13 November 1998

Own proteins can pay off

HOME-GROWN protein crops can improve dairy margins by £40/cow/year, producers at a Milk Development Council-funded open day at Rodbaston College, Staffs, were told last week.

Speaking at the meeting, Axient senior dairy consultant Andrew Connah said even using a simple system of dividing grazing into thirds would work.

Planning Italian ryegrass/red clover swards for silage; perennial ryegrass/white clover grazing and perennial ryegrass swards for grazing or mowing could cut costs and was more practical than growing novel crops.

Mr Connah urged producers not to dismiss home-grown proteins potential as a myth, but introduce those crops which fit individual farm systems.

Producers had become familiar with maize and whole-crop silage – both of which are high-energy forages and need to be balanced with bought-in protein – and were unwilling to consider other crops. Even though soya may appear low cost at £120/t, home-grown protein can cost up to 25% less, said Mr Connah.

Where proteins had been grown on-farm, a recent survey suggests the combination of improved milk yield and lower cake and fertiliser costs achieved a £40.77/cow increase in dairy margins, he told producers at the open day.

Farms self-sufficient in protein achieve an increased margin equivalent to 1ppl. If that was added to the milk price by buyers it would be welcomed without hesitation, so why hold back from home-grown protein, asked Mr Connah.

&#8226 More on growing and feeding protein – see p42