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New targets required for the Harper Adams Dairy unit

Posted 11 February 2004

By Simon Marsh – Senior Lecturer In the October 2003 issue of our ‘Farm Focus’ college newsletter, I was bold enough to state the following: “Our sights are set on a herd yield of 9,000 litres within the next couple of years with our 200 head Holstein/Friesian herd. If our recent progress continues don’t bet against it being achieved!” The herd was then averaging 7793 litres.

Well I’m very pleased to report that we have reached our target in just over one year with our 305 day lactation yield currently standing at 9,038 litres. This now gives us the task of setting new targets for the next 12 months.

The improvement in herd performance must also take into consideration that in October 2002 the herd average yield was just 6611 litres! Our herd performance is benchmarked against other local high yielding herds. The latest results show that we rank 1st out of 38 herds on Margin Over Purchased Feed (MOPF) per litre and 4th on MOPF per cow. 12 Month Results Last Year This Year Milk Production Yield per cow (litres) 7,718 9,038 Yield from forage (litres) 2,568 2,946 Butterfat (%) 4.14 3.95 Protein (%) 3.52 3.35 Somatic cell count 231 189 Milk Price (p/l) 19.82 20.16 Feed Conc. use per cow (kg) 2,428 2,628 Conc. use per litre (kg) 0.31 0.29 Margins MOPF per litre (p) 15.72 16.12 MOPF per cow (£) 1,213 1,457 Total variable costs (p/l) 7.7 8.6 Total overheads (p/l) 9.6 8.6 Profit (p/l) 0.2 2.9 Not only is it pleasing to see the improvement in yield per cow but there has been progress with increasing the production of ‘milk from forage’ in combination with a reduction in concentrate feed rate per litre. The reduction in milk quality is not a major concern since we are on a ‘white water’ contract. The improvement from a marginal profit of 0.2p/litre to a healthy one of 2.9p/litre should hopefully allow for some reinvestment within the dairy unit. The question we are considering at the minute is should we expand the herd? The feeding system in place this winter will again be based on a stepped semi Total Mixed Ration (TMR) with concentrates being fed within the TMR and out of parlour feeders. The cows will be managed in production groups and fed TMR’s for M+36 and M+24 litres, with concentrates being fed for additional production at 0.4kg/litre to a maximum of 5kg per cow. The forage will be based on maize silage and grass silage. Cracked whole crop wheat has not been made this year since we had sufficient grass and maize silage in our clamps to allow us to make the decision to conventionally combine the wheat. The rations are being supplemented with caustic soda treated wheat, a 42% CP protein blend, sugar beet pulp, molasses, Megalac, urea and minerals including Yea-Sacc. An 18% CP compound is being fed in the out of parlour feeders. Following on from some very competitive tendering and the use of home grown cereals our concentrate feed costs are now at just £104/t and with some good quality forage in store this bodes well for the winter! Later on this winter we will be feeding some urea treated whole wheat, instead of the caustic treated wheat. This follows a preliminary evaluation last year when we recorded some good results with this feed. Treating grain with caustic soda poses a number of health and safety issues, so urea treatment offers many benefits, including lifting the protein content of the grain from approximately 11% to 18%. So what do we attribute our success to? I would suggest it is as follows: • ‘Teamwork’ with all involved in the management of the unit • Attention to detail • Focus on forage quality and use of home grown feeds • ‘In-house’ independent nutritional consultancy • Competitive tendering on feed costs • Implementation and management of a herd health plan So what will be our targets for the next 12 months and can we achieve the following? • A herd yield in excess of 9,500 litres, with 40% from forage • Milk quality maintained at 3.9% butterfat, 3.3% protein • A concentrate feed rate of less than 0.3kg/litre • Maintain milk hygiene in the premium bands • A reduction in the herd replacement rate to less than 25% • Improved utilization of grazed grass with investment in cow tracks • A MOPF of 16p/litre and £1600 per cow (this will be difficult to achieve if milk prices fall!!) • A reduction in overhead costs to less than 8 pence per litre

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