Increased dairy cow numbers

Of the total 1.02 million dairy births last year (Animal Identification and Movement -AIM System), the ICBF database has 87% of these calvings from 15,195 herds in the system.

Based on these trends cow numbers are expected to increase by 2.5% in 2012 and by 4.1% in 2013. ICBF predicted a 3.2pc increase in cow numbers for the past year, while the actual increase was close to 3.1pc so we can anticipate more problems with milk quota.

Dairy farmers have a great opportunity now with good cull cow prices and the availability of increased heifer replacements to upgrade their herds and minimise future problems by culling less profitable cows. Longer term the replacement heifers will produce more milk and enhance farm incomes.

Using more beef AI (easy calving bulls are recommended) would minimise the surplus of dairy replacements and help the beef industry. Cross bred beef calves from the dairy herd command a higher price and are easier to finish. Many farmers with low milk quotas could rear weanlings, stores or start a calf to beef enterprise.

Reasons for culling include low yields, low % protein, poor fertility, lameness, high cell counts, mastitis and other health problems. Many dairy farmers are overstocked and could reduce cow numbers. Then a smaller herd has access to more grass, more silage and will actually produce more milk /cow and reduce feed costs/Kg of milk solids.

If extra quota becomes available at local level most cows can profitably produce higher yields when supplemented as appropriate with home grown cereals, a TMR mix or a good quality dairy nut from their local feed miller.


Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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