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Monitor Cost of Production for More Efficient Calf Rearing

Mole Valley Farmers Dairy Conference Ayr & Somerset 2017:

Global experts provide advice at the inaugural Mole Valley Dairy Conferences held in November at Ayrshire  and Somerset.

Leading US dairy business consultant Matt Lange (MBA) from Wisconsin- based Compeer Financial urged farmers to take greater control of their costs structures especially forage and labour costs. Mr Lange stated farmers need to  monitor  costs  of  production and seek to increase forage value.

Using information from Compeer Financial  data-sets,  he  stated  the top 25% performing farm businesses had reduced costs of production and increased  forage  value.  Mr  Lange also urged farmers to consider six business separation points including depreciation, owing to animal losses.

He said: “Cows that last five, six or seven lactations are the most profitable animals in the herd. Farmers cannot afford to rear a heifer at a cost   of  £1,500  and  cull  the  animal  in  her first or second lactation. The business will be looking towards an £800 depreciation loss. It takes at least two lactations for an animal to pay for itself and these accumulative losses have a negative impact.

“Cows need to survive into their third to fifth lactation and remain fit and healthy. The top herds with the lowest death losses were more profitable and farmers should target 4% - 5% death loss or lower. Somatic Cell Counts are another indicator of profitability. The top 33% of herds have cell counts below 196,000, whilst the lowest third had cell counts of 239,000 or more.”

Mr Lange also emphasised age-at- first calving should be targeted at 23 months and farmers should focus on energy corrected milk values; increasing pregnancy rates, net herd replacement costs and heifer survival as key indicators of dairy farm profitability.

Cow care leads to  profit

Joep Driessen, founder of Cow Signals Training Company and Vetvice, urged farmers to better understand “cow signals” and the benefits of increasing animal health and welfare. Mr Driessen, a qualified Veterinarian, emphasised cows require feed; water, light, air, space and rest.

“Cows provide signals and farmers and their staff need to understand these signals and act to correct concerns before bigger problems result,” he said. “In Holland, up to 25% of cows go  lame in any given year and this leads

to body-weight loss; depressed milk yield, not showing signs of oestrus and eventually, a cow can be culled.

“Culling a cow is a mistake. We  need  to ensure she is healthy and productive and survives within the herd. A healthy third to fourth lactation animal will

yield an additional 2,000 – 3,000 litres  of milk per lactation. We do not want cows standing in collecting yards for long periods before milking. Lame cows hang back and do not come forward and in some cases, can spend six to eight hours in a collecting yard.

“The cow is therefore not eating at the feed barrier nor resting nor

ruminating properly and this affects milk yield. Every hour resting is worth an additional 1litre of milk. Cows therefore need a comfortable bed in order to rest. If her bed is uncomfortable the cow can fer body bruising such as swollen   hocks and this will reduce her ability to eat, milk and be profitable.”



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 Read how guest speakers at our Calf Conference in Ayr explain the benefits of caring for your calves.

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