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Michael Morgan

28 June 1996

Michael Morgan

DURING the past couple of weeks, despite uncertainties over the extent of the cull policy, dairy farmers enthusiasm has pushed leased 4% quota to 14.5p/litre.

As that is 2.5p over our budgeted outlay, I decided to work out the economics of milk production for us at this level.

Figures in the table will probably have a significant effect on our medium to long-term planning, involving further capital investment to increase milk production. Gross margin is £250 an extra cow inclusive of all variable costs.

This margin has been formulated using targets for next year and technical performance needed is above average. The cow feeding is based on all straights to cut costs, for winter concentrate prices have taken a huge jump over last year. The variable costs used are actual costs at Degar and give me a true reflection of real costs. I have been quite generous with milk price, as reductions look probable next year.

It does illustrate what effect quote has on margins with every 1p increase in leasing costs knocking £75 off the gross margin. If all of that margin could be kept as profit, fine. But as soon as a rise in fixed costs (labour) or capital requirements (cow housing, forage storage, land purchase) is needed, milking extra cows needs further scrutiny if any return is to be made at current leasing prices. &#42


Gross margin analysis on keeping an extra cow at Degar

£ a cow

Milk 7500 @ 25.5p/litre1,912

Calves sold100

Cull cows70

Total income2,082

Concentrates 2.lt @ £140/t294

Quota 7500 @ 14.5p/litre1,087

AI45

Vet30

Maize silage purchase

5t @ £20/t100

Grass silage costs

4t @ £17/t68

Grazing fertiliser10

Water17

Milking consumables

(med/towels/dip/liners)18

Milk cooling1

Bedding costs2

Replacement rearing160

Total costs1,832

Gross margin a cow250

Feeding straights will help reduce next winters production costs at Degar and will help to justify increasing cow numbers.

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Michael Morgan

31 May 1996

Michael Morgan

AT long last, first-cut silage is now in the clamp but this year the weather has had a bigger influence than usual. Because of the cold spring and latterly the long, dry spell, grass growth has been much reduced. This has resulted in high levels of nitrogen both in the ground and the plant. In fact grass analysis put nitrate-N levels in one field at 2059ppm dry matter. This is a classic recipe for butyric silage. Also rain was being forecast, which would have probably made the nitrate problem even worse, so we decided to cut. Then our Genus consultant told us that we should really be applying an acid to reduce the risk of butyric silage. But to cap it all the contractors forager tractor, complete with additive application equipment, was found to have a fault. With the prospect of rain on the horizon we couldnt afford the time to transfer the applicator.

We did manage to ensile the 17ha (42 acres) before the rain came but Im not looking forward to the silage analysis.

Something we have done differently this year is to have our separated slurry put on by an umbilical system. Having looked into our long-term options for slurry application I became interested in the advantages of the umbilical system. Quite by chance we heard that a local contractor had purchased a system so we booked him to come when the first-cut fields were clear. He has just finished spreading 681,900 litres (150,000gal) in about a day, has hardly left a wheel mark and to boot the odour is much reduced compared to our tanker system. In all we are extremely pleased with the results.

With the combination of residual nitrogen in the soil, plus the generous dressing of separated slurry, the silage ground wont be receiving any extra fertiliser. At this years prices this cant be a bad thing.

On the subject of saving money, recently Stewart (our dairy engineer) and I commented on the amount of waste heat emanating from our vacuum pump. The discussion turned to fabricating a heat exchanger to recover as much of this wasted energy as possible. After a couple of trials I managed to heat water up to 65C via this method. As a result I am now in the middle of assembling a fully functional unit. If I can recover 50-60% of the 7.5kW/hour vacuum pump energy input to help heat all our water on off-peak, it will be a financially beneficial exercise.n

Very high nitrates in grass and imminent rain that would have increased it further forced Michael Morgan to make his silage.

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Michael Morgan

3 May 1996

Michael Morgan

TWO weeks later than usual the cows are now out grazing day and night – but for the first time milk yields went down not up. We have now allocated them further acres and yields have picked up to where they were before turnout.

I suppose if I wanted to look on the positive side I could argue that the winter diet must have been pretty good if milk production has not increased significantly at grass.

What is worrying is that it is colder than usual and grass is much more inhibited than the seasonal average. This slow start combined with wet weather means we are still waiting to plant the maize and reseed a 12-acre silage ley. Both fields were treated with paper waste, which helped to raise the pH and is ploughed in for free, with the reseed also being subsoiled. The grass will be sown as soon as the tilth dries out, while the maize will wait until ground temperature has reached 8-10C.

All the heifers have now been served. Most are to Etazon Labelle, with the rest going to Zetland Zebo. A few still remain to be scanned, so I cannot give final figures on the success of the Crestar implantation programme. It is not quite as good as I had hoped, with about 50% holding to first service and requiring 1.5 straws a pregnancy.

