Autumn Dairy Farming

I haven’t written about farming as much as I’d intended this year – mostly because it was such a disasterous year with the extremely unsettled weather – it just made farming so much more of a challenge as well as being an expensive year. ?Farmers had hoped for a good autumn so they could keep the cows out at grass and milking for as long as possible but that just hasn’t materialised. According to our milk collector, lots of farmers have put their cows dry and he only collected half the milk last week compared to the previous week.

Our cows are in at night and we’re managing to keep them out by day and hopefully that will last for another 2 weeks as we’re hoping to continue milking for a good bit of November. ?Protein is high in the milk at this time of year, although volume drops naturally, which means that the milk solids are higher, which results in a better milk price. It’s been an expensive summer and with many farmers having silage of very poor quality in the pits, even dry cows are going to need meal to sustain them during the winter.

It seems as though dairy farmers all over the Western world are struggling. The Dairy Moos blog recounts how the severe drought this summer in the USA has affected them and how the increase in feed costs just isn’t being matched by an increase in milk price. We’re having to feed our cows more meal too – just for a different reason. ?It sounds as though milk price has caught up somewhat in California and there will be a global scarcity for the next 12 months so hopefully that will be a good sign for dairy farmers. Horrible though hearing of farmers going out of business.

I remember being asked by two people last year what do we mean when we say the cows are dry. What it means is they aren’t being milked, they are ‘put dry’ about 8 weeks before calving (on average) to give them a chance to retain condition before calving and to let the calves grow as well as possible. ?However, with the bad weather, it sounds as though many farmers are putting their cows dry earlier than planned.

Farming practices have changed over the years. When I was a kid, I can remember beseeching our dad to let the cows go dry in the evenings. Back then, farmers used to milk the cows once a day (mornings) for a few weeks before putting them dry. ?My dad would go to milking once a day around Hallow’een and then he’d be in around 5ish. Living in the country, we didn’t do any activities as such back then so evenings were spent reading or playing lego on the living room floor and down on the floor my dad would have to get as we build house after house of lego. ?Now it is recommended that cows are milked as normal and then put dry, using ‘dry cow tubes’ to prevent infection. ?They aren’t giving as much milk at this time of year but I’d imagine they experience some engorgement for a few days – no cabbage leaves for them! ?Milking once a day increases the lactose levels of the milk which doesn’t make the creameries happy and it can increase the chance of sub-clinical infections that can re-occur the following year.

Then it is two months off milking before the calving starts again in early February and the whole cycle starts all over again – with hope for good weather, good crops and good grass management for 2013.

Did I tell you the goats were sold a few weeks ago. I advertised them on Done Deal and had a surprising number of phone calls. ?They went to Wexford to a guy who took all five so I hope they are doing well for him. ?I was sad seeing them going but it does save me a job every morning and evening which I don’t miss at all!

2 thoughts on “Autumn Dairy Farming

  • Dairy Moos (@DairyMoos)

    Great article Lorna, its interesting to read about the challenges you are facing in the dairy industry there. Hopefully things get better for everyone. Enjoy your time off from calving! I sometimes wish our dairy was seasonal 🙂

    • Lorna

      thank you! Apologies for the delay in replying, this blog has been ignored for the last couple of weeks.
      Cows were all dried off yesterday so there’s a rest before the calving starts in early Feb and the whole cycle starts again 🙂



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