Data from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) shows that there has been a 35% increase in milk recording since 2005, the largest annual increase of 10% being in 2011.
There was a 5% increase in 2014, and hopefully this trend will continue in 2015, despite the drop in milk prices (which is unlikely to be as bad as was expected some months ago).
We now have over 50% of our cows being milk recorded.
Obviously, more and more farmers appreciate the advantages of milk recording, and recording is likely to increase further in future years.
From the point of view of improving the quality of our national dairy herd, it is desirable to have at least 70% of our cows milk recorded.
We still have a long way to go to reach the level of milk recording of other dairy countries such as Holland, Denmark, New Zealand and Germany, which have more than 85% of their cows recorded.
If we want to compete with these countries in future, farmers need a level playing pitch regarding information about their cows, so that they can select the very best animals for breeding replacements.
A major barrier to milk recording in the past was the cost of meters and jars.
This is being gradually overcome since the introduction of electronic meters which are being shared out to farmers by their recording societies.
Obviously it is our better producing herds that are being recorded; recorded cows are, on average, milking almost 50% more than our national herd yields.
Data from milk recording provides huge financial benefits, because it enables farmers to select the best cows for breeding replacements.
Data from milk recording has shown that on average, cows bred from AI were well over €100 per lactation more profitable than those bred from stock bulls.
With the new, very high-EBI bulls, the benefits are much greater.
Surplus AI heifers are very valuable.As regards fertility, there is ample proof that fertility to AI is as good as natural service, if heat detection and AI are properly carried out.
Data from ICBF proves that there are as many heifer calves as bulls from dairy AI.
A stock bull may be less trouble, but will generally be as costly as AI, and could be dangerous.
The obvious and immediate advantage of milk recording is that it shows each individual cow’s milk yield, milk composition and SCC.
Milk recording is the only means by which SCC can be properly controlled. Occasional testing for SCC will cost almost as much, and is not very effective forcontrolling SCC/mastitis problems.
Recording societies and pedigree breeders are now closely linked up to the ICBF.
Farmers using the milk recording service can participate in “Herd Plus”, by sending details of animal events to the ICBF throughout the year.
In return, they receive not only milk recording data, but also information on fertility, health and other data used to determine an Economic Breeding Index (EBI) for individual cows and herds.
This information is critical for breeding and culling purposes.
In the future, as more and more information becomes available from the ICBF regarding sires and cows, it will be possible for farmers to make more scientific breeding decisions for their herds.
Different farmers will have different priorities, and will be able to select animals to suit their own requirements.
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