David Gleeson & John Upton

Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Fermoy, Co Cork

Chlorine will no longer be used in milking equipment cleaning products by the end of 2020. Five chlorine-free cleaning protocols have been evaluated at Teagasc Moorepark for the cleaning of milking machines and three options are recommended for the cleaning of bulk milk tanks. The cleaning protocol chosen may depend on whether cleaning is manual or fully automatic.

Adhering to a recommended protocol is more critical than the actual cleaning detergent chosen. To distinguish between product types, the liquid detergent (sodium hydroxide) chlorine-free products are identified as CF marked on drum labels, whereas products containing chlorine are labelled as detergent/sterilisers. CF cleaning protocols entail the use of caustic-based products in conjunction with acid-based products. A number of changes to your cleaning protocols are required when changing to CF products.

Necessary steps when changing to chlorine-free cleaning

Without the presence of chlorine, a higher concentration of caustic in the working solution is now necessary when using liquid caustic solutions. If using a powder detergent then no change to usage rates is required as most powder products previously did not contain chlorine. CF liquid caustic solutions should not be recycled for a further daily wash due to the lower caustic content (21/29%), whereas a powder detergent product can still be recycled due to a much higher caustic content (76%). Due to the fact that chlorine-free caustic products are more viscous than chlorine-based products it is critical to re-calibrate automatic washer settings for both milking machines and bulk tanks.

Adequate and regular use of HOT water is vital

Nine litres of hot water with a starting temperature of 75°C-80°C per milking unit is required. The number of hot washes will depend on the protocol chosen and product type. For example, seven hot washes per week is the minimum required with a liquid caustic detergent and four hot washes per week is the minimum required with a powder caustic detergent (fewer hot washes due to a higher caustic concentration of 76% in these powder products). The finish temperature of the detergent wash cycle must be at minimum 45°C to achieve good cleaning.

It is essential to have enough hot water to wash both the milking machine and the bulk tank on the same day.

Increased use of acid descale products is necessary to sterilise equipment and remove any mineral deposits on surfaces. The number of acid washes per week can vary from a minimum of three to 12 depending on the wash option chosen and product type. A number of new “one for all” acid products are now available, which are designed to clean, sterilise and disinfect surfaces.

Peracetic acid used as a replacement for chlorine: Peracetic acid is used as a disinfecting and sterilising step in some chlorine-free cleaning protocols for milking machines and bulk milk tanks – guideline for use is to incorporate into an additional final rinse. It is not necessary to rinse after its application.

Chlorine-free cleaning of the bulk milk tank

A number of CF cleaning options can be used for the bulk tank:

  • Use of a caustic detergent (20-29%, sodium hydroxide) after each of two subsequent milk collections, with an acid detergent (phosphoric/nitric) used in the wash cycle after the third milk collection.
  • Use of a caustic detergent in the wash cycle after each collection with peracetic acid included in an additional final rinse, after each collection.
  • Use of the acid-based “one for all product”, which may be used as the sole product for bulk tank cleaning as its designed for both cleaning and disinfection.
  • Further advice

    Five chlorine-free cleaning protocols are recommended for milking machines and three cleaning options recommended for bulk milk tanks. Discuss with your milk quality or Teagasc adviser which cleaning option is best suited for your set-up and implement as recommended. The chemical content of CF caustic products and cleaning options are listed on the Teagasc webpage: www.teagasc.ie/animals/dairy/milk-quality/chlorates/.

    Options for heating water

    The primary objective when choosing a water heating system is that it will deliver the required quantity of hot water, at the correct temperature, to wash both the bulk tank and the milking machine on the same day. To meet this objective, it is recommended to have enough capacity to deliver 9l of water per milking cluster and 2% of the volume of the bulk tank.

    The most common type of water heating system on Irish dairy farms is electrical dairy water heaters. These systems offer the best blend of capital costs and running costs where daily demand for hot water is below 300l (eg a farm with a 16-unit milking parlour and a 7,000l bulk tank). Where electrical water heating systems are used it is important to time their operation to use night rate electricity to keep running costs low.

    Where daily demand for hot water exceeds 300l, it is worth considering oil or gas (LPG) fired water heating systems, as they offer lower running costs. Oil and gas fired systems can also reduce the farms carbon footprint (see Table 1). A more environmentally friendly version of LPG is also available called Bio LPG which is about 8% more expensive than standard LPG but will reduce the CO2 emissions of the heating system by 80%.

    If opting for an instant oil or gas water heating system, ensure that it has the ability to fill the wash trough in about 10 minutes. Instant systems do not require a storage tank which may be convenient in some cases.

