Raising herd efficiency helps maintain margins

Dairy producers are still fixated by milk price and should concern themselves with minimising production costs through steps such as improving milk hygiene and herd health to maximise returns, producers have been told.

Speaking on the opening morning of this week’s Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells, David Curry – chairman of Dairy UK and Conservative MP – said the victim syndrome among dairy producers had to end for businesses to progress.

“Yes, producers may feel like a punch-bag – with ongoing milk price pressure – but it’s a myth all producers are losing 2p/litre; that’s rubbish.

If so, how come there are new parlours being put in?”

Instead producers should put more effort into producing what the market wants and achieving the best price through milk contracts.

“I know, for example, there is a 7p/litre difference between prices farmers are being paid by the co-ops.

I still believe too few producers have a clear understanding of whether they’re in profit or loss.”

Others agreed with the need for attention to focus on improving milk hygiene and quality targets.

According to Jonathan Davies of National Milk Records, producers were typically losing between 0.5-0.75p/litre due to poor milk hygiene.

That was exacerbated by disease such as IBR, BVD and Leptospirosis, which could cost as much as 2p/litre in lost revenue, he added.

To help producers get a grip on these issues NMR was launching new services for producers using bulk milk samples collected by many mainstream milk buyers for testing centrally at National Milk Labs to highlight where milk hygiene and disease were at fault, added NMR’s Ben Bartlett.

“We realise producers need a no-hassle method of supplying samples for analysis and this route removes the need for producers to send separate samples via the post to the lab.”

Others wanted producers to concentrate on reducing vet and medicine costs.

The Dairy Development Centre (DCC) at Gelli Aur was about to launch a Herd Health Project where consulting vets worked with producers’ local vet to overcome key herd health issues on a farm-by-farm basis, explained Gelli Aur’s John Owen.

“We know from our herds that vet and med costs are 2p/litre and we can make improvements.

It’s knowing where that’s the key,” he said.

Costs for the service would be between £424 and £501 a year and include on-farm visits three times a year and specialist advice, with the DCC contributing a further £150 a unit towards costs.


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