11 August 1995

Forage management challenge

IMPROVED forage management is one of the main challenges facing dairy farmers aspiring to performance equal to that of the top 10% in the country.

Evidence comes from a Profits in Dairying report out this week from Genus (see Business, p22).

It shows the top 10% of Genus Farm Business Accounts farms surveyed achieved profits of £74,138, against £17,561 for the bottom 10%. Top farmers secured higher yields from forage, higher stocking rates and better quality forage. Forage production costs a cow were 25% lower than those of the bottom group. The high-fliers made savings in overhead costs but variable costs differed little – although top farmers fed 0.3kg/litre of concentrates and bottom farmers 0.38kg/litre. Despite the lower feed inputs, cows in the top 10% herds gave more milk.

Price paid for semen was higher in the top herds, indicating willingness to invest in genetic merit, says Genus. This was reflected in 25% higher first lactation yields in these herds. Income from calves was also higher – due to lower mortality and astute marketing.

Alongside first-class technical performance, management commitment was vital.