21 November 1997

COSTS CUT KIWI STYLE BY IRISH…

By Jessica Buss

NEW ZEALAND-style dairy management has reduced production costs on one Irish dairy farm by 5.5p/litre in two years.

Peter Daly who farms in Co Cork, told a New Zealand Trade Development Board conference at Reaseheath College, Cheshire, that concentrate use had dropped from £66 worth a cow a year in 1995 to just £1.25.

Other key savings came from lowering silage needs by 2.75t a cow to just 4t a cow a year, by calving cows a month later and in a tighter block, and improving grazing management. Cows now receive 85% of their annual diet from grazed grass, and he only has to milk for 300 days a year. Nitrogen fertiliser use has reduced by 140kg/ha (110 units/acre) to 250kg/ha (200 units/acre), and vet costs have fallen. Milk quality has also improved, increasing his milk price.

Concentrate used in the last year was mostly fed to improve body condition of first lactation heifers because he had mismanaged his grazing, he admitted.

Allowing too much grass to grow in summer had resulted in poorer quality autumn grazing. This year he has used less N fertiliser to control grass growth and will apply N later when grass can be used. This was one of the practices he picked up on a visit to New Zealand in 1995 where the most profitable farm was producing milk at 7p/litre.

Mr Daly is now adopting that producers management practices and with the help of New Zealand trained consultants working in Ireland, is producing his milk for 7p/litre, excluding labour and overhead costs. He has 63ha (155 acres) of grassland on his 89ha (220-acre) farm to support 132 cows, followers and 200 ewes.

Once a week

"Now fields are walked once a week, the herdsman measures grass cover once a week using a plate meter and we talk about grass for half an hour each day.

"To control grass we now go into low covers at turnout with 8-9in of grass and the rotation is very slow." Cows are fed silage as needed until mid-April.

The rotation over the 25 paddocks shortens as grass growth increases and silage will be made in early July to provide aftermaths from early August. Rotation length will then be slowed into the autumn with the last rotation beginning in mid-October and lasting into December.

The calving pattern has also been tightened and starts later on Mar 1 to match grass growth. Last year 50% of the herd calved in the first two weeks of March and 90% within six weeks.

"We tail paint cows one month before breeding, and each day bulling cows are recorded and painted a different colour."

Cows in the second half of their breeding cycle are identified by the colour of tail paint and injected with prostaglandin to bring them bulling earlier.

Vet costs – which were at 1p a litre – are now a third of that.

NZ APPROACH

&#8226 Calving matched to grass growth.

&#8226 Grazed grass 85% of cows diet.

&#8226 Little concentrate used.

&#8226 Tail paint to aid oestrus detection.

COST SAVINGS

&#8226 Concentrate £65 a cow.

&#8226 Silage 2.75t a cow less needed.

&#8226 Lower nitrogen rates.

&#8226 Vet savings 0.7p/litre.

&#8226 Fewer milking days – less labour and chemicals.

&#8226 Shorter housing period – less bedding and slurry.