DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Dairying

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Farm safety: It’s the New Year and it is time to make resolutions.

Make farm safety your number one resolution. At this time of year you may be transferring slurry from one tank to another. If so, be aware of the danger from slurry gases.

Getting the cow back in calf

Breeding is well underway. Cows that are six weeks calved should have displayed a heat and are past their ‘voluntary waiting period’. Heats seen after this should be bred and a record of the service made on farm software.

Assess breeding efficiency by working out the submission rate for the last three weeks - how many cows that completed their ‘voluntary waiting period’ three weeks ago have been served? This answers the question “how many cows did I serve that were eligible to be served in the last 21 days?” The answer should be - all of them! If not, there is a problem with heat detection on your farm.

Wet silage

There is a lot of variability in silage quality on farms and wet silage is a real issue. The main problem with wet silage is the high levels of lactic acid which can lead to acidosis in cows. Classic signs of acidosis include loose dung, undigested meal in the dung, dirty / wet flanks and tail switching. If acidosis is a problem on your farm contact your nutritionist, as it can be easily solved.

Clamp management

Good clamp management is required to prevent further deterioration in forage quality. Make sure shear grab blades are sharp enough to ensure a clean cut each time.

How much does electricity cost for a dairy cow in a year?

Results from CAFRE benchmarked dairy herds show that a typical dairy cow uses one unit (kWh) of electricity per day - 365 kWh per year. The total cost of electricity is almost £50 per cow per year. This is based on 40 per cent usage during the night and electricity costs of 16.05 pence per kWh by day and 8.89 pence per kWh at night.

Survey data from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland show the electricity demand as follows:

Milk cooling 38% Water heating 31% Vacuum pump 20% Lighting and other smaller items 11%

The actual proportions used vary from farm to farm. For example, in the old Greenmount Campus dairy unit the vacuum pump accounted for only 11% of total usage.

Reasons why usage may vary include:

Farms with ice bank tanks or ice builders feeding a plate cooler use a greater percentage of electricity for milk cooling.  

Modern water heaters tend to be better insulated than those installed many years ago.  

Variable speed vacuum pumps give substantial savings compared to more conventional vane pumps.  

For further information on benchmarking the electricity used on your farm contact David Trimble, Greenmount Campus, 028 9442 6682.

Tackling digital dermatitis

Is digital dermatitis a problem on your farm? The AFBI Hillsborough farm survey on lameness found that 45 of the 57 herds visited had digital dermatitis. Routine foot bathing is the most practical control method, but to be successful it must be carried out effectively. Without regular foot bathing the incidence of digital dermatitis will increase weekly during the winter.

Foot bathing

Ideally provide a double foot bath; a bath to wash feet followed by a treatment bath. The wash bath is needed to remove dung which reduces the effectiveness of the chemical in the treatment bath. If there is not enough space to fit in both baths, wash the cows feet with a hose before they leave the parlour. To allow time for good penetration of the chemical the cow needs to take at least three strides through the treatment bath. The bath must therefore be at least three metres long. Fill the bath to a depth of 10 cm to ensure the foot is covered up to the top of the hoof.  

The frequency of treatment depends on the incidence of infection in the herd. The minimum regime is to bath after four consecutive milkings each week.

Typical January performance

How does your farm compare with the typical performance from the County Armagh farms that I work with?

Average daily milk yield 23.2 litres per cow Average daily concentrate fed 8.2 kilos per cow Average daily milk from forage 4.9 litres per cow Average daily concentrate feeding rate 0.35 kilos per litre

The most important issue is to target concentrate feeding to those cows that need it most. Feed efficiency is critical.