Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Once A Day Milking Dairy Farm System Needs a Different Mind Set?

I wonder if OAD (Once a Day) Milking farmers should be farming like TAD farmers (Twice a Day Milking)?  After all they are completely different farming systems. Or are they really different? 
This is potentially a very interesting debate. Should all pasture based farmers farm in the same way or are the systems sufficiently different that they should develop different methods & different objectives? Organic dairy farms have developed different systems & objectives from conventional farms. So should OAD farmers farm as TAD farmers or develop a completely different system? It’s early days so let’s debate the issue.
 Innovative OAD (Once a Day) Milking Dairy Farmers from all over New Zealand met at Eketahuna this week to be part of Dr Colin Holmes OAD Milking discussion group. Colin with the help of DairyNZ started the group some time ago on the very same Tararua farm where we met this week. 
 Sherryn & Dale Marshall farm OAD on a tough steep farm but have done remarkably well given the terrain. In the photos you can see the green outline of the milking area up on the steep hill country. The Discussion Group agreed that it was an excellent farm for OAD milking because of the distances & steepness of the tracks & grazing. The cow condition of the OAD herd was excellent & a credit to their management & the care & attention of their farming team. 
I love the cut & thrust of a good discussion group where new ideas are scrutinised, & everyone goes home thinking with plenty of food for thought. However it is the first OAD Milking group I have ever been to where much of the debate was about how much supplement was being fed? I have never heard OAD milking farmers debating the merit of 300kgsN per ha per year vs. 200kgsN. These OAD farmers were farming like & thinking like TAD farmers. So is the “OAD Milking System” the same as or different from the TAD milking system? I would argue that the 2 systems are as different as “Chalk & Cheese” (an old saying from Gloucestershire comparing the then wealthy sheep farmers from the chalk country of the Cotswolds vs. the then poor dairy farmers from the Berkley Vale near Thornbury, UK). 
Once a Day Milking is a low input farming system that is ideal for pasture only fed cows. It is potentially a very profitable system, but only if the operating costs are kept very low. OAD herds have in my view the potential to produce the same Milk solids per cow as they were on TAD. This is because of the wide genetic variation within XBred cows as to how they adapt to OAD milking. There is the very exciting possibility of developing a OAD milking cow that is very different from the cows we see today being milked OAD.
  Goals of OAD Milking Herds .  
To produce the same total milksolids on OAD as they used to on TAD, with same number of cows. (but not the same cows).   
Select hard & Cull hard to capitalise on the huge between cow variations. 
Aim for 1kg MS per kg of LWT on OAD milking.
 Means you must weigh cows & herd test.
 Profit levels of 40 -50% GFR. 
Have a real Family life. 
Very focussed on being sustainable & very resilient. OAD Milking dairy farms have a real opportunity to be show that they have a truly sustainable farming system. A crucial aspect of OAD milking is how it can be a people sustainable system. 
 The 8 main points of Sustainable Farming are:-
To have a sustainably profitable farm business.
To manage soils for the future with less dependence on fertilizers & to build Soil Organic Matter (SOM) so increase soil carbon storage.
To reduce Energy consumption by reducing demand & generating on farm energy. To lower the Carbon Footprint of milk.
To better manage Water (conserve & reduce use), reduce pollutant losses.
To improve Dairy cow welfare, fertility & animal health.
To have a sustainable people practices.
To increase the bio diversity on the farm.
To develop long term business communication strategies not only with buyers, but with the professional support teams & the local community. 

The bottom line is that I believe OAD milking farms, people & cows are uniquely different from TAD farms. Therefore there are strong arguments to support a different breeding objective & a whole lot of different thinking that is uniquely OAD thinking.
If profit is the primary goal for a OAD system then why are you feeding concentrates(especially poor ones) & why are you even considering extra N fertiliser????
Every time a dairy farmer spends money they reduce their own profits & increase someone else's profit!
 I challenge all OAD farmers to aim for a really low input low cost pasture based system where all excess costs are screwed out of the farming system. Have the courage to tread a different path that is family friendly & highly resilient to price fluctuations.
 Go for it! If you don’t agree then feel free to debate it with me by adding your comments in the comments box below.
Great Discussion Group Colin & Leo. Well done!


  1. Is there not a benefit to feeding some concentrate when the genetic potential of the cow is there? Depending on cow type of course. Is the relationship between concentrate price and milk price not worth considering?

  2. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  3. Adrian van Bysterveldt25 April 2012 at 21:49

    Using N in the spring when response rates are between 15 and 25 to one is a very profitable way to increase the feed supply. OAD farms should have a higher SR than TAD farms and should have a tighter calving pattern and could start calving earlier than TAD farms so this grass can be turned profitably into milk.
    I really struggle with the practice of using extra purchased feed to chase /cow production in a OAD system. Long term consistant selection pressure through culling and breeding from those cows suited to OAD will produce a lift in /cow production. Feeding cows PKE and other non grazing feed will mess with this whole process - a classic of short term gain destroying long term gain.