7 September 2001

Herd losses spelt out…

By Jeremy Hunt

EVERY dairyman in the bottom 25% of UK milk producers is losing £642/year/cow compared with the top 25% in income because they are failing to exploit genetic potential.

This £642 loss is a cumulative total based on the different production costs between the top and bottom 25% of UK herds, Ian Brown of Dugdale Nutrition told a producer meeting in Skipton, North Yorks.

A 100-cow herd in the bottom 25% is losing £20,400 through fertility problems, £11,000 due to lameness, £6840 from mastitis, while reduced milk yield accounts for £26,000.

"Milk producers have a pot of gold to aim for. Even if these figures are only 50% correct, it still means the lower end are forfeiting £32,000 worth of annual income," said Mr Brown.

His figures are based on costings and statistics from ADC, DEFRA, Edinburgh Universitys Dairy Herd Health and Productivity Service (DHHPS) and NMR.

Mr Brown said that based on milk at 20p/litre, the top 25% of herds are earning 78% more income from milk compared with the bottom 25%.

Best practice in herd health, fertility management, nutrition, housing and welfare was key to exploiting cows true milking potential, he said.

"Although many herds have high £PLI value cows, they are not realising their potential. In reality, the UK herd average yield has only increased by 100 litres/lactation over the last five years to reach its current figure of 6050 litres.

"Cows are only lasting 2.3 lactations and calving intervals are increasing to reach a national average of more than 400 days. Yet more than 75% of cull cows are in calf when they are slaughtered. There isnt a fertility problem with these cows, the issue being that they just dont get there in time."

Launching the companys M3 concept – Management For More Than Milk – Mr Brown said a herd management strategy to identify limiting factors reducing profitability could help.

This includes metabolic profiling and herd fertility monitoring, which would form an integral part of the M3 programme, undertaken in association with DHHPS.

David Whittaker, of DHHPS, said potential productivity was influenced by a wide range of factors, the most common of which were nutrition, health and management, including stockmanship.

"By taking blood samples, we can determine how cows are feeling. We can see when cows are energy deficient, there are feed protein shortages or a trace element imbalance.

"When acted upon this data can make a significant contribution to herd performance." &#42

HERDPROFITS

&#8226 Reduced milk yield costly.

&#8226 Monitor fertility results.

&#8226 Increase cow longevity.