29 August 1997

Milk from grass in September is sound £ sense

By Jessica Buss

and Sue Rider

DAIRY producers should optimise milk output for September and then consider the marginal benefit of extra production this winter before plan- ning feeding and quota options.

"It makes sense to produce milk cheaply off grass through September while the milk price is relatively high due to positive seasonality adjustments," says ADASs Ian Powell.

Dairy nutrition consultant Mike Tame adds that to keep milk production high in September cows may need buffer feeding. "The priority is to allow cows to graze grass until it is insufficient to support their milk production. Then if cows are capable of producing more, introduce a balanced buffer."

Dr Tame advises formulating a buffer depending on cow yield. He advocates a maize and grass silage buffer when available, fed with some protein. Rapemeal, maize gluten, brewers and distillers grains are all reasonably priced feeds, he adds.

"But be certain when giving additional feed that production is increased. Extra milk must be greater in value than the cost of feed. Monitor the response of a dozen good cows to check it is sufficient."

But by October milk prices down to 20p/litre for most producers, static leasing prices and over quota production, will demand a careful review of short-term quota management options, says Mr Powell.

"Look at the marginal benefit of milk production. This will depend on milk price, leasing price, and concentrate cost. At a typical marginal feed rate of 0.7kg/litre, and cake price of 12.5p/kg, that litre will cost 8.75p/litre to produce, leaving a 12.25p/litre margin when milk price is 21p/litre. Take leasing at 10p/litre, and you are still left with a positive margin. It is slim but the extra production will be contributing to overheads.

"Do not, therefore, discount quota leasing," he says. "Even at current prices this option is fairly near the top of the list. The worst option is to pay levy, avoid doing that. Throwing milk away is not attractive either. Better to consider lower and cheaper concentrate use, reducing butterfat, culling cows, feeding milk to calves and leasing at under 10p/litre," he suggests.

Plan to feed less concentrate and cut yield a cow to ease back production from October, adds Ander-sons consultant Mike Houghton.

"Look hard at winter feeding plans and use cheap by-products and alternative feeds, and keep concentrate costs low." But savings of £30/t on feed will only recover a small part of the £280 lost in milk price for an 8000-litre cow. When feeding 2.5t of concentrate, margins are still £200 lower, he warns.

Ask yourself if you can afford to lease in quota with the small margin between milk price and leasing price, says Mr Houghton. When you cannot afford to lease make plans to cut cow production or numbers to stay within quota. &#42

QUOTA MANAGEMENT

&#8226 Optimise September milk.

&#8226 Feed less concentrates.

&#8226 Do not discount leasing.