Farmer Focus: Milk output unchanged after cutting numbers

It’s been a funny year for grass growth. A cold April was followed by torrential rain in May. Growth was just appearing to take off in June when a heatwave in July knocked it so much that in August we had to concentrate on building grass covers again.

There was rarely a stage where there was time to be complacent, as the threat of dry weather was never far away.

See also: How herd genomics can help lift milk solids

Across Ireland, some parts of the country have fared worse than others, with pockets of the east and south feeling quite a pinch by the end of July, but we’ve seen much worse.

We dropped our stocking rate by about 5% this year to cope with that dry patch that inevitably comes at some point in the summer.

Given the rising input costs, especially around concentrate and fertiliser, we saw it as a way to increase resilience within the farm gate.

This year has seen concentrate and fertiliser prices both lift more than 20%, but they have come without a 20% increase in milk price.

Milk price is favourable, certainly, but farmers as price takers must keep the focus on costs. Discipline can be hard to maintain when the parlour feeders are set to 3kg and the relief milker is coming in the morning.

Making the time to do the grass walk can be a struggle, but Neil manages to liven it up with the kids, turning it into a nature hunt or a weed bootcamp, depending on the day.

That invaluable information allows adjustments to be made in a timely manner, especially when building farm cover in autumn.

It means better grass utilisation, which is the cornerstone of our farm business.

With 5% fewer cows, production remains on par to date with last year. This is a great cause to celebrate.

At 5.37% butterfat and 4.23% protein, this week the herd is producing 1.58kg milk solids a cow a day, on a once-a-day milking system.

Our milk price for June was 48c/litre based on the milk solids produced, which equates to 41p/litre.

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