Using grass resources to full swells coffers
By James Garner
ONE Isle of Man dairy farm has embraced extended grazing, but not with Irish fervour, and is better off for it.
Brothers Geoff and Erik Taggert, who farm at Billown Farm, Ballasalla, believe using more grass and home-grown forage is the right policy now that making money from dairying is tough work on the island.
In recent years yields have fallen from their 150 black-and-white cow herd from 8000 litres on three-times-a-day milking, to 7000 litres on twice-a-day milking.
However, at the same time they have cut costs by £30,000 a year, which means in net terms they are better off, says Erik.
"In two years we lost 100,000 litres of milk worth £17,000. But weve saved £30,000 by reducing cake, so were £13,000 better off."
Its not only the change from three-times to two-times-a-day milking that has helped cut the concentrate bill, but using some grazing techniques learned from leading UK grazing consultant Carol Gibson.
"Were not devotees," says Erik. But he does recognise the importance of using more grass. "We turned cows out on Feb 15 this year, and they will come in at night in November, when the weather gets bad, but, we will still try to get them out during the day."
But the Taggerts have adopted paddock grazing, tracks and use back and forward fences, so their assertion that they are not devotees to grass systems may seem a little hollow.
However, they have also started to grow maize – the most rapidly increasing crop on the island – for silage and they will not move to block calving.
Currently their calving period starts in November and goes on until April, and Geoff hopes the block calving trend doesnt catch on.
"If we all followed the Irish system and spring block calved then the creamery would become dreadfully short of milk at the tail end of the year."
Erik agrees: "We want Utopia – a nice even supply of 40m litres of milk a year to support the creamery."
Being outside the EU means they dont have quotas to contend with. But producers do have other costs to consider, and these counteract the bonus of farming without quotas, says Mr Taggert.
Usual inputs cost more, he says, pointing at protein imports as an example. These, he says command an additional £40/t over UK prices, so cutting concentrate costs is crucial. Electricity, fuel and labour all cost more as well, he adds.
Geoff and Erik Taggert have saved £13,000 by making better use of grass, despite milk yields falling.
• Adopted some grazing techniques.
• Cut from three to two-times-a-day milking.
• £13,000 better off.