload and reduces the fat and protein per cent of the milk and thus the milk price will be lower. Some farmers will decide to house the empty cows fully and milk them once a day to increase body condition score before sending them straight to slaughter in December. The economics of this depend on the price of meal and milk and beef prices at slaughter.
Grass competition: Applications are open for the 2021 Grassland Farmer of the Year competition. This competition is open to all grassland farmers who are measuring grass. The total prize fund is €20,000 and there are category awards in dairy, drystock, young farmer, sustainable farming, heavy soils and innovation. Applications to Teagasc close early next week.