Farming Connect in Wales has said the past nine months have seen some extreme weather which is creating challenges when it comes to feeding livestock.

These challenges include cows dropping in milk yield due to reduced feed availability and hence body condition as they look to their own reserves to make up the shortfall, this, in turn, affects fertility.

The many other challenges include increased water demands and the ability of farmer’s systems to cope with this as well as natural water sources completely drying up.

Farmers in many situations are having to feed forage or concentrates intended as winter stocks or purchased feed which all have a long-term effect on business profitability and performance.

Stockmen can reduce these challenges firstly by culling, drying off low producers or could consider once-a-day milking or three times every two days milking (16 hours).

Many farmers did this successfully during the Beast from the East as parlours were frozen either end of the day.

Firstly, it should be said that once-a-day milking will reduce milk yields. Although, if you are considering drying off a large proportion of your herd due to lack of feed or are seeing a significant change in body condition over the herd this loss in milk yield may be less costly than feeding to gain condition at a later date or extended calving intervals due to poor fertility.

It is worth noting that once-a-day milking can have a negative effect on somatic cell counts (SCC) and mastitis incidence and can producers afford for their bulk milk SCC to increase by 20-40,000/ml? Milk contract SCC payment bands should also be checked.

It is not recommended that herds running an average SCC of above 150,000 change to once-a-day milking unless high SCC cows are dried off and milk contracts allow for this increase without penalty.

Once-a-day milking when housed can lead to milk pooling on cubicles and therefore it is better suited to cows who calve in the spring on a more extended grazing system or a lower input system.

Reducing milking frequency can reduce heat stress and energy expenditure from walking in the late afternoon heat.

This is particularly applicable where grazing platforms have been extended due to low covers and cows are walking greater distances.

Farmers do not have to stick rigidly to the 16-hour intervals for three times in two days with time ranges between 14-18 hours being selected to suit milking staff.

Once-a-day milking has been shown to improve body condition scores hence reducing feed demands later in the lactation. On farms where once-a-day has been used during dry summers it had a very positive effect on cow condition, reduced intake and increased conception rates.

Once-a-day milking with the right type of cow, system and circumstance can be considered as a useful tool to overcome the current extreme conditions and as part of a longer-term wholesale change of how the business operates.