Maximise milk quality, reduce cost

This was an old saying that my neighbour would often use and I think it should be my spring motto. With the milk price being on the floor this spring and many milk buyers adopting an A and B pricing structure, milk quality for many producers will be vital in order to try to maintain their on farm milk price.

For those producers that are on a quality related payment structure, Butterfat and protein percentage coupled with hitting the bactoscan and cell count targets are ways in which farmers can influence their own destiny. Farmers cannot alter what the AMPE price is or how many cows their neighbours milk so they must manage and monitor what is under their control.

Slashing feed rates and driving milk from grazed grass will be the order of the day for most producers as the milk price plummets. However, these goals need to be examined carefully. Firstly, feed rate is made up of two factors, the amount of concentrated feed used and the litres obtained from it. Therefore it follows that cutting feed will not automatically reduce feed rate if the loss of milk produced is too great. The key to feed rate manipulation is to target the feed to those animals that will respond most to it. i.e. feed well anything that is heavy in milk and still to be PD’d and then reduce the feed when the cow is confirmed back in calf. This will involve careful monitoring and effort but will result in reduced concentrate usage without lost milk.

Getting the most from grazed grass always seems to be a challenge for most of the higher yielding herds. Getting the right amount of quality grass in front of all the cows, or even just the in-calf ones, does appear difficult. This is due to the huge effort required and forward planning to get it right. The weather, grass type, cow type fertilizer use etc all create a minefield of management slip ups without the “upping the silage in the wagon” safety net.

Farmers should be planning now for their grazing regime. If you are unsure whether set stocking, paddock grazing or strip fencing is for you……ask someone !! At Crediton Milling we have a dedicated forage team who will help you right now to plan the most efficient use for your grazed grass – helping you make more money.

Now back to the good load of hay. Fibre manipulation will be key to butterfat production this spring. Rather than buying a filler filled, fibre packed cheap cake (which will have no effect on butterfat anyway) use your money wisely and buy higher energy cake, with good levels of by-pass protein and by-pass starch (to drive milk protein percentage) feed less of it and buy some really good hay. There is tons of forage around this spring, so use your scarce pennies wisely, and buy a fibre source that the cows will eat and will increase long fibre intake, slow down rumen outflow and reduce your reliance on purchased concentrated feed. If intakes are an issue, tub grinding could help but will increase cost.

The only constant thing is change, and we must all adapt to the milk prices that some of us face. By looking at fibre intake and creating a healthy rumen, which is a goal that has never changed, we can hopefully maximise milk quality, reduce cost and look forward to when the things we can’t manage change for the better.

Mark Causey

Dairy Feed Specialist

07968 168 449