21 March 1997

Price fall makes cost cutting

a priority

ONE thing has blighted the early spring – the drop in milk price by at least 2p/litre no matter who you sell to, writes British Grassland Society president Jerry Rider.

It makes sense then to attempt to get more milk from grazed grass, and think about turning cows out to pasture earlier than last year. You can use grass to cut back on indoor feed costs – concentrates and silage. Full winter feeding costs are about £1.80 a milking cow a day. Then there are savings in machinery and labour costs. Less scraping out, less slurry to cart out and less work to do feeding the cows.

The cows will be keen to be outside, will keep cleaner, be less liable to mastitis and are quite capable of harvesting their own feed and spreading their own muck.

If you can get in 10kg of grass DM you can cut feed costs to under £1 a cow, a saving of £70 a day for a 70-cow herd. Remember you can always reduce the amount of grass in the diet later, if growth slows down, but eaten concentrates and silage have gone forever.

Maybe you are not too sure about how much grass to give the cows or what grazing system to use. What if it runs out or the grass gets ahead of the cows?

To try to answer such questions, the BGS is running a series of on-farm discussion groups throughout the country on a monthly basis using New Zealand consulting officers, who are experts in grassland management. The groups will be based on local grassland societies but are open to all for about £10 a meeting. These meetings are an excellent way of learning by doing, sharing the experiences of other local farmers and drawing on the knowledge of the NZ consultants about how to assess grass growth in kg of DM, and how to use it efficiently.

BGS, in conjunction with Genus, ADAS and SAC, is also setting up a series of monitor farms over the country, on different climatic and soil types, to measure grass growth, as an aid for the discussion groups. These sites will also support research on rotational grazing for high genetic merit cows on a wet and dry site with and without supplementation. The three-year project is designed to exploit grass, our cheapest feed with the best consumer image, to enable dairy farmers to compete with the best of the rest when we arrive at the world market scene.

lThe BGS acknowledges the help and financial support it has received from the Milk Develop-ment Council for the project. For further details contact the BGS on 01734-318189. &#42