Farmer Focus: Attitudes to once-a-day milking are changing

Since beginning my farming career, I have learned a huge amount from attending farm conferences.

Despite the fantastic online offerings of the past two years, I have definitely missed the complete and immersive experience a conference environment brings.

I’m delighted to have been asked to chair a session on people-friendly farming at the Positive Farmers’ Conference in Cork on 28-29 June.

See also: A dairy farmer’s tips on switching to once-a-day milking

About the author

Gillian O’Sullivan
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Gillian O’Sullivan milks 100 crossbred cows once-a-day with her husband Neil and father Michael on Ireland’s South-East coast. They operate a seasonal calving, grass-based system with milk supplied to Glanbia trying to deliver work-life-balance and system resilience.
Read more articles by Gillian O’Sullivan

This conference is targeted at building profitable, pasture-based dairy businesses with a focus on people, cows and grass.

The people-friendly farming session involves discussing the social sustainability of our farms and exploring how different milking frequencies – once a day, three times in two days, or 10 in seven – can be incorporated to improve rotas, staff retention and time off while minimising production losses.

Staff retention and work-life balance is such an increasingly important topic given the current economic climate.

The session covers relevant scientific research as well as farmer experience to give a broad and relevant offering that will, hopefully, answer many of the questions farmers often contact me about.   

It is interesting to reflect on the changes in attitude towards milking frequency over the past 15 years. I used to say thick skin was the first thing a farmer milking cows once a day needed, as comments were often quite scathing.

Once a day has moved from being viewed as obscure and lazy to gaining interest as a useful tool to reduce workload, improve cow condition and free up valuable time.

Over the years we have been congratulated for mentioning the importance of family time, marking a welcome change from the idea that farmers aren’t farming unless they are working from dawn till dusk.

I always say that we never put enough value on family time until the opportunity to enjoy it is gone.

Losing my brother in 2008 has influenced quite a few of our decisions around prioritising time for family over farm, and it’s a message I’m forever keen to promote.  

This year’s conference will focus on meeting the unprecedented challenges facing dairy farming, from environmental, to economic, to social, while keeping things centred around the key principles of managing cows, pasture and people.

As the saying goes, every day is a school day.