    Increasing efficiency of water heating systems

    All of the heating systems mentioned previously are compatible with heat recovery units. The heat recovery unit will capture waste heat from the milk cooling process and use it to preheat the water for the electric, oil or gas system, resulting in a reduction in energy use of 30% to 50%. Heat recovery units are grant-aided under the TAMS grant.

    Integrating renewable energy

    Solar energy can also be harnessed and used to heat water on dairy farms. Solar photovoltaic cells (solar PV panels that generate electricity from the sun, with zero emissions) are the most feasible means of achieving this. Small PV installations (6 kWp) are grant-aided under the TAMS grant and can deliver a good return on investment where the farmer is grant eligible and where the expense is written off against tax in the year of purchase under the accelerated capital allowance scheme.

    Decision support

    Teagasc has partnered with Cork Institute of Technology and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to deliver an on-line decision support tool to aide farmers in making decisions around energy use. The tool delivers farm specific advice on energy efficient, and renewable technology investments. messo.shinyapps.io/DEDSP/

    Joe Patton

    Dairy specialist, Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Dunsany, Grange, Co Meath

    Silage makes up a least a quarter of the annual diet on most beef and dairy farms. Quality ranges from 58% to 78% dry matter digestibility (DMD) nationally, but average quality remains around 65% DMD. This type of feed is suitable only for dry suckler cows in good condition. It will result in poor liveweight gain in weanlings and dry cows, and is not suitable for feeding calved cows. What can be done to improve average quality?

  • Decide on quality needed: The first step to improving silage quality is to decide how much and what type of silage is needed.
  • For spring calving suckler herds, dry cows will need about 6 bales (1.1 tonne DM) per cow 68 DMD silage, with all remaining silage at higher quality (72+).

    Dairy herds (spring calving) need about 0.8t DM of 68 DMD silage, with 100% of the remainder as high quality (72+). At least 50% of total silage will need to be high quality.

  • Calf to beef systems need 100% of silage at 72+ DMD.
  • For most production systems therefore, the aim should be for higher-quality first-cut silage.

  • Timing of cut: Grass growth stage at harvest is the most important factor deciding silage quality. Once seed heads appear DMD will be around 70% at most, and will drop by onr point every two to three days after that. Lodged crops with dead material at the base will have 3-4% lower DMD still. The main step to improve average quality is therefore cutting in late May rather than into mid-June.
  • Bulk versus quality: Well-managed silage swards closed from late March should have good yields of 5.5 to 6t DM per ha (9t/ac to 10t/ac fresh) ready for cutting by late May. Many farms delay first cut into June to “bulk up” crops. Results of Teagasc fodder surveys in 2017-2018 also showed that farms using a “one big first-cut” approach to make silage were most at risk of fodder shortage in bad years. This is because second-cut yields and annual grass production were reduced by pushing first cuts into mid-June. Given the somewhat slower growth this spring, the advice is to aim for late May with no more than a four- to five-day delay. If crops look a little light, the faster recover and longer re-growth interval to second cut will make up the difference.
  • Nitrogen: A common reason for putting off cutting silage is concern about nitrogen. A useful guide for fertiliser N is that grass uses 2.5 kg N (2.0 units) per day on average, so final N should be applied approximately 50 days before planned cutting date. However, it should not be used to decide cutting date. If weather conditions are suitable for cutting, test the grass crop for sugars rather than sticking rigidly to the “two-unit rule”; the crop can be safely harvested sooner depending on conditions.
  • Sugars: High sugar content allows the crop to ferment quickly in the pit/bale, reducing pH and preserving the crop correctly. Teagasc advisery offer a testing service (nitrates also), or indeed crops can be home-tested using a refractometer. If sugars are over 3% then the crop will ensile readily, at 2-3% wilting will be beneficial, while below 2% an additive will be required. Mow in the evening when sugars are highest if possible.
  • Wilting: Wilting grass to 28-20% dry matter is very beneficial to good preservation, especially if sugars are less than 3% and nitrate is somewhat elevated. Tedding out for 24 hours is the recommended approach; grass will not dry enough in large rows even if left for 36 hours.
  • Additives: In general, if sugars are 3% plus and conditions are good, additives are not usually required. If weather and sugars are marginal, adding a direct source (molasses at 10l to 15l per tonne) will improve preservation. Consult your adviser in relation to the need for an additive in specific circumstances.
  • Post-cutting losses: Work done at Teagasc Grange has shown that farms can lose up to 15% of DM post-cutting through poor management. This can be a combination of effluent losses, failure to fully seal pits, and damage to bales. Seal pits quickly and completely, and monitor regularly for damage by vermin.
  • Damian Costello & Frank Campion

    Teagasc Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co Galway

    For mid-season lambing flocks, a key determinant of profitability is optimising lamb performance from grazed grass. The average lamb performance from birth to weaning for the Teagasc BETTER Sheep farms from 2019 is presented in Table 1. Four of the mid-season BETTER farm flocks have completed seven-week weights for 2020 to-date and the ADG of twin lambs on a grazed grass diet from these flocks is 286g/day which is on target.

