Dairy margins have been finely balanced in recent years and this winter looks to be no different, despite dairy commodity markets having largely recovered from the shock of COVID-19. As the single biggest cost on dairy units, concentrate feeding is firmly in the spotlight once again and keeping a tight rein on these costs will be crucial for profitability this winter. Thompsons’ Richard Moore gives us some advice on how to manage margins this winter.
For many producers, the idea of keeping purchased feed costs under control is about the purchase price. But while this is important, in reality it is how cows are managed on-farm and how their feed is utilized that are the real drivers of feed costs per litre. For most dairy farms, number of litres of milk sold is the main driver of revenues so feeding the milking herd for optimum production is rightly the primary concern. But there are other factors that influence this as well. For example, ensuring a smooth transition, getting cows back in calf, maintaining herd health and achieving milk quality targets are all vitally important for keeping down feed costs, but because they don’t always generate revenue in themselves, they can easily be overlooked.
Cutting corners might save money on one hand but incur even greater costs in the longer term.
The biggest driver of feed costs on dairy units are forage quality and feeding efficiency. First cut silages were harvested in perfect weather conditions this year, which has resulted in above average energy levels and intake potential. This will offer opportunities on many units to ease back on feed rates compared with last year, but as usual, diets should be tailored to individual silages. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for second cuts, with rainfall in June and early July delaying harvesting on many farms. The result was very high yields of stemmy, low quality material, and both energy and protein levels well below average. These silages will require higher feed rates as well as higher levels of cereals, particularly wheat, and additional protein to help maintain energy density, drive rumen function and ensure a good milk yield response. Wheat is currently trading £20 above other cereals, so 15% inclusion will add £3 per ton to the cost of the feed. However this amounts to just 0.3 p/kg, which is a small price to pay when the diet requires it for optimum milk production.
Thompsons’ range of dairy rations ensure that herd milk potential is achieved but not at the expense of herd health and fertility. The HDF range of energy dense rations are particularly suited to this year’s quality first cut silages, with a high inclusion of digestible sources of fibre. Slower fermenting starch in the form of maize meal will optimize rumen function, by controlling rumen outflow rates and ensuring the maximum potential is attained from these highly fermentable forages.
Glucogenic rations also form an important part of the range, in particular the balancing of 2020’s lower quality second cut silages. Higher fibre forages will require greater supplementation with glucogenic nutrients enhancing rumen microbial function and aiding the breakdown of the increased fibre levels of these forages. The addition of glucogenic nutrients form blood glucose in the cow, which pushes milk yields, enhances milk composition and reduces the number of days anoestrus (days not cycling).
Comparison of first and second cut silages of 2020 – insert table
Producers can also now benefit from Thompsons’ new three-pronged approach to managing the ‘Lifetime Dairy’ cycle of a cow, which will ensure that her mineral and vitamin requirements are met during every stage of her life.
There are three key phases: Heifer rearing, dry cow and lactation and a value added ‘pack’ has been tailored to suit each of these, ensuring that lifetime performance is maximised.
Using a combination of Zinpros’ unique performance minerals and other value-added products, the ‘Health Pack’, the ‘Dry Cow Pack’ and the ‘Performance Pack’ will provide a complete, all encompassing support package, through every stage of life.
Since its launch nine years ago, Rumitech365 has continued to play a significant role in improving the rumen conditions of cows across Northern Ireland. Thompsons’ Rumitech365 has been proven to show an improvement in milk yield of 2.3 litres and a butterfat increase of 0.15%. By raising rumen pH and optimising conditions for the digestion of nutrients, Rumitech365 has been locally proven to enhance the efficiency of feed conversion by 14%.
Increased Milk Yield – insert graph
For further information on how you can improve the performance of your herd this winter, please contact your local Thompsons’ representative or call us below to find out yours.
T 028 9035 1321
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