Media and News

Organic Milk Production - 10th March 2016

Organic Milk Production


Organic Milk Production

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The calving pattern and the number of empty cows has been an issue at DemoDAIRY in the past. A concerted effort has been made to bring the calving start to mid April and have more cows calved before mating start date in early July.

The result of the 2014 joining program has shown continued improvement in the calving pattern. There have been no magic ingredients added to feed, and no increase in vet costs.

The most fertile groups of animals have been identified as the young animals and early calving animals, so the focus has been on increasing both these groups in the herd. 48 heifers were purchased in 