National Dairy Conference 2017

Posted in Category(ies):  Dairy

This is a complete chronological summary of the first of the National Dairy Conferences which was held in the Lyrath Estate on Tuesday, 28th November (the second one being in The Kilmore Hotel in Cavan Wednesday, 29th November), with the day kicking off at 8.30am and running right through to 4.30pm. 

Sean Molloy, Glanbia gave the first presentation of the day, giving the keynote address (session 1) and covering a huge range of topics, from Caesar crossing the Rubicon to Glanbia's Fixed pricing Scheme which 50% of there suppliers are now involved in to as greater of lesser extent. Sean covered the results of the Glanbia Farmer Census, their average dairy farmer is now 51, down from 56 5 years ago, 50% have identified a successor, 49% have a non-family employee, average is milking 94 cows (planning to milk 110 by 2020) and has nearly 200 acres.
The Future was a big part of Sean's address, Glanbia have invested €270 million in facilities in Ireland since 2013 and plan to invest another €300 million pre-2020. Highlighting that farmers must to plan for the future, specialising - honing their skills, outsourcing certain tasks - such as contract calf-rearing and investing in facilities, staff etc. When Sean was closing his presentation he asked the attendees a question, a question he often asks at farmer meetings; "think about the farmer sitting to the left or the right of you, if you had a son or a daughter would you want working for them?" (Labour was a big feature throughout the day).
Session 2 covered the Grass10 Campaign "Lessons learned from the Dairy finalists of the Grassland Farmer of the Year Competition 2017", Aidan Brennan , IFJ gave this presentation, highlighting that "analysis of farms completing both grassland measurement in PastureBase Ireland and Profit Monitor demonstrated increased profit of €181/ha for every 1 tonne DM/ha increase in grass utilised." In comparing the 9 dairy finalists (14 total) vs the National Average, noting that the finalists are high achievers, Aidan pointed out that the finalists produced nearly double the kgs of MS/ha vs National Average, achieving 35kgs/ms per cow more, with a much better 6 week calving rate 82% vs 59%, and had a lower cost of production, with costs per litre of 20.3 vs NA of 21.8. "What you don't measure, you can't manage", the finalists are measuring their grass on average 39 times a year achieving 8.2 grazings a year (the target is 10), the NA only graze each paddock 5 to 6 times. 
The objective of the campaign is to achieve 10 grazings/paddock/year utilising 10 tonnes grass DM/ha.
What lessons were learned form the competition, all finalists had a "grass station", a dedicated area on-farm where they monitored and measured grass. Soil fertility is hugely important national figures show that 65% of soils are deficient in Lime (62% deficient in P & 57% deficient in K), even amongst the 9 dairy finalists 57% had soils deficient in Lime, perhaps highlighting what an issue this is! Grazing infrastructure "needs to be good even at the extremities".
The view from the judges is that none of the farmers visited were not doing anything spectacular in terms of grassland management, including the overall winner. Rather, they were doing the basics brilliantly. None of the farms visited were feeding concentrates to get more milk, instead they were managing grass to increase milk solids per hectare and putting in feed when necessary. Decision making was driven by grassland measurement and not by animal performance.
Eddie O'Donnell, won the Grassland Farmer of the Year 2017, gave a presentation, "Five key factors affecting growing and utilizing more grass on our farm", Eddie is farming with his wife Fiona and parents Denis & Nora in Golden, Co. Tipperary, along with 2 employees Jeremy Furlong and Philip Roche. In 2017, 318 cows were milked on 116ha of milking platform split between two farms, some of the land is leased.
The grassland management employed on the farms is based around a number of cornerstones: 
  • Soil fertility - the farm is soil sampled every two years, plus colour coded maps are up in the dairy which indicate the soil index of the paddock allowing for targeting of lower index paddocks (more parlour washings and slurry etc.).
  • Reseeding - in the past 7 years both of the dairy platforms and one of the young stock farms have been reseeded.
