The recent hot, dry weather has seen DairyNZ recently fielding questions about milking frequency, both once-a-day milking and milking three times in two days.
Reducing milking frequency, especially milking once-a-day post-Christmas, is a common strategy and particularly so in a hot, dry summer. Done early and with enough feed, it can increase cow body condition score gain through autumn and therefore 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
- reduces stress on staff and gives managers more time to plan and manage
- helps 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.
What is three in two?
DairyNZ scientist Paul Edwards says while many farmers are confident with milking once-a-day, less is known about milking three times in two days.
Paul says the three in two strategy is often used in summer and is commonly used in Canterbury to reduce lameness in late lactation.
"This option can be used to help reduce time and energy spent walking and can also help extend the grazing rotation. This is because on many farms you move from feeding four paddocks every two days (12 hr breaks) to three paddocks every two days,” says Paul. “However, be careful to ensure cows are still well fed when switching from twice-a-day. Like any occasion when slowing the round down, stocking rate, pasture covers and/or supplementary feed allocation need to be managed carefully to ensure the amount of feed on offer is not restricted when changing milking interval. This is why it is important to change before heading into a feed deficit."
"Research on the impact of milking interval on milk yield indicates that the rate of milk secretion is largely unaffected up to about 18 hours – though there is variation between animals. Therefore, if cows are fed the same amount, there should be little to no loss in milk production, when cows are switched from four milkings to three in two days."
"Also, many farmers don’t stick rigidly to 16 hour intervals – 14,16,18 or 12,18,18 are common options to suit milking teams and avoid a late-night milking."
For more information on reducing milking frequency visit dairynz.co.nz/oad.
A new three year Sustainable Farming Fund project "Flexible milking for healthier people and cows" will start on July 1 which will focus on 3-in-2 milking.