It seems my recent figures for our milk cooling costs have raised one or two eyebrows, including the Bou-matic dealer Stuart Murray, who installed the equipment. Well I do not want to add fuel to the fire, especially after seeing rival equipment advertised as having the cheapest cooling costs, at 3p/100 litres.

But I have lowered my figure even further by using the bulk tanks deep-cool facility. By simply pressing a button in the off-peak period the vat cools the milk down to 2C thus reducing the compressors work at afternoon milking. &#42

Cows have been allocated extra acres at Michael Morgans farm after milk yields fell at turnout.

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Michael Morgan

9 February 1996

Michael Morgan

AS we are now well into the final quarter of the milk year, we find ourselves in a position similar to many dairy producers. Cows have been, and still are, milking well with current predictions suggesting that here at Degar, if things carry on as they are, we will end up 5% over quota.

We will have to quickly sit down with our Genus consultant and try and find the most applicable solution for us. Perhaps we have for the last couple of years been underestimating the cows milking potential and accordingly when planning next April should express more confidence in the cows yield ability.

As well as being pleased with their yields the cows seem to be in better condition than usual and havent milked off their backs as much in early lactation. This is almost definitely down to being able to feed more concentrates via the out-of-parlour-feeders without prompting digestive upsets.

Another plus point this winter which could be attributed to the "feed little and often approach" is the dramatic reduction in lameness. In years gone by we seem to have had increasing problems especially with sole ulcers but this year its occurrence is very much reduced but the reason isnt obvious to me – probably linked.

Ive also noticed the cows spending much more time lying down when in the close vicinity of the cubicles rather than as previously when they stood with two feet in the cubicle and two feet in the passageway. The link with the sole ulcer reduction makes sense but the reason for better cubicle acceptance doesnt as we havent physically altered them in any way.

To end on another positive note, since our big coliform outbreak we havent had a sniff of mastitis for two months (and long may it continue) – but Ive firmly got hold of a wooden chair while Im writing this! &#42

Michael Morgan reports that cows are still milking well at Degar Farm, with current predictions suggesting production will end up 5% over quota.

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Michael Morgan

15 December 1995

Michael Morgan

Welsh dairy farmer Michael Morgan manages 78 Holstein Friesians on his 49ha (120-acre) dairy farm in Mid Glamorgan. He grows 14ha (34 acres) of forage maize.

AFTER all the hard work and upheaval of the past few months installing the new milking and feeding facilities, I thought things would start to get a little easier, giving more time to manage the cows and the business.

I couldnt have been more wrong. Firstly, Dad went down with a bad chest infection and hardly set foot outside the front door for about a month. Thankfully Mum has been helping to feed calves which has eased my workload, but there hasnt been time to do much more that the routine jobs of milking and feeding.

Then after our first TBC test in the new parlour, the TBCs over the next couple of weeks went skywards with a result of 209. As if things werent bad enough we started getting cases of chronic mastitis, the first case resulting in the death of a cow. As you can imagine, the phone was red hot for a while trying to sort everything out.

After taking a milk sample, the mastitis problem proved (as expected) to be E coli, which was a bit of a blow as I can only remember having one case of this before. We have now totalled four cases in about 20 days. Of those, one died, two have left the herd through multiple quarters being infected, and the last case looks like loosing just the one quarter.

Its all a bit annoying as the cows are rigorously teat dipped, we have automatic scrapers and the cubicles are brushed twice a day. We have now started to spray disinfectant on the cubicles twice weekly and tried a different antibiotic tube so we will have to keep a close eye on the situation.

More confusing is the TBC situation given our completely new plant. After individual cell counts were taken we got rid of one cow whose counts were in the millions. The plant washing programme was double-checked and a bulk milk sample analysed by Genus. On receipt of the milk analysis, which showed a very high level of coliforms, we also received a TBC test result of five. Another test has been done but weve only had the quicker bactoscan result, which was 35. This would indicate a TBC of roughly four to seven, so it would appear the worst is over. &#42

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Michael Morgan

17 November 1995

Michael Morgan

AFTER two-and-a-half years of research, travelling, decision making and installation we are finally milking in the new parlour.

Both the cows and ourselves have been slowly aclimatising to the new Bou-matic Expressway over the past two weeks, and things are getting easier. It seems the biggest problem for the cows to adjust to, isnt the lack of in-parlour feeding (a large percentage of people have expressed concern over this) but the change in standing angle from a herringbone to a parallel arrangement.

Some of the more mature members of the herd are expressing a reluctance to stand at 90í but things should get better with time as we are asking them to change their habits of a lifetime. Otherwise the cows are standing very relaxed chewing their cud – a lot more calm in fact than when they were being fed in the old parlour which pricked everythings ears up when they heard the sound of concentrates drop. The crowd gate has been a real asset in helping to train the cows (especially the first couple of milkings) as its saved running around the holding pen trying to get them in.

