With the milk price in the doldrums, feed during grazing to maintain milk components to get the most from your contract.
Dairy farmers are being urged to get-to-get grips with their milk contracts and review nutritional inputs to maximise the available revenue from every litre produced.
Many producers are paid based on individual milk component percentages which fall into different banding payments, therefore feeding to maintain butterfat is crucial, according to Bethany May, ruminant nutritionist at Trident Feeds.
Ms May says: “The important thing to note is that if the required contract standards are not being met, monitored and maintained, revenue per litre and total income can vary greatly. This is why producers really need to understand their contract inside out,” says Ms May.
“It is important producers consider using protected fats to push milk fat and protein production as high as possible to get the fat percentage required to get into the higher paying band.
“Using the Arla May milk contract as an example, if the current price is 19.75ppl, the result of adding a rumen protected fat, such as Butterfat Extra, to increase milk fat from 3.7 per cent to 4 per cent, with an extra litre of milk also produced, could increase payments to 20.40ppl, due to the quality improvement and the fact this shifts the butterfat percentage into the higher paying band,” she says.
“When the net cost of feeding a protected fat is taken into account, on a cow yielding 36 litres, the return is 15p/cow/day more for your milk, which equates to an extra £22.50 a day for a 150 cow herd.”
“It is understandable many farmers have now turned their cows out with the view of utilising as much high quality, low cost fresh grass as possible to help lower production costs and maximise profit margins,” says Ms May.
“However, when going into summer grass is typically low in structural fibre which is required to help milk fat production, high in soluble sugars and additionally rich in oils, which are often the forgotten contributors to lowering milk fat percent. Even the best quality swards, grazed in optimum conditions within the UK, will only realistically provide high yielding cows with a sustainable maintenance, plus 15-20 litres.
“So, for the most cost effective production, cows require an appropriately formulated buffer feed to optimise feed conversion efficiency from grass,” she says.
Ms May explained a source of structural fibre such as chopped straw or hay should be provided along side a complementary cereal silage such as whole crop or maize.
“Adding a digestible fibre source, such as 1-2 kg of a sugar beet feed, will help supply the nutrients which fibre digesting bacteria need to produce acetate, required to produce butterfat, and reduce the acid load on the rumen.
“However, be cautious when it comes to cereal levels in the ration. Low cereal prices may be attractive but over-feeding can result in increased lactic acid production in the rumen due to the rapidly available starch. Although this is important for supporting yield and protein content, in excess it can further lower rumen pH, increase acidosis risk and depress butterfat. It is all about getting the ratio right,” she added.