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6 tips for improving your dairy farm’s sustainability

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Predicta GUARDIAN, for farmers who don’t wait till it’s too late!
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We’re on another new journey. Reducing energy, introducing improved husbandry techniques and technology together with animal health care and the optimum dry cow period are amongst the measures that will help you to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and in turn achieve a more sustainable business.  

Like most things in life, dairy farm sustainability is about achieving a balance; in this instance, between economic viability, environmental responsibility and social responsibility.

Sounds more than a challenge when it needn’t be. In fact, sustainability can be clearly linked to improved efficiency and profitability. 

Cows grazing in wind-turbine field/farm

© Predicta GUARDIAN

Here’s six common sense tips: 

Test soils

It’s one of your biggest assets. Soil health is essential for optimum grass growth.

Aim to test at least 25% of the farm every year and then use the information to create a nutrient management plan which will outline crop nutrient requirements based on the current soil fertility.

It will also bring a focus to maximising slurry and farmyard manure (FYM) application and reducing reliance on purchased nitrogen (N) fertiliser, a major driver of GHG emissions. 

Manage nitrogen

Measuring the N introduced onto the farm through fertiliser together with feeds, stock and manures, compared to the nitrogen leaving the farm through milk and outputs is crucial.

The difference between the two figures represents the nitrogen unaccounted for or, most likely, lost to the environment – to air or into the ground or water.

This nitrogen balance is a measure of the efficiency of nutrient and input use on the individual farm. 

Cows grazing in field

© Predicta GUARDIAN

Improve cow efficiency

A more efficient cow that can produce milk with fewer inputs is a more sustainable cow.

For example, a dairy cow that has increased its annual milk yield by 500 litres to 7,000 litres through a mix of better breeding, high-quality forage and better animal health care, will have broadly the same environmental impact as the same cow producing 6,500 litres. 

Reduce age at first calving

Lowering the herd’s average from 27 to 24 months will help reduce the overall dairy GHG footprint by 7%, a significant figure based on fewer input requirements – land, forage and fertiliser for the heifers still to calve and paying back in terms of milk production.

Calving earlier helps to maximise an animal’s lifetime performance, minimising lifetime GHG emissions per litre of production and improving milk’s carbon footprint.

When she comes to the end of her first lactation then allow a dry cow period of at least 60 days. 

Make fixed-cost savings

Highlight areas to improve by auditing energy and water usage. Simple things like fixing water leaks, insulating boilers and switching to LED lighting could all have potential to drastically reduce resources.

Consider investing in heat recovery, rainwater harvesting systems or switching to a variable speed vacuum pump to reduce both energy consumption and cost of production and improve dairy farm sustainability. 

Make use of data

Don’t forget the data from your herd management software is one of your most powerful tools.

Data can help you with some of the simplest tasks such as planning milk production over the next 12 months, ensuring the shed is filled with your most productive animals and preventing costly diseases with health risk alerts several weeks in advance of the actual disease event. Find out how with Predicta GUARDIAN.

Your herd management software’s data can also bring clarity to some of the most complex issues and in turn take your business in to new levels of long-term profit and dairy farm sustainability.  

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