    Maximise lamb weaning weight.

    So what are the key factors to consider in achieving target weaning weights?

    Grassland management

  • Maximise the proportion of leaf in the sward and allocate fresh grass to ewes and lambs every three to four days. Regularly applying 15-30kgN/ha (12-24 units/acre) in the form of protected urea or appropriate compound enhances yield, leaf growth and protein levels in grass.
  • Don’t delay moving ewes and lambs to a fresh paddock – ideally use a follower group such as dry hoggets to fully graze out paddocks correctly.
  • Where days grazing ahead allow, avoid introducing ewes and lambs to heavy covers. Ideally, remove excess covers as high-quality silage bales.
  • Temporary electric fencing should be used to subdivide paddocks to the appropriate size for the grazing group.
  • Lameness

  • Monitor lambs closely for signs of lameness, especially scald. When left untreated, lameness will stall lamb growth or can even result in weight loss.
  • Early intervention is key. At first signs of scald in lambs, footbath the entire group of sheep in a 10% zinc sulphate or copper sulphate solution.
  • Aim to footbathe regularly and at least each time the flock is in the handling yard.
  • Internal parasites

  • Where the first nematodirus treatment was early and/or there is a wide spread in age of lambs on the farm a second treatment (white drench) may be necessary.
  • From June onwards, carry out regular faecal egg counts to determine when you need to drench lambs for worms.
  • Carry out a drench efficacy test to establish the efficacy of the different anthelmintic groups used on your farm.
  • External parasites

  • Treating lambs now (Mid-May) with long lasting pour-ons (16 to 19 weeks cover) will ensure season long protection while ensuring that withdrawal periods have been completed before the first lambs are ready for drafting. It is cheaper to treat lambs earlier as dose rate is governed by bodyweight hence cost per treatment is reduced.
  • Plunge-dipping is another option to prevent fly strike. It is the better option if there is an issue with sheep scab which no pour-on product treats.
  • Ensure that the dip solution is kept at the correct strength throughout the process by topping up according to manufacturer’s instructions. Sheep must remain immersed in the dip solution for AT LEAST 60 seconds.

    Mineral supplementation

  • Flock mineral supplementation should be based on either veterinary advice or laboratory analysis. Leaving a group of lambs un-supplemented and comparing their subsequent performance to a similar group of lambs that have been supplemented can also help establish if a mineral deficiency exists.
  • In lambs the biggest performance limiting mineral is usually cobalt. Others minerals are very rarely an issue with lambs.
  • If supplementing cobalt by oral drench ensure cobalt is in the form of ionic cobalt or cobalt sulphate. Treat every two weeks from late May/early June.
  • Michael Hennessy

    Teagasc tillage specialist, Oak Park, Carlow

    It’s a divided country at the moment. Not in terms of those who can leave their house to go to work and those who can’t, but in terms of the moisture deficits across Ireland. At the time of writing, Cork was at 10mm soil moisture deficit, while Dublin stood at 52mm deficit, which is probably higher now. That’s quite a difference, not only for crops ability to grow and extract nutrients (especially trace elements) from the soil, but also for disease levels in crops.

    Monitor crops to get the timing right for spraying.

    Winter crops

    The first main fungicide (the third-last leaf or T1) on winter wheat was applied to most crops about two to two-and-a-half weeks ago.

    Hopefully growers are constantly walking their crops, every two to three days, to monitor results. This is especially important for varieties such as Bennington, Torp and Costello, where yellow rust has shown up in fields this year. Keep an eye on areas where yellow rust was found and examine the leaves carefully.

    If the yellow “spots”, or pustules, are a dull yellow then they should be reasonably well controlled. However, where they are a bright yellow, more than likely these are quite active and more intervention will be required.

    For most crops, the key target for the flag leaf timing is still septoria. Wait until the flag leaf is fully emerged before applying the fungicide. There are numerous fungicide options which can be used however chlorothalonil can only be used up to 20 May.

    After this date, switch to products containing Folpet such as Arizona. Given the fact there is quite low disease pressure, especially in crops in the east and northeast, this gives growers a wide choice of products to use.

    These will consist of a mix of a triazole plus and SDHI with products such as Adexar, Librax, Elatus Era, Ascra Expro, Revystar, Lentyma, etc, generally at an 80% rate.

    Growers in the south who have experienced higher rainfall and now have more disease and also growers who cannot use Chlorothalonil, should consider the newer products such as Revystar to help the control of septoria.

