27 March 1998

The Virginians are cost-conscious…

VIRGINIA state milk producers who graze cows are more profitable than those housing cows all year and storage feeding them.

Speaking at the Pennsylvania grazing conference, Jerry Swisher Jr, dairy extension agent from Virginia Tech, said that cost is the only thing milk producers can control. "You cannot influence prices of milk overall. That is a fact."

Rotational grazing provides scope to reduce cost; and his study of farm profits in the same area shows rotational grazing increases net farm income by £255 a cow over conventional management of year-round confinement.

This is despite the conventional herds producing 8680kg of milk a cow compared with 5909kg for grazed herds, and achieving a milk price of 18.7 and 17.9p/litre respectively. Income a cow was, therefore, £540 higher for confined herds at £1987.

"Increased net farm income for grazed herds is explained by cost control," he said. Costs for conventional herds were 36% higher a litre, and total cash expenses for grazed herds halved a cow.

Savings were in forage costs, purchased feed, labour, rent, and vet costs.

"Grazing may not be suitable for every farm, but it should not be overlooked for its potential to increase profits."