OAD milking can be used either strategically (long-term) as the overall farming system or tactically as a short-term response to adverse seasonal conditions.
Reasons to consider OAD milking
There are a number of reasons to consider OAD, the advantages of which will depend on the current farm system or layout e.g. long distances walked by cows.
- Less time spent milking cows
- Reduce staff pressure
- Feed shortage
- Stock health (lame cows, light cows, heifers, milk-fever prone cows)
- Reproduction (non-cyclers, heifers or whole herd in a feed shortage)
- Small dairy shed for herd size
- Farm layout (walking distance to shed)
OAD milking options
The time you choose to milk can have a large impact on your cows and people, particularly during the hot summer period. Because cows feel the heat more than we do, if you feel hot in the shed, you can be sure they feel worse.
Kiwi dairy farmers have traditionally used 10-hour:14-hour milking intervals (e.g. 5 a.m. and 3 p.m.) to maximise milk yield while keeping relatively sociable hours. However, recent survey data indicates that at peak lactation, while 47 percent of farmers were using 10:14, 32 percent have adjusted their milking schedule to 9:15, with some extending this to 8:16. Research shows there should be no production loss with an 8:16 interval.
In many regions, it’s common to extend these milking intervals even further to milking three times in two days (3-in-2) or once-a-day (OAD). For example, in Northland, 31 percent of farmers milk full-season OAD; in Southland, 38 percent use 3-in-2 for part of the season.
Even within 3-in-2, farmers are using a range of intervals, with the most common being 12:18:18 (e.g. 5 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 a.m.), but ranging as far as 9.5:18.5:20 (e.g. 5 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 9 a.m.).
When milking OAD, you can choose any time of the day to milk. The key message here is that there are a range of options possible, allowing you to choose milking times that best suit your team and avoid the summer heat.
Full season OAD is an option that requires the most planning, as it involves a change to the overall farm system.
Early lactation OAD
Early Lactation OAD is often used to help staff manage multiple mobs, help with spring labour shortages and reduce the pressure on farm during periods of adverse weather.
However, OAD milking in early lactation results in immediate and whole season milk production losses.
See the June 2013 Technical Series for OAD trial information
OAD post-Christmas is a common strategy in a dry summer. When done early enough and with enough feed it can also be used to extend lactation.
- Takes the pressure off cows by reducing energy expenditure and the incidence of heat stress in summer, especially if walking long distances to be milked.
- Reduced stress on staff, as well as giving managers more time to plan and manage.
- Help cows reach body condition score (BCS) targets during dry summer periods and sets the farm up to maximise days in milk from autumn pasture growth.
Milking three times every two days (about every 16 hours) is another option in a dry summer to help reduce energy spent walking and can also be used to slow down the grazing rotation.
It is better to plan to milk OAD before feed runs short than to be forced into it by a severe shortage of feed.
3 times every 2 days - an alternative to OAD
Research on the impact of milking interval on milk yield indicates that there are no production losses when the interval between milking is no more than 18 hours.
Therefore, if cows are fed the same amount, there should be no production loss when cows are switched from four to three milking in two days.
16 hour milking may be another option in a dry summer to help reduce energy spent walking and can also slow down the grazing rotation. This is because cows generally are offered the same size break at each milking but spend a longer period of time in each break.
See the Research into milking three times in two days project.