Recent news that milk-recording levels on Irish dairy farms are increasing is to be welcomed.
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But, in many ways this could well be the calm before the storm.

I sense that within the next few months, Irish dairy farmers will be told that they must milk record. This is already the cases in countries like the Netherlands.

Earlier this year, the Kerry Group told its milk suppliers that they must commit to milk recording within the next 12 months.

These developments tie-in with drastic changes to the antibiotic-usage protocols that will impact across the entire Irish farming sector from next January onwards.

Dry-cow therapy
Driving the specific commitment to milk recording will be a requirement to use selective dry-cow therapy as a means of driving down antimicrobial usage within the dairy sector.

The technique can only be used successfully within herds where up-to-date milk recording data is available for each milking cow.

Currently, fewer than half of the dairy farmers in Ireland milk record. This is a shocking reflection on the state of the milk sector.

In fact, I am shocked that local processers are still allowed to export their produce, given the international importance placed on milk recording.

Milk recording answers a problem

But it’s not all bad news. Recent weeks have been marked by the publication of numerous reports, all confirming that antibiotic-usage levels on livestock farms in Ireland are falling.

Of all the sectors within Irish agriculture, dairy is the one where immediate and further improvements in this regard can be secured.

But all of this comes back to the fundamental question: do we know that we have a problem in the first place?

Regular milk recording provides significant light on this matter.

For their part, dairy farmers with robotic-milking systems can take this to the next level as they are getting ‘real-time’ information on the conductivity – and by subsequent deduction – the cell-count status of the milk produced by each cow in the herd.

But the vast majority of dairy farmers still milk their cows courtesy of a traditional set up. And this state of affairs is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

It is worthy of note that the aforementioned Kerry Group has taken a carrot and stick approach, where the issue of milk recording is concerned.

I see no reason why every milk buyer in Ireland cannot take the same approach with its farmer suppliers.

97 Milk’s slogans supporting whole milk are appearing ever farther afield from the group’s home base in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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