Managing your dairy herd profitability through tough financial challenges.

30th November 2023

Laura McConnell - Fane Valley Feeds Ruminant Nutritionist

With cows now housed, many farmers across Northern Ireland are keen to maximise silage within their milk production systems to help ad herd performance during the coming months.

Fane Valley Feeds Sales team have been proactively testing forages throughout the year, with results demonstrating forage quality lower than normal, especially in second cut silages. Subsequently feed levels will need adjusted accordingly to compensate for the lower energy and protein, in the higher fibre forages on farm.

Key areas to prioritise this Winter;

  • Energy requirement of the fresh calved cow.
  • Fertility for Autumn calving herds.
  • Don’t carry passengers within your herd.
  • Management within the farm gate drives profitability.

Table 1: Variation in First & Second Cut Silages 2023

The Fresh calved cow needs prioritised as this is the future of your milk output, and will ultimately help cash flow on the farm. Reducing feed rates in response to lower milk prices has already been shown to impact on performance including loss of body condition, reduced milk yield and poor fertility. Fertility is fundamental to the production cycle, and hence it is crucial the fresh calved cow is transitioned properly and got back into calf.

Energy and protein requirements for each cow must be met. Under-feeding freshly calved or higher yielding herds will have serious repercussions in later lactation with costs outweighing any previous savings. Similarly, over-feeding stale, late lactation cows above their target BCS, is neither financially sustainable plus detrimental in the next lactation.

The Fane Valley Sales & Technical team are proactively helping customers to consider herd costings, calculating breakeven milk yields, identifying non -productive cows, ultimately supporting the important management decisions required the winter.

Ensuring best practise within the farm gate has become even more critical,

  • Pushing up feed – can drive 10% extra feed intake.
  • Clean water always present – milk is 90% water so don’t limit Milk output!
  • Lighting – research shows improved melatonin production drives milk yield and conception rate.
  • Clean troughs regularly and be conscious of Mycotoxin contamination in silage and feed by-products.
  • Test silage regularly – get your local Fane Valley Sales Advisor to balance the diet accordingly
  • Lameness – have you the correct mineral package?
  • Cubicle space – 1 hours additional lying time = 1 litre of milk!!

While each of the principles above should be adhered to in any given year, this winter, these steps are even more important to ensure that money is not lost unnecessarily.

To reduce next year’s costs start you’re planning now and speak to your local Fane Valley Advisor about preparing for next spring’s silage crop. Making incremental improvements in the care of your cows will extend both the number of lactations and the cash generated by the herd. 

If you wish to discuss the options for improving efficiency on your farm for the coming winter, please contact your local Fane Valley Feeds Sales Representative on 02882255390.