20 February 1998

EFFICIENT EXPANSION WORKS OUT, US STYLE

Improved French and US genetics are helping farmers achieve ever higher levels

of production. Jessica Buss reports from the British Cattle Breeders Conference

AN AMERICAN dairy cow breeder has expanded quickly over the last five years to produce milk profitably, despite a low milk price.

Todd Doornink, Winsconsin, increased his herd from 80 cows in 1991 to 600 cows in 1994. He said it had always been his long-term goal to expand. But the decision was driven by the need for greater efficiency, with three families trying to make a living from the farm.

Cows are housed in two cubicle barns, the first, for 300 cows, was built in 1991, the second was completed in 1994. Following a fire the old dairy unit was altered for youngstock housing.

Cows are fed a total mixed ration of maize silage, high moisture maize grain, haylage, cotton -seed, peas and by-pass protein. He also injects cows with BST from 80 to 200 days calved. The extra milk production that results doubles his investment in BST and has seen no adverse effects on health.

The herd is milked three-times-a-day in a 20:20 parlour that runs for almost 24 hours a day. Automatic cow identification and recording allows cows that deviate from their normal yield to be checked by the herd manager. The dairy has a staff of 15.

To ensure good cows are bred as herd replacements, he uses the US Holstein Associations Bull Search programme which allows him to set the criteria for sires used for cow matings.

"I focus on type and udder composition, and often use bulls that have a little older genetics because I know that they will produce large quantities of milk over a long period.

"It is an intensive system, high input and maximum output at minimum cost." He takes advantages of efficiencies of scale.

Cow yields average 9600kg, and in the highest milk price year of 1996, he sold £2000 milk A cow, with total income at £2266 and costs of £1701 the net farm income was £374 a cow. &#42

Expanding from 80 to 600 cows has allowed more efficient milk production, says Todd Doornink.