Farmer Focus: Feeling the pinch from rising dairying costs

As usual, I’m writing this at the last minute on a Sunday night ahead of watching a game of football on the television.

I’ve had spaghetti bolognese for dinner and ice cream from one of the best Italian ice cream shops in the area.

I don’t want to curse it, but we’re still enjoying some fantastic weather for this part of the country. We took second cut at the end of June, with 24 hours nearly being too much wilt time.

About the author

Colin Murdoch
Ayrshire farmer and zero grazer Colin Murdoch switched from Holsteins to milking 225 Jerseys in 2019. The 182ha farm grows 40ha of winter and spring barley for a total mixed ration and parlour fed system supplying Graham’s Family Dairy.
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Let’s hope the weather doesn’t break just when we’re ready to start harvest of winter barley in about three weeks.

I’m sure everyone is feeling the pinch of increased input costs and wondering where it’s all going to stop.

Hopefully, economics will kick in and prices begin to ease if fewer people are buying, but with fertiliser being north of £300/t we took the decision to rely on slurry after second cut as our clamps should hopefully be full enough. 

See also: Higher straw prices expected for harvest 2020

We usually apply all our slurry with a dribble bar. However, a gate post jumped out at me after first cut, so one field was half done with a splash plate. There was a noticeably lower yield when it was cut.    

On the dairy front, feed prices are escalating far quicker than the milk price. Some things never change!

We’re fortunate enough to grow enough of our own barley and straw to shelter us somewhat. 

However, we decided to alter our bought-in protein blend, reducing it by 3% to 26% and increasing the fibre to counter the price increases.

It hasn’t worked, and we’ve lost two litres a cow to stand at about 22.6 litres, and butterfat has dropped 2% to 5.9%. It’s a steep learning curve at times with these Jerseys.

Grass growth continues to be strong with quality at 85 digestibility (D-value), 13.7 metabolisable energy (ME), and 24% protein.

We’ll continue to push intakes as aftermaths come into the rotation to see if we can recover some of the lost litres.

One benefit of the zero grazer is grass quality doesn’t deteriorate as the season goes on.

We managed our first family holiday as a four to Angus earlier in the month. It was great finally to be able to get away as restrictions ease.