Dairy farmers Catherine and Liam Millerick found they could achieve 80%-90% of their twice a day milking income, while milking only once a day (OAD).
So the Co Tipperary farming couple joined Ireland’s steadily growing group of OAD dairy farmers, many of whom gathered yesterday at Teagasc’s conference at Horse and Jockey, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on this growing dairying method.
The Millericks said they needed a new challenge, after 34 years of milk quotas.
Going OAD was their own choice, they did not jump into it for reasons such as quota restrictions, or long cow walks, that prompted others to give up milking twice per day.
The Millericks said the benefits include improved lifestyle for themselves and for their cows, and better stock health.
Breeding the suitable kind of cow for OAD, while it took time, was also important to the success of their business.
Interest in OAD milking continues to grow, said Teagasc dairy advisor and organiser of the conference, Brian Hilliard.
He said the practice is sometimes considered as an option in situations where labour is in short supply, or where the farm layout means that cows have long walks to and from the parlour.
Reducing the number of milkings is also attractive from a lifestyle perspective.
“Interest and enquiries on milking cows once a day for the entire lactation continue to rise each year,” said Mr Hilliard.
“There is a slow but steady take up of the system, as more farmers get the courage to make the change.”
Farmers considering OAD milking are encouraged to prepare well in advance, by attending conferences, visiting well-established OAD farms, and contacting their Teagasc advisor.
Emer Kennedy of Teagasc presented results from the first full year of a research programme on OAD milking in Moorepark.
The results show that high performance can be achieved, with almost 400 kg of milk solids per year produced.
The cows had improved fertility and body condition scores. But if a farmer is considering OAD, they need good grassland and herd management skills.
Teagasc dairy expansion advisor Patrick Gowing said OAD milking process is more time consuming than using robots (two hours versus 40 minutes), but robotic milking requires significant investment. OAD is a lower risk option, provided the drop in output is not too excessive.