Respiratory Disease Accounts for 26% of All Cattle Deaths

Respiratory disease accounts for 26% of all deaths in beef and dairy cattle, the Department of Agriculture’s Laboratories Quarterly Surveillance Report has found.

The report refers to the third quarter of 2015 (July to September) which was characterised by a wetter than average July and August and a very dry, but cool, September.

The late summer months typically herald a reduction in carcass submissions to Department laboratories while animals are at pasture during July and August with an occasional rise in submissions of weanlings recorded, particularly with diagnoses of pneumonia, in September as the autumn sales begin.

The report found that the seasonal rise in respiratory diseasesubmissions was not witnessed in this quarter which is probably, in part, due to the favourable weather conditions for stock at weaning this year.

Alimentary tract disease was diagnosed most frequently as the cause of death in all ages of cattle in the second quarter with respiratory disease considerably less frequently diagnosed.

This quarter recorded a reversal of this trend with respiratory disease recorded moderately more frequently than alimentary tract disease.

The Most Common Causes of Death in Cattle

Pneumonia was the most common cause of death in cattle of all ages in the third quarter, with 90 deaths.

Enteritis was the second most common cause of death in cattle with approximately 27 deaths, followed by poisoning with 17 deaths.

Blackleg was the next common cause (approximately 17 deaths), followed by septicaemia.

In calves aged less than one month the most common cause of death was alimentary tract disease, accounting for almost 40% of all deaths in this category.

In calves aged greater than one month but less than three months 33% of calves in this category died from respiratory disease. This was closely followed by alimentary tract disease (almost 30%).


Robotic Milking: What’s More Important…Time or Money?

A milking robot will prove a 36% labour saving on a dairy farm throughout the year compared to a conventional milking parlour, according to Teagasc’s John Shorthall.

However, according to Shorthall, this labour saving will not necessarily result in an improvement in profitability.

Speaking at a recent Irish Grassland Association farm walk in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, the Teagasc Walsh Fellow said the profitability of the system is dependent on the cost of the conventional parlour.

Shorthall presented the results from his research which indicated the impact different milking technologies had on the profitability of a 140-cow herd, based on a cow producing 5,500L annually.

The three types of milking equipment involved included a dual robot system, a 20-unit high specification conventional parlour and a 20-unit medium specification parlour.

Installation and Infrastructure Costs
According to the Teagasc Walsh Fellow, the robots cost in the region of 60% more to install than the medium spec parlour.

But he added that there is very little difference in the cost of the dual robotic system and a high spec parlour.

The cost of housing the milking equipment is relatively favourable for the dual robotic system, said Shorthall.

According to the Teagasc student, when the costings were completed, it was evident that the infrastructure costs for the dual robotic system were 40% cheaper than the 20-unit herringbone parlour.

These infrastructure costs involve the physical building in which the milking equipment is held.

Three options of milking parlours considered
• Two milking robots, cost €200,000
• 20 unit medium specification parlour, cost €60,000
• 20 unit high specification parlour, cost €120,000

Milking Parlour Servicing and Energy Costs
• The annual servicing cost was also considered in this research.
• According to Shorthall, it costs in the region of €5,000 to service the double robot unit each year.
• This is almost double the cost of the medium spec parlour, but he added that the costs are quite similar for the dual robotic system and the high specification parlour.
• The research also indicated the farms operating with a dual robotic used on average 68% more electricity than a conventional milking parlour.
• This increase in energy usage occurred as the air compressor on the AMS or robotic system used in the drafting gates used 25% of this additional energy.

• Farmers using the dual robotic system spend considerably less time working each day and work on average 3-3.5 hours less than the conventional farmer, according to Shorthall.
• On average, he added, the conventional farmers spend three hours each day milking/droving cows, while the farmers using the robots spend approximately 40 minutes each day at this task.
• The results also show that farmers operating a robotic milking system spend considerably more time managing grass.
• According to the Teagasc research, the farmers operating this robotic milking system spend 40 minutes each days allocating grass.
• Farmers operating a conventional parlour spend considerably less time at this task and allocate five minutes each day to this activity, he said.
• “In total there is a 36% saving in labour right throughout the year with a robotic milking system,” said Shorthall.

• One of the key benefits of robotic milking is the reduced labour, but according to the Teagasc Walsh Fellow, this reduction in labour does not necessarily result in an increase in farm profit.
• The results of the research show that the Automatic Milking System (AMS) is 10% less profitable than milking cows in the medium spec parlour.
• This represents a €9,000 difference in pre-tax profit when the initial investment was considered over a 10 year period with an interest rate of 5%.
• However, the reduced labour does impact on the profitability when the high spec parlour and the dual robot system are compared.
• According to the Teagasc research, this reduction in labour has a positive impact on the profitability of the dual robot system.
• When the AMS is compared to the high specification parlour, there is a substantial difference in profit due to the labour saving, the robotic system now becomes 10% more profitable.
• “If farmers want the equivalent technology, milking cows in an Automatic Milking System (AMS) parlour is 10% more profitable than the high specification parlour,” said Shorthall.

Farmers Across the Country Asking if it’s Worth Producing Milk into the End of the Year

Dairy farmers are asking if it is worth continuing to produce milk into November and December and when spring-calving cows need to be dried off, now that milk quotas are not limiting. They are also asking if cows are to be milked, how does this affect autumn grassland management?

The simple answer to the first question is that the calving date and condition score should decide when the dry period starts. Cows finishing their first lactation and predicted to calve for the second time in early spring need at least 10 to 12 weeks dry to regain lost condition score. Mature cows in good condition will suffice with six to eight weeks dry, but if they are due to calve in early February, this means they need to be dried off by the end of November.

Again, if cows are in poor condition score, it is better to dry them off for two to three weeks in addition to the eight-week basic treatment.

One of the golden rules for spring grassland management suggests the first paddocks targeted for grazing in early February need to be closed in early October.

The rest of the paddocks should be closed in rotation from then onwards. If you graze the first paddocks for the spring in November and December, you won’t have grass on them in February.

So, if late calving cows are being milked then the autumn grassland plan should not change.

You need to stick by the plan to have spring grass available and that means starting to close in early October.
1. Feed meal or round-bale silage to fit the autumn feed budget and to supplement what grass is left on-farm.
2. Autumn clean-out is important and cows should, if at possible, clean out the paddock so that there is no carryover of old clumps of grass that will die off over winter and cause bare patches in the sward next spring.

3. Start drying off cows from mid-October. The first cows to be dried will be those finishing the first lactation, thin cows and those milking less than 8kg per day

cleaning cows teat
4. Only late-calving cows can potentially be milked on into December and January. Whether this is worthwhile or not depends on the quality of forage available, the price of concentrate purchased and the value of the extra milk. Don’t compromise condition score for spring-calving cows.

Article by Jack Kennedy in The Farmers Journal 1st October, 2015.