Evidence from many respected sources shows those dairy businesses which maximise milk from forage are usually the most financially successful.
Sarah Bolt, membership development manager with independent dairy consultants Kingshay, says many producers could add to their bottom line by improving their forage management and utilisation.
“There are just under 10,000 dairy farms in the UK and while each of them has a different system, they should all be paying more attention to their costs of production and focusing on milk from forage is a significant part of this.
“Figures show a staggering difference between the top quartile of forage-focused farmers producing 48.6% of their milk from forage, while the bottom quartile averaged just 15.4%.
“This translates to a difference of £290 MOPF per cow between the top and bottom quartiles, which, when added together for an average herd size of 200 cows totals £58,000,” Mrs Bolt adds.
She suggests despite the enormous differences between the production systems on UK dairy farms, there is more variance in performance within these systems than there is between them.
Some indicators seem to apply across all systems, such as the relationship between stocking rate and milk from forage, where the farms achieving the highest milk from forage statistics have lower stocking rates.
“My experience suggests a farm has to push the boundaries and perhaps stock too densely before pulling back a little to reach an optimum stocking rate,” Mrs Bolt says.
Environment She points to methods which deliver improvement irrespective of a farm’s location or climate.
“The most important step to take is to measure the grass you are growing, whether you are grazing or mowing it.
“Many farmers think they need to wait until April to take their first silage cut.
But they rarely have any evidence to support this view.
“ She also advises keeping a contractor informed, and happy.
“Simple things like agreeing how many trailers or buck rakes are to be used will ensure the buck rakes can keep up with the trailers filling the clamp.
How well the silage is consolidated in the clamp is one of the key factors determining the quality of the silage made, so it makes sense to take the steps to make sure it is done well.
“Keep a count of how many trailers of grass come off each field, or even better, measure a one square metre quadrat and weigh the grass harvested at swath cutting height and above for each field.
Using this basic data will enable the poorest yielding fields to be placed at the top of the priority list for re-seeding.” For grazing-focused farms, using a plate meter is essential to managing grass availability.
“The key performance indicators for a farm will depend on the system and it is important to decide which factors are relevant in each case and measure and manage these,” Mrs Bolt adds.
Having the figures to hand and ideally benchmarking against other farms in the area with similar systems will give a picture of the performance of the farm.
Goals can then be set and a strategy put in place to achieve them.
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