The decision of when to put cows on once-a-day (OAD) milking may be on your mind. There are many reasons why you may put your herd or a mob on OAD in mid to late lactation:
- Lifestyle reasons
– Less time in the shed
– Reduces staff pressure
– Easier farm management during holidays
- Maintain lactation length i.e. put cows on OAD early and they can maintain a longer lactation
- Feed shortages
- Stock health
– Young cows struggle to gain body condition during lactation as they are still growing; they also need to be back at Body Condition Score (BCS) 5.5 for the next calving, so putting them on OAD early will give them more chance of gaining body condition while still milking
– Reducing walking for cows in summer
– Looking after heifers
– Heat stress
Things to consider:
- We recommend your bulk tank somatic cell count (BTSCC) is <150,000 before going OAD to minimize the risk of grading. Work on the rule that your BTSCC will double when you go on OAD, for a few days, and then slowly reduce.
- Cows with mastitis or high SCC aren’t good candidates for switching to OAD. These cows should either be dried off, culled or continue to be milked TAD.
- Make sure the intramammary product you are using for clinical mastitis treatment is registered for use OAD.
- If production levels are low before you go OAD, then the production drops once you transition will be higher. Usually this means switching to OAD milking before production is less than 1kg MS/cow/day at the absolute lowest. Some herds make the transition as high as 1.3kg MS/cow/day. If done correctly, you will only reduce production by about 10%.
- You need to feed your cows well when transitioning to OAD. Studies have shown that feed intakes drop by only 3% if cows are offered the same. But less energy is put into milk production and more into BCS gain. If you don’t feed your cows enough, some will decide to take a long vacation, which kind of defeats the purpose of OAD milking!
- Body Condition Score (BCS) improvements will take time. You may not see improvements until cows have been on OAD for at least six weeks.
If you’re thinking of using OAD as a tool to minimise BCS loss, don’t fall into the trap and do it too late.
Talk to your vet if you have any questions about making the move to OAD milking.