Equal to the Genus challenge
INCREASING yields and reducing feed rates, coupled with more grazing acres available, has resulted in higher margins on one Yorks dairy unit.
"We were already at the top of the local Genus Milkminder table when we decided to join the Genus challenge to increase margins by £40 a cow last September," says milk producer Stephen Walker of Moorside Farm, Sheffield, Yorks.
Margins increased by £183 a cow (net of milk price) in 12 months, even though they were previously above the Genus average, claims his Derbyshire-based Genus consultant Stephen Brook.
According to Mr Brook this increase was partly due to a successful rent tender for nearby Bowshaw Farm early in 1995, which provided more grazing for the cows. But margins had risen before moving the cows to the new unit and yields from forage had increased by 600 litres a cow between September 94 and April, he adds.
"At Moorside Farm we were feeding plenty of cake and believed we could increase the use of the forage and reduce concentrates, even though the farm was heavily stocked," says Mr Walker.
"Last winter we had enough forage for the cows and reduced concentrates to meet quota, and the cows continued to milk well. Butterfat was reduced by cutting out palm kernal that had been fed to increase milk price. Introducing feeds such as brewers grains clamped under the silage and maize gluten and soya allowed the concentrate price to be kept the same."
In the seven years since Mr Walker took over the tenancy at Moorside he has always cut silage in early May, and this has had an energy value consistently above 12 ME. But keeping 100 cows on the 44ha (109 acres) of grazing land meant that he had maximised the stocking rate. To move forward more land was needed.
In April cows moved to the newly rented 83ha (205 acres) at Bowshaw Farm, which has good buildings but no milk quota. The land increased the cow acreage, relieving the tight stocking rate. Yields from forage have since risen by a further 400 litres a cow.
Mr Walker set stocked his cows through the summer, and plenty of grass was available. "In the past cows were buffer fed silage all summer. We continued offering a buffer until June this year, then stopped because the cows had too much grass," says Mr Walker. *
12 months rolling toSept 94Sept 95
Cows in herd104112
Stocking rate (LSU/ha)2.952.26
Yield from forage19522995
Margin over purchased feed: