26 November 1999

HIGHYIELDS COMEBY MANYWAYS

IT is possible to increase yields in more ways than just feeding extra cake, says Axient consultant Richard Foster.

"Whats important is looking at the whole picture and theres no blueprint for farms. They are all different in terms of grass conservation policy, building space and types of cows."

Reducing mastitis, tackling lameness and ensuring nutrition is right are crucial in boosting yields as well, says Mr Foster.

"Often cows are producing the milk but it is not finding its way into the tank because health or nutritional problems can reduce output."

Referring to the Durstons business, Mr Foster says that he tried to identify a weakness and turn this into an opportunity. "I looked at their grazing policy with a fresh pair of eyes."

The Durstons grass had potential but was not being used to its full effect, says Mr Foster. "Grass looked a bit tired, so we tried making better use of grass and this has improved margins."

In one year, the Durstons herd has increased milk from forage from 3180 to 3700 litres. But this winter the Durstons will have to maintain improvements without any maize silage in the diet.

Explaining the decision to do away with maize this year, Mr Foster says it wasnt necessary to grow maize for the yields the Durstons were achieving. "I havent ruled it out. It may come back in future once the grass use is improved and milk production suits growing the crop again."

The business plan also looked at other things, not just yield from forage, he says. "They have improved cows access to water by designing a mobile trough that can be pulled behind a quad bike to ensure cows have enough water in the paddocks." &#42