Will once-a-day (OAD) milking help under-conditioned cows recover body condition come breeding time and get them cycling again? This is a question a lot of farmers will be asking themselves.
Some farmers may think about supplementing extra concentrates; however, this will only drive milk production and, in turn, will be of no benefit in terms of improving body condition.
If you were to go down the path of improving the body condition of thin cows through nutrition, it would take months to do, going as far back as the dry period to have any impact.
Therefore, an option for farmers to get thin cows back into good body condition is through OAD milking.
To identify what cows should be placed on OAD milking, the first thing is to body condition score (BCS) the entire herd three-to-five weeks before the mating start date (MSD).
Cows that are thin – pre-breeding – are going to have lower submission rates and lower conception rates, so to increase the chances of cows going in the calf, a BCS of at least 2.75 and greater should be targeted.
In order to achieve this, thin cows should be placed on OAD milking three-to-five weeks pre-breeding and for a further few weeks after submission in order to give them the best chance of maintaining their pregnancy.
By moving under-conditioned cows onto OAD milking, it will prevent further condition loss and should increase the BCS over a period of time.
This, in turn, will improve the breeding performance, as the cows will be under reduced pressure to produce milk.
Many farms will be have had to deal with a couple of late-calving cows; however, the problem with these cows has got nothing to do with being under-conditioned. In fact, these cows will more than likely be in fairly good condition having had a long dry period compared to cows that calved earlier in the season.
So to ensure a compact calving interval, these cows should be milked OAD to help them get cycling quicker again.
Managing OAD Milking Cows
If the plan is to milk thin cows OAD, then it is important to keep records so that these cows aren’t mistakenly milked twice.
To avoid this problem, a strap should be placed around the leg of the cow as well as taking note of the cow’s tag number and writing it on the noticeboard in the parlor to remind you that she is only to be milked OAD.
It might be a good idea to pick a time, whether it is morning or evening when you are going to milk the OAD cow(s). This will help get a routine going and avoid the chance of cows being milked twice.
It is important that cows that are being milked OAD still get fed concentrates twice daily like the rest of the herd. This will help to maintain the condition that the cows have already and meet their nutritional requirements as well.
It should be noted that OAD milking might not suit some cows, especially those that are producing large volumes of milk.