Leasing still best option with quota
Quota planning has been at the forefront of activities at Briscoe this month.
Tim Relf reports
HAVING returned from a weeks holiday in Scotland to find the grass little different than when he left, Eddie Nicholson now hopes to begin silaging on May 30.
"There was probably only 1in of growth while I was away and the grass is still very brown on top," he says, blaming the cold winds and night frosts.
"We may even have to delay cutting for a day or two, because the grass will still be full of nitrogen."
The Nicholsons therefore plan to test the N levels two days before cutting begins. "If it is too high, it leads to reduced intake," says Eddie. "Fermentation and palatability are crucial."
Typical yields at Briscoe range from 13.5-17.3t/ha (5.4-7t/acre) fresh-weight.
One piece of good news regarding the grass was the second prize in a local competition.
This was awarded for a field of permanent ley, sown at the end of last August. Like most of the grass on the farm, it is a Super 7 mixture, sown at a rate of 44.5kg/ha (18kg/acre) and a cost of £84/ha (£34/acre).
"Unusually, we used a pre-emergence spray and that has controlled the chickweed," says Eddie. "We also applied MCPA to control volunteer oilseed rape. Seeing it surprised us because we havent grown rape in that field for nine years."
But spraying has had the undesirable effect of checking the clover included in the sward. "The grass in that particular field is so thick that the clover hasnt really had a chance to come back yet. Perhaps it will after the grass is cut."
In addition to preparing for silaging, the Nicholsons have also made time to plan the forthcoming years production with their Genus consultant.
Predicted output is 1,619,590 litres at 4.12% butterfat and 3.21% protein. With an average herd size of 239 head (218 in milk), yield an animal will be 6770 litres.
At this level there will be a quota shortfall of 157,000 litres. The option of leasing-in has therefore been compared against lowering yields or reducing numbers (see table).
The result favours leasing-in. "But that analysis is made on the assumption that we can get quota at 11.5p/litre," says Eddie. If, for example, prices were to rise to 20p/litre, then the advantage of leasing would be almost completely lost.
Similarly, any rise in the feed rate required would offset the advantage of leasing to allow higher production. "If the feed rate was 0.30kg/litre instead of the 0.23kg were planning, achieving 6700 litres would cost an extra £28/cow compared to the 6120-litre output.
"We may therefore try and secure enough quota to cover 6500 litres per cow, and then decide whether to acquire any more depending on the price. Also, if the silage proves to be poor quality, then leasing may be less advantageous as concentrate usage would increase."
Briscoe milk output options
Cut cowCut cowLease
Milk at 24.5p/litre (£/cow)165914991659
Conc at £142/t (£/cow)221200221
Herd MOPF minus
quota cost (£)309,170310,461325,627