    Winter oats is also near, or at the final fungicide timing, which should be at the head emerging to head half out stage. The key target for the fungicide is crown rust and mildew. This will vary depending on where you are in the country, with growers in the south predominantly targeting rust. Again crops in general are very clean; therefore, the choice of products is quite wide and growers should seek value for this fungicide timing.

    Options can include Elatus Era, Proline plus Comet, Cielex, Siltra, etc. The addition of Tern/Winger may be needed for mildew but watch there is 15m non-reducible buffer zone when using these products.

    Spring crops

    Spring wheat area has increased from generally around 4,000ha to over 10,000ha this year. It’s a crop that may not be new to your farm but you may not have grown it for a while.

    As a reminder, there are a number of key issues which need to be addressed. Growth regulation is needed on all crops at GS 30-31 with a follow-up treatment needed on some very lush crops at flag leaf timing.

    This follow-up application should be assessed on a field-by-field basis. Nitrogen application has a huge influence on the lodging potential, so review this carefully and err on the lower side rather than the higher side.

    Remember that soil temperatures are higher, up to 3.5°C, than normal and when there is sufficient moisture this can allow increased release of nitrogen from the soil.

    Disease control in spring wheat can be quite difficult, especially if mildew gets established early in the season.

    A three-fungicide application strategy is generally warranted, with the first application at growth stage 30-31(third-last leaf emerged) and should target mildew but also septoria.

    This will be followed up with main fungicide application at flag leaf emerged stage.

    The Teagasc crops team ran the first virtual crop walk last week with 300 people participating and if you missed it, you can see it on the Teagasc Crops YouTube channel and we also have parts of it in the Tillage Edge podcasts. For both, don’t forget to subscribe.

    Update on the Teagasc Grange Derrypatrick Herd

    Michael McManus, Edward O’Riordan and Paul Crosson

    Teagasc Animal and Grassland, Research and Innovation programme, Grange, Dunsany, Co Meath

    The Derrypatrick Herd is a suckler beef research herd based at Teagasc Grange. The current experiment is comparing the performance of the progeny of sires divergent in maternal traits. The herd is predominantly Limousin and Simmental crossbreds, with replacement heifers purchased as weanlings the autumn prior to breeding. All heifers and cows are bred to AI with heifers bred to Angus sires and cows bred to a combination of Charolais, Limousin and Simmental sires. To meet the requirement of the experimental comparison, teams of high and low replacement index bulls were used for the 2019 breeding season with average replacement indexes of €151 and €91, respectively. Corresponding figures for the teams of Angus bulls used for the replacement heifers were €138 and €96, respectively.

    The diet of the pregnant cows and heifers for the indoor winter feeding period comprised of 70 DMD grass silage with a mineral supplement provided through the water. Cows were penned according to body condition score and expected calving date. In general, condition score was good at housing (average approximately 3.0 with none less than 2.75) so no meal supplementation was provided.

    As cows approached their expected calving date or otherwise showed signs that they were coming close to calving, they were moved to the calving shed where they were penned on loose straw beds in groups of three or four. Cows which required assistance were moved to individual pens. Immediately post calving all cows were moved to individual pens to allow for a one to two day bonding period with the calf.

    Calving started on the 14th of February and finished on the 4th of May. One hundred and five cows calved with 110 lives calves, nine sets of twins and four mortalities. There are 71 bull and 39 heifer calves with birth weights averaging 44.0 kg and 42.7 kg, respectively.

    Average first calving age of heifers in 2020 was 24.1 months of age. Across cows and heifers the calving season for the Derrypatrick Herd in 2020 was just over 11 weeks. The six and nine week calving rates were 84% and 95%, respectively. Median and mean calving dates were 3 March and10 March, respectively. This median calving date has been found to provide the best match between calving and turnout to pasture in spring at Grange. In this regard, spring 2020 has provided outstanding grazing conditions with the first cows and calves turned out on 23 of March. All cows with calves remained at grass following turnout.

    The level of intervention required at calving was low with 63% calving unassisted, 32% requiring slight assistance and 5% requiring veterinary, with the latter being mostly for malpresentation. An unusual feature of the calving season for 2020 was the number of twin-births; in total 9 cows gave birth to twins, with seven of the first 28 cows having twins.

    The 2020 breeding will be by AI only again. Breeding started on 4 May with 45 cows/heifers (40%) submitted in the first week. There are four groups of breeding animals, three groups of cows and calves and one group of heifers. Each group is run with a teaser bull which has a chin ball attached. The cows are all tail painted yellow for the first service and once served they will be tail painted blue. This is an easy way of identifying cows which have not been served.