3 May 1996

Counting the cost of yield increases

By Peter Grimshaw

IF THE 42,000 cow cull goes ahead, the yield of cows remaining would need to increase by nearly 400 litres to fill milk quota. But it would be costly to boost yields simply by feeding more cake.

Genuss national herd predictor model forecasts that, with a current average culling rate of 29%, the governments proposed slaughter policy would require this output increase to meet national quota targets.

Using census data in England and Wales, it estimates the dairy cow population to be 1.975m at the end of March. With a predicted 500,000 in-calf heifers due to join the herd this year, the model predicts a shortage of 125,000 milking cows in the current quota year. (The amount to make up will depend upon the actual cull in each herd.)

Although the 6.8% yield increase required by remaining cows could probably easily be achieved by feeding more concentrates, it would prove an expensive option.

Compounders are already predicting a 25-30% increase in compound feed prices in the year ahead and are adjusting their grists to reduce the impact.

Major feed suppliers are resisting calls for open ingredient declaration in the wake of the BSE crisis. This gives them a marginal price advantage over others, mainly the co-operatives.

Simon Mead, head of cattle at BOCM Pauls, said that prices for a typical like-for-like formulation had probably risen by £34/t since last autumn. By next autumn the difference would probably be nearer £38/t.

Mole Valley Farmers was among the first to adopt open declaration, and raw materials buyer Charles Waldron said he is formulating with cheaper ingredients to offset higher prices for soya and grains.

"We cannot be as flexible as those who declare ingredients by category only," he said. &#42