The set-up still isnt finished however as we are waiting for the "one-touch" controls (automatically operates the crowd gate and closes the stall entrance gate) and the auto-sort system is currently being installed which will, I believe, be the first Bou-matic dual sort installation in Europe. Dual sort is simply an auto sort system with two sort gates which enables us to move cows in three directions.

One will be into a sort pen which will hold cows for AI or vet attention, another will return to pasture and the other will separate cows (if they have a concentrate allocation) to the out-of-parlour feeders. This will be really useful in the summer for as they are grazing they will have less time to consume their feed.

Within the first week of milking weve hosted a Bou-matic plant cleaning course for dealers and an open day for visitors with a seminar in the evening with a Bou-matic parlour design specialist Dick Potter. Id like to thank both Dick and Frank Maclelan (Frank took the cleaning course) for two fascinating days. Their in depth knowledge of milking and cleaning theories and practices had to be heard to be believed and I didnt realise the research that goes on to design their products. If you ever get the chance to hear them speak please attend as you wont fail to be impressed…..ask anyone who has! &#42

After two-and-a-half years of research, travelling, and decision making Michael Morgan is now milking in his new Bou-matic Expressway parlour.

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Michael Morgan

30 June 1995

Michael Morgan

Welsh dairy farmer Michael Morgan manages 78 Holstein Friesians on his 49ha (120-acre) dairy farm in Mid Glamorgan. He grows 14ha (34 acres) of forage maize.

ONE of the challenges of business is the continual rise in standard of product quality. In dairying this essentially means trying to produce better quality milk. Invariably milk buyers use two methods of attaining these higher standards: The carrot and the stick. I personally think that in the future the stick is going to get a lot bigger.

Milk Marque is soon to be milk sampling every collection in an effort to be able to trace offending producers but I dont think this is going to go far enough to please the large retailers. Eventually, as these huge businesses take more and more of the dairy retail market, they will put unbearable pressure to be able to identify their primary producer suppliers. Then it will only be a matter of time before they start inspecting our food production premises.

This is one of the reasons why we are investing heavily in plant to efficiently harvest and store milk and also employ state-of-the-art cleaning facilities to ensure that we are producing a top quality product.

To help achieve these standards we have bought what I believe could be the most advanced automatic milk plant cleaning system available – the Bou-Matic Guardian 2 wash controller. To list all its features would take a couple of pages so Ill attempt to convey the important ones from a dairymans point of view. Firstly its totally automatic – just one flick of a switch and walk away, dispensing chemicals, regulating temperature and wash times and switching everything off all unaided. This point should please the health and safety fraternity as no-one has to handle chemicals. On the subject of chemicals, another bonus of the system is the capability to handle three types allowing a detergent (removes fat), an acid (removes minerals and milkstone) and a separate sanitizer to be used. Also a sanitizing rinse can be programmed to run just before milking eliminating the possibility of bugs breeding since the wash cycle (probably 12 hours earlier).

Finally if any problems do occur, Guardian will tell you via an LCD displayer with an optional alarm, and when a printer is hooked up all temperatures, wash times, etc are available. The wonders of technology! &#42

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Michael Morgan

2 June 1995

Michael Morgan

Welsh dairy farmer Michael Morgan manages 78 Holstein Friesians on his 49ha (120-acre) dairy farm in Mid Glamorgan. He grows 14ha (34 acres) of forage maize.

THE further we proceed with our new milking centre set up, the more regulations we discover that need compliance. After a bit of detective work concerning water by-laws and incoming EU directives, we have now altered our plans (not for the first time… and probably not the last) to accommodate a Deosan PowerFlo unit.

This is basically a header tank (with a type A air-gap between inlet and stored water) with pump and pressure unit. This arrangement provides a uniform pressurised supply of water but at the same time makes it impossible for any treated or contaminated water to syphon back to the mains supply. We were first made aware of the problem through the press, so through a third party we made inquiries with our water authority. They knew even less than we did! We have later learned that the Severn-Trent are more genned-up on the subject but to avoid any later problems weve decided to install the unit now in our own time rather than someone tell us how little time we have to comply.

On the subject of water, Im presently trying to design an auto-washdown system for the parlour (between batches of cows) but matching the components (pump and nozzles) is proving a headache, and so any advice from people with previous experience would be gratefully appreciated.

Again, continuing the water theme, we are having our reseed contract sprayed to rid it of a bad infestation of chickweed, fat hen and nightshade – another legacy of last years maize spraying programme. After consultation with the Dalgety spray adviser and making use of MGA research, the maize crop will be sprayed in about a weeks time. Like last year Bromoxynil will be used to control the nightshade (which it did, a very cost effective job) but will be mixed with Atrazine, to eliminate all the other weed problems we suffered last season. I learnt an expensive lesson last winter – all because of the lack of a cheap herbicide!

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