2,000 Dairy Farmers to Seek Contract Rearing Service

Contract RearingContract rearing will increase quite substantially over the next couple of years and potentially 2,000 dairy farmers could require the service.

Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom said that by 2020 over 3500 dairy farmers will have more than 100 cows and these farmers will be stocked at more than a cow/acre when speaking at a recent dairy event.

Ramsbottom highlighted the importance contract rearing will play in the successful future of both the Irish dairy and beef industries.

“The scale and intensity of future dairy enterprises will create huge demands, and dairy farmers will be looking for people to take their stock to relieve some of the labour issues in years to come.”

This increase will mean that there is potential for 2,000 dairy farmers to have their heifers contract reared within the next five years said Ramsbottom.

He also cited the pros and cons New Zealand farmers had experienced in terms of contract rearing.

Teagasc has more information on Contract Rearing at the following link http://www.teagasc.ie/collaborativearrangements/contract_rearing_of_heifers.asp

‘Herd Health Improved with Lely Milking Robots’

The introduction of Lely robotic milking technology has been viewed by many dairy farmers as an opportunity to get out of the parlour!

However, according to Lely, its robotic technology provides many more benefits in terms of health, production and reproductive performance.

Evelyn Drake, Lely Farm Management Support said that at each individual milking there are over 100 pieces of information generated.

These include milk quality, temperature, body weight, animal health and milk speed, she said.

She said farmers can access the milk yield, protein, fat and milk quality for each individual cow following milking.

Health issues can also be identified, she said, and the use of a colour check and conductivity allows for the ease of mastitis diagnosis.

“The colour check can also be used for the detection of blood and colostrum.”

The number of times cows are milked is also dependent on milk yield, she said.

“The system is individual to the cows, we do not over or under milk any cows. There is no point in milking a high yielding cow once-a-day or a low-yielding three times a day.”

Farmers using Lely technology can also choose to dry off one particular quarter if there is a persistent udder health issue.

The technology can be used in the detection of heat and the optimum mating time, she said.

Each cow is fitted with a collar, she said, and these collars have activity monitors that indicate when cows are in heat.

This is carried out by comparing two corresponding days activity levels, calving date and the date of the previous heat.

Aidan Fallon, of Lely added that the robot remembers the previous seven milkings.  As the udder gets bigger and smaller over the lactation curve it will know where the teats are located.

The milk is tested while the cow is being milked, mastitis is recorded on a per quarter basis allowing the farmer to easily identify the affected spin.

Lely uses a four effect pulsation and each unit drops off depending on the flow rate from each quarter.


Rearing a dairy heifer to 24 months costs €1,545 including both the cost of labour and opportunity cost of land, Donagh Berry told farmers at this year’s Moorepark Open day.

He noted that the figure is probably not all that different than the price being paid for high EBI cattle in the mart for the past few years. He said “For those 24 months the heifer is doing nothing for you.”

According to Berry, once a cow, which has been reared on farm, calves for the first time it takes 1.63 lactations before that cow actually pays back the farmer what has been invested in her.
“If the heifer or cow only lives for 1.5 years she was actually doing nothing for you. She may generate a bit of revenue from her lactation but all that was doing was offsetting the cost that was put in to rear that animal.

Berry said it is only when the cow gets into the second part of her second lactation that’s she starts making money for the farmer.

How-much-does-it-cost-to-raise-a-dairy-heiferHe told farmers at Moorepark that currently only 5% of Irish dairy herds are achieving the Teagasc target of 5.5 lactations per cow.

He said 5.5 lactations equates to a replacement rate of about 18%. “We know this is the optimum replacement rate. Around half of which should be involuntary culling so essentially not in-calf animals and a further 9% which farmers can use for voluntary culling such as late calvers cows that are kicking clusters.”

According to Berry on average Irish herds are achieving only four lactations per cow. He said by moving that up by one lactation farmers stand to gain €100/cow or 1.5c/L.

“It’s the single largest cost on the dairy production system for the vast majority of farmers and we all have heard of the importance of keeping costs down in a volatile milk market.”