Feed to fatten milk profits

3 January 1997

Feed to fatten milk profits

Price cuts for milk fat and limits on how much milk protein will qualify for payment demand changes in cow rationing to optimise profits. Jessica Buss reports

PRODUCING milk on a contract that gives little bonus for extra protein has allowed one Cheshire producer to reduce feed costs and boost margins.

Bernard Byrd of Tilston Bank Farm, Tarporley began selling milk on a contract that pays well for butterfat but gives little bonus for proteins above 3.1% last September.

There was little point, therefore, in aiming to repeat the milk proteins that the 180-cow herd had achieved last autumn (table 1).

The farms nutrition consultant, Stuart Jones, has redesigned the rations to maintain butterfat and milk yields but not to encourage protein. "On the new milk contract, it will not pay to feed expensively to raise proteins above 3.1%," explains Mr Jones. "To achieve high protein percentages you tend to need more expensive feeds," he says. By including cheaper concentrates in the ration, margins were increased by almost 1p/litre in October compared with last years figure. Milk price for the month was similar in both years. But this October butterfat was 4.14% and protein 3.34%, compared with last years 3.97% butterfat, and 3.48% protein.

Concentrate use for the 6788-litre herd is low at 1060kg a cow a year, with an extra £70 a cow spent on purchased feed such as brewers grains. Milk from forage is 3385 litres.

"Feeding for milk quality demands a balanced nutrient supply with high levels of fermentable energy fed encouraging fat and protein yields," says Mr Jones. "Some of the milk fat is synthesised from dietary fatty acids and some is a product of digestion in the rumen."

When formulating the ration for Mr Byrd in September, he looked for ingredients that stimulated milk fat synthesis. And without having to feed for milk protein, he aimed to keep the concentrate price low.

Average concentrate price a tonne is similar to last year but £20/t less than it would have been if the same ingredients had been fed as last year.

Expensive milk protein improving products such as fishmeal, protected vegetable proteins and amino-acid supplements are no longer needed.

The complete diet fed currently includes maize and grass silage, caustic wheat, palm kernel, soya, molasses, brewers grains and wet wheat dark distillers grains (table 2).

"The caustic wheat provides fermentable energy to maintain high intakes," he says. "High dry matter intakes allow use of less concentrated FME sources that have lower ME values."

The ration is designed using the French PDI rationing system for protein. It shows that total protein supply in the 16.2% crude protein diet is adequate.

Milk producers must ensure their cows are on a ration that will produce milk of specified fat and protein content as economically as possible, says independent consultant Stuart Jones.


&#8226 No need to feed expensive protein-boosting ingredients.

&#8226 Aim to stimulate milk fat synthesis and feed intakes.

&#8226 Scope to cut ration costs and improve margin a litre.

Table 1: Milk quality and margin/litre results 1996 (1995)

Fat (%)Prot (%)Margin (p/litre)

Aug3.95 (3.67)3.18 (3.29)24.97 (23.92)

Sept4.04 (3.97)3.24 (3.48)24.87 (24.70)

Oct4.14 (3.97)3.34 (3.48)23.15 (22.18)

Table 2: Cow rations at Tilston Bank Farm: Winter 1996 (kg a cow a day)


(27 litres)(15 litres)

Grass silage2520

Maize silage1512




Brewers grains55

Moist wheat

distillers grains32

*The 19% crude protein home mix is 50% caustic wheat, 32.5% palm kernel, 12.5% soya.

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