Pushing the Boundaries this Winter

September 29, 2020

As we head into another winter of feeding cows, what are your targets? What are you aiming to achieve this winter?

From the annual 2020 Kingshay report we can see that over the last 10 years the average lactation yield for a Holstein Friesian Dairy cow has risen from 7723 litres to 8384 litres, a jump of 8.6%. In the same period purchased feed costs have gone up by 1.8ppl, but MOPF has jumped by 24.1% from £1373 to £1704/cow. Feed use has risen as yields have increased but feed rate per litre remains almost identical to 10 years ago.

All these increases coincide with the genetic potential of cows improving as Dairy farmers invest in the breeding of their cows. Production being an important trait to focus on for many.

So, my question remains. What are you targets for this coming winter?

10 years ago I started working in the Ruminant feed industry and when asking many farmers the same question then the standard answer for many was, “I would like my cows to average 30 litres”. Times have moved on but 10 years later asking the same question, more often than not the answer remains the same, the goal is to average 30 litres. Yet Kingshay tell us that the average yield is up by over 8%. Whatever your current herd average, are too many milk producers selling themselves short and missing out on vital income because they are not pushing their aims to get beyond their imaginary target figure, which may not have changed for years?

Not every farm or farmer are the same of course, some have seen the potential, pushed the boundaries and gained the reward for their efforts but for those aiming for the same as 10 years ago, if you feed a ration targeting 30 litres of milk it is unlikely that you will get more!

So, are you maximising potential? Is the increase in the genetic status of your herd, that you have already paid for, being utilised fully? Or are you accepting what you produced 5 or 10 years ago as the norm today!

On some farms the introduction of an AMS system has been the change that has sparked a reaction. Yes, milk production will have responded to the increased number of milkings but the focus on feeding and feeding to yield has made a big impact too. Yields here in the same period have jumped by 17.5%. The genetic potential bred into the cows is showing through, with many herds seeing remarkable results compared to their previous expectations.

So, with this winter approaching quickly is it time to ask yourself, do I want to, can I produce more? Can your business afford for you not to consider it?

Investing in your cows and feeding them an improved ration will yield more and gain you a larger return. The task of carefully balancing home grown feeds correctly to maximise intakes, make best use of forage and provide enough energy, protein and fibre to meet a cows requirements and keep her healthy and productive will change slightly from year to year as the quality of feeds changes from season to season, but targets to aim for can change too. Taking advantage of a better quality forage or feeding an extra kilo of feed could result in higher yields and a greater return on the investment. Pushing the boundaries, aiming a little higher and taking advantage of the cows willingness to produce milk could make a difference to your business this winter. Gaining an extra litre/day over a 180 day winter based on 25ppl would increase income by £4500 for every 100 cows milking. Im sure this extra income would be welcomed on all farms!!

Now is the time to be reviewing where you are now, where you have come from and where you would like to be. How do your figures now compare to 10 years ago? With some careful planning and consideration of an improved feeding regime you could soon be reaping the rewards. Can you afford not to be looking forward and striving for improvements as we head towards 2021.

Michael Carruthers

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