Milking On: In some of the milk processor stands at last week’s National Ploughing Championships, there seemed to be a big push to milk cows on this autumn to produce more autumn milk now that quotas are no longer an issue. Let’s be clear: some milk processors would love to see more milk coming at the shoulders because it keeps the plants running and processing costs are diluted. In my view, whether to milk on or not this autumn depends on grass supply, calving date and body condition score. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by having thin cows next spring when your options for managing them are limited.

The old rules still apply. Cows need eight weeks dry and heifers need 10. Thin cows now need more than this to give them enough time to build up body fat reserves. Remember, each milking day in spring is worth two days in autumn as cows produce nearly twice as much in milk solids per day. If milking into the winter reduces condition score, milk yield will be depressed after calving and that cow will take longer to return to heat and has a lower likelihood of going back in calf. The whole cycle then goes backwards, so plan your autumn/winter strategy wisely.