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Stackyard News Jul 08

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Golden Autumn Dairying Seasonality Opportunity

Dairy farmers across the country have a golden opportunity to boost margins by taking advantage of valuable seasonality bonuses this autumn. And they can do this without any change in their calving pattern and despite the scale of recent feed price rises.


Ensenada Taboo Planet

This is the conclusion of an initiative by Dairy Farmers of Britain with Promar to provide members with practical guidance on making the most of seasonality in the months ahead to profit from the highest autumn milk values in recent memory.

“Our seasonality scheme will deliver a bonus of between 8-12 p for every litre produced above members’ Rolling Average Production (RAP) base this September, October, November and December,” explains DFB regional business manager, Doug Gray. “Depending on the extent of production over the herd’s base, this makes the extra autumn litres worth at least 33p and as much as 37.5p at our current standard litre base price of 25.5ppl.

“Although our scheme is one of the most generous available, extra autumn litres should be worth well over 30 ppl to the majority of producers this year regardless of milk processor.”

Doug Gray accepts that this may not be sufficient incentive for many dairymen to switch their calving pattern, given the extra costs and hassle involved, not to mention the need to continually account for annual slippage where calving indices average over 365 days. However, he insists it gives a tremendous opportunity for most to improve margins by producing more autumn milk within their existing calving pattern.

“Unless you run an extreme New Zealand milk-from-grass system, you’re likely to have plenty of cows in early to mid lactation from September to December,” Doug Gray points out. “Especially so, if you have the virtually year round calving pattern of most British herds. In which case, there’s a huge amount you can do to increase your production.

“Many herds should be able to comfortably produce an extra 1 litre/cow/day, if not 2 litres, this autumn and early winter to take advantage of seasonality bonuses. And even if it’s only by feeding more dairy cake, for most herds that’s likely to cost substantially less than the extra value of the milk produced.”

Providing herds are not already feeding very high levels of concentrates, senior Promar farm business consultant, Andrew Hawkins calculates that average response rates of around 1 litre of milk for every kg of concentrates will mean an extra feed cost of just over 20 ppl for each extra litre at current prices, making it highly cost-effective with the seasonality bonuses available.

While it is tempting to turn to concentrate feeding as a simple way to achieve the extra output, he stresses there are many ways to boost autumn milk sales, most of which can be decidedly more economic, identifying four main areas for management focus

  • Increasing daily dry matter intake;
  • Improving overall nutrition;
  • Throwing away less milk through poor cow health; and,
  • Milking three times a day.

“Increasing overall feed intake by just 1 kg DM/day can, for instance, produce two extra litres at very little cost,” Andrew Hawkins points out. “This may be achieved in many cases simply by increasing feed trough space to 2’ per cow to ensure timid animals are not pushed away by more dominant ones, allowing every animal to eat for the 7-8 hours/day it naturally seeks to. Or by keeping fresh feed in the trough at all times, cleaning out fouled leftovers weekly and regularly pushing feed up to the barriers.

“Increasing light levels in the feed yards will also help feed intake as well as heat detection for many. Equally, reducing stress can make a major difference – by keeping cows in more consistent social groups, by changing the milking routine or the choice of music in the parlour, or by removing the mains electric fencer from the self-feed silage wire.”

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