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Once a day milking a hot topic

MEDIA RELEASE
28 March 2013

For immediate release

Once a day milking a hot topic at North Island DairyNZ Farmers’ Forums
The benefits and costs of milking cows once a day when you’re short on feed will be the focus of one hot science topic scientists will be sharing with dairy farmers at its North Island DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum events during April and May.

DairyNZ kicks off its regional Farmer’s Forum events in Whangarei on 5 April. Two other North Island events are in Hawera on 18 April and Woodville on 28 May.

Extreme weather conditions, such as those we’re experiencing now but also flooding in late winter and early spring can create short and long term feed shortages. DairyNZ scientist Jane Kay said for many years farmers have used once-a-day milking as a means of alleviating nutritional stress on the cow.

Dr Kay led a DairyNZ study that compared once-a-day with twice-a-day milking when cows’ feed was restricted, still within safe levels, for three weeks in early lactation.

The research found there were additional losses in milk production when underfed cows were milked once a day, both during the experiment and after feed intake had been restored. In addition, milking once a day did not improve the loss of body condition caused by restricted feeding.

Milking once a day did improve animals’ short-term energy levels, and reduced the risk of metabolic disorders associated with the lack of feed. Less time spent milking can also reduce stress on staff, and free up time to do other tasks.

“Farmers need to be aware of both the costs and benefits to milking cows once a day when feed is short. Ideally you’d bring in feed supplements during a severe situation, but that can be challenging; there can be a shortage or the cost is restrictive.

Dr Kay said every farmer’s situation is different, and there was no silver bullet for addressing the challenges the current climate is creating.

“It is far better to plan to milk once a day before feed runs short than to be forced into it by a severe shortage of feed, but it could still be an option during the summer months. It can reduce the time spent walking the cows in the hot summer afternoon and if carried on for long enough, will improve cow body condition score before dry-off.

“At this stage it is very important to be looking ahead to next season and having a plan for improving body condition scores to ensure your herd is in good condition for next year’s production.”

DairyNZ’s advice was to control the controllables as much as possible such as cow culling, better feed management, drying off early, re-sowing pasture and cow condition.

DairyNZ chief executive, Dr Tim Mackle, said each year the Farmers’ Forum provides a great opportunity for dairy farmers to see how their levy is invested and to learn about dairy industry research and development work relevant to their region’s farming issues.

“Our Farmers’ Forum has become an annual gathering and every second year we go out to the regions and customise forum topics based on locally relevant issues,” said Mr Mackle.

“The programmes are designed by the local DairyNZ team to address local challenges and opportunities. A number of the region’s farmers will talking at the events about their own experiences implementing research on farm.”

The forum also includes time for informal discussions with DairyNZ scientists and developers plus others who lead industry research and development programmes.

Farmers can view the regional forum programmes and register to attend online at www.dairynz.co.nz/farmersforum.

Registration is essential and free to levy-paying farmers and their staff – there is a $50 charge for all others. The Farmers Forum runs from 9.30am-2pm and lunch is provided.

-ENDS-

Farmers’ Forum events – dates and venues:

North Island:
Friday, 5 April Northland, ASB Leisure Centre, Whangarei
Thursday, 18 April Taranaki, The Hub, Hawera
Tuesday, 28 May Manawatu, Woodville Racecourse

South Island:
Friday, 12 April West Coast, Shantytown, Greymouth
Wednesday, 15 May Southland, Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill

Regional topics covered at the events:

Northland
• Herd reproductive performance, environmental management, pasture management, farmer resilience, farm effluent planning, once-a-day milking, plate metering chicory, mixed pastures, the Forage Value Index, maintenance equations

West Coast
• Heifer management from weaning to pre-mating, on-farm environmental compliance from a dairy company perspective, fertility, wintering, gibberellic acid, nitrogen leaching, GPS use on farm

Taranaki
• Succession planning, once-a-day milking, GPS use on farm, nitrogen leaching, Forage Value Index, pasture persistence

Southland
• Human resources, winter feed supply, nutrient use efficiency, pasture species and diversity as related to nitrogen leaching, fertility, calf bedding, gibberellic acid

Lower North Island
• Succession planning, reproduction, nitrogen leaching, pasture persistence, mixed pastures, once-a-day milking, body condition scoring

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