  • Infrastructure -  farm roadways and access to water is of a high standard, reels are used to create single file spurs off the roadways at the ‘shoulders’ of the year to get the cows in and out of paddocks if underfoot conditions are wet.
  • Grass measurement - the farm is walked weekly during the early part of the grazing season and twice weekly during the main season when growth is highest, there will be 50 walks completed this year (Everyone on the farm can complete a grass cover). When a student arrives on farm the first job they learn to carry out is grass measurement.
  • Management - is all about timing on Eddie's farm.  Various targets are set for different stages of the year e.g. closing cover of 700 kg DM/ha on December 1st etc.
In 2017, Eddie only topped 1 paddock. 
Session 3 was kicked off by Paidi Kelly, Teagasc, "Structural change and its implications for Irish dairying", Paidi highlighted the unabating growth in dairy cow numbers, with the 2020 Food Harvest Target of 1.5 million dairy cows to be surpassed in 2018. 
Paidi explored five key considerations for Irish dairy farmers given this dramatic change in farm structure. 
  • Carefully plan further expansion - have you the skills?
  • Dairy farming can provide a good lifestyle - but do you need to re-thin your approach? 
  • Managing the increased workload - have you a suitable cow type?
  • Become an employer of choice offering a work place of choice -  what are you like to work for?
  • New structures - will the farm continue outside the family? 
Paidi also covered the ‘one person’ farms is there such a place– regardless of the number of cows being milked; for the simple reason that every person requires a break. What kind of time off would the next generation like to see in farming to encourage them to consider it as a career? Would every second weekend off be the minimum that they would accept? If so, then even a ‘one person’ farm would require at least 1.2 labour units for the year to allow the owner/operator to take time off.
Paidi's take home message was "Make your farm an attractive place to work!". 
Margaret Dorgan, Management Consultant was next to take the floor, "Managing through leadership". "Leadership is a journey that starts with knowing and managing oneself so that one can in turn, manage others."
Margaret first focused on types of leaders/management styles:
  • Pace-setting – “Do it myself “Manager 
  • Participative / Democratic – “Everyone has input” Manager
  • Authoritative – “Firm but fair” Manager 
  • Directive / Autocratic – “Do it the way I tell you” Manager 
  • Affiliative – “We are all friends’ Manager 
  • Coaching – “Developmental” Manager - are these the managers of the future, particularly in terms of farming? 
One of the main features of Margaret's presentation was the need for structure around roles, even in comes to areas that sometimes prove to be difficult, such as exit conversations. 
Margaret also highlighted that Farmers need to improve their soft skills abilities, as they are central to business and organisational management development, an improvement in farmer soft skills will allow farmers to maximise their potential and their profit, this is something that farmers must buy-into.
Phil Purcell was next to present "Getting ready for the Spring" in 2018 he'll calve 228 cows.
Phil spoke about the importance of defined roles, which he finds reduces stress and wasted time, Phil picks his battles “It’ll be quiet over Christmas and like all young lads, Conor (student) will want to enjoy himself. During the quiet period he can have all the time he wants to let his hair down!”, Phil feels he gets payback on this in the Spring! 
In terms of animals, Phil operates a two herd system with the standard herd and a problem herd or "Red Herd" as he calls them (for him this means there isn't an issue - e.g. letting a cow into the tank etc.), colour coding also features in the parlour with slow milkers marked with green tape. On facilities Phil stated that there "is nothing special about the facilities on our farm" but he does like to make life easier, he finds the electronic drafting system he has a huge plus, but even little things like using the mobile milk bar calf feeder is a big labour saver, for the coming year Phil hopes operate a late evening feeding system to minimise the number of night-time calvings.
A big plus for Phil last year was a new scheme launched by Kilkenny Mart, his bull calves were collected every Tuesday and brought them to the mart. 
Session 4 started with Aideen Kennedy, DoA, formerly Teagasc, was next up covering "Selective dry cow therapy", Aideen began by highlighting Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), it's been over 30 years since the discovery of a new class of antibiotic. 
What is AMR? 
"Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others" - World Health Organisation. 
Blanket dry cow therapy (BDCT):
BDCT is the administering long acting antimicrobials into all quarters of all cows at drying off, most Irish farms dry cows off in this way. 
Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT):
involves targeted use of antibiotic treatment only in those cows shown to have an intra-mammary infection at drying off. In quarters shown to be uninfected at drying off, teat seal only is administered.
For Aideen the process of drying of is hugely important, as it should be for all dairy farmers. Cleaniness, with a clean parlour and clean cow and important aids like gloves and wipes, etc. are all HUGELY important. Correct application is also HUGELY important, drying off is not a task to be rushed, work from the front spins to the back. 
Selective Dry Cow Therapy Study: The SDCT trial was run in the Clonakilty research herd across 2015 and 2016 and was repeated in the Clonakilty, Moorepark and Curtins research herds in 2017; the study is presently on-going. At drying-off cows were deemed eligible for inclusion if their SCC had not exceeded 200,000 and they had not presented with a clinical case of mastitis throughout the previous lactation. Following these eligibility criteria, 36%, 46%, and 56% of the Moorepark, Curtins and Clonakilty herds (364 cow lactations) were eligible for inclusion in the study, results to date below: 
Aideen highlighted that although the results to date indicate that reduced antimicrobial use is possible in Irish mastitis control programmes, however further research will be required in order to strike an optimum balance between maintaining a high standard of udder health while also promoting responsible antimicrobial use. 
"Controlling iodine levels in milk" was the next topic, presented by Stephen Butler, Teagasc, perhaps highlighting an issue that many of us are unfamiliar of. Iodine is a trace element, approximately 80 to 90% of dietary iodine is absorbed, and most of the iodine not taken up by the thyroid gland is ultimately excreted in urine and milk, this is where am issue arises. Iodine deficiency wasn't really the main focus, iodine toxicity was. 
A Teagasc survey of seasonal variation in mineral nutrition on 44 dairy farms conducted during the 2013 grazing season across the main dairy regions of Ireland found that when concentrate supplements were fed (especially during March and May), iodine was generally over-supplied in the total diet, with average estimated intakes exceeding 400% of requirements. This is perhaps due to the fact the the range for iodine requirement in Ireland has a range that is far too high 12 - 60 mg/day per 20kgs DMI, when in fact the USA, UK, Germany & New Zealand all recommend 10 mg/day per 20kgs DMI. Feed compunders were tending towards the 60mg rather than the 12mg (understandably), Stephen pointed out that "a letter went to all feed compunders in January 2017 asking them to move towards 12 not 60". 
Iodine over-supply is an issue off-farm: "Iodine toxicity is especially important for new-born infants, who are more sensitive to iodine toxicity because of an immature thyroid gland. Infant milk formula (IMF) is a key market for the growing Irish dairy industry, but milk produced when cows are fed surplus iodine in supplemental concentrate is generally unsuitable for inclusion in IMF."
Stephen finished pointing out that "co-operation from dairy farmers, the feed industry, dairy nutritionists and veterinarians is required to continue using the recommended 12mg per day of iodine, facilitating profitable and sustainable growth of the Irish dairy industry."
David Wall, Teagasc was next up with "Correcting soil pH with lime for grassland production", David pointed out to the attendees that Soil fertility is a key component in growing sufficient grass to feed the herd on an annual basis. Irish soils are acidic by nature due to our high annual rainfall. Soil acidity will reduce the uptake and plant efficiency of applied nutrients in fertilisers and organic manures. Soil test results show that 90% of grassland soils have a poor balance in terms of pH, P and K to maximise grass production. Nationally >65% of grassland soils require lime to neutralise soil acidity (i.e. soils with low pH levels) however, in some counties in excess of 80% of soils require lime. Grassland farmers should aim to maintain mineral soils between pH 6.3 to 6.5 and peaty soils between pH 5.5 to 5.8. This is the first step towards increasing soil fertility and improved grass production to meet the feed demands of the livestock over the growing season.
Lime is key for maintaining good soil pH and fertility and achieving high rates of grass growth and production targets on Irish dairy farms.
Soil testing and planning of lime applications are essential for effective maintenance of soil pH levels on grassland farms. 
Large pay back for lime applications on grassland farms, as €100 investment in lime = €600 in extra grass
Morgan O'Sullivan, Teagasc was next, presenting "Lessons from the Next Generation Herd" highlighting what is being achieved in Moorepark, and the differences between the ELITE cows and the National Average cows (NA).
Based on the first four years of the study, the NA cows consistently out yielded the ELITE cows in terms of milk volume. The ELITE cows, however, had a higher milk solids yield due to higher milk fat and protein content. Response rate to concentrate supplementation was similar in both groups. Somatic cell count (116,000 cells/ml and 130,000 cells/ml), incidence of mastitis (9% and 14%), and incidence of lameness (9% and 11%) did not differ between the ELITE and NA groups, respectively. On average the ELITE cows were slightly lighter but had higher body condition score throughout lactation. Large differences in fertility performance were observed. Survival Analysis confirms greater longevity of Elite cows, with 60% and 40% of the ELITE and NA cows surviving to the end of 4th lactation, respectively.
Note, average weight is not mature weight, mature weight Elite - 546kg & NA - 556kg. 
Andrew Crombie and Kevin Downing, ICBF brought the curtain down on the day with "Managing risk in your dairy breeding programme", Andrew started this presentation covering EBI.
Table 1 clearly indicates an increase in milk and fertility performance with increasing EBI, it does not differentiate between source of AI bulls that are contributing to the genetic gain. 
Managing Risk; Daughter Proven or Genomic Bulls? 
Table 2, clearly indicates the increasing impact of young genomic (GS) bulls in terms of each year’s AI bred heifer calf crop, up from 64% for calves born in 2010 to 84% for calves born in 2017. These results would appear to suggest that, as a tool, genomics is working at farm level, especially when mapped across the data from Table 1.
Through categorising herds from the analysis presented in Table 1, into whether the herd is primarily using young genomic bulls (GS) or whether they are using bulls that are daughter proven, with this latter category including both Irish and foreign bulls that have daughters milking in Ireland. 
Young GS bulls are higher in terms of EBI (in theory they are 3-4 years ahead of the daughter proven bulls – which is reflected in the difference in EBI between the groups of herds) and as a result should continue to form the core of our National (and individual herd) breeding programmes in the future. Going forward risk mitigation strategies that are focused on using daughter proven bulls will not deliver the same profit in the long term as strategies based on the even use of high EBI teams of GS bulls.
Bull selection and use of teams was a key part of this presentation, as farmers have to date been using too few sires and using too many related sires, in general. New Guidelines for bull team usage have been launched. Andrew was very clear in highlighting the best bull team to use are a "team of high EBI Genomic bulls equally".
Kevin Downing then presented the New Sire Advice which will be luanched in early 2018 and contains a number of new features like marking cows for beef, avoiding carrier matings amongst other things.
Kevin also pointed out that there will be EBI changes in 2018:
  • With an update of the economic values based on latest data from Teagasc regarding the values and costs of milk production systems in Ireland.
  • The implementation of a Test Day Model for routine genetic evaluations of milk production traits, as opposed to the current approach which is based on 305-day yields.
  •  An updating of the training population on which the genomic predictions for young sires (and females) are derived.
The collective impact of these changes are minimal, with the average EBI of bulls on the ICBF Active Bull List expected to increase by €30 (this is due primarily to the increase in milk price and value of fat kg within the EBI, compared to previous estimates taken in 2014). The average correlation amongst all Active AI sires is 0.97, with relatively little re-ranking amongst the high EBI sires on the ICBF Active Bull List.
After a question from the floor Andrew stated that genotyping of heifers is hugely beneficial, costing €22, genotyping has a 3 to 1 return on investment. 
View the full Dairy Conference Booklet here.
All-in-all a detailed, topical, enjoyable and informative day.
Ross Hamilton, 29th November 2017
Posted on Wednesday, 29 November 2017  |  By Progressive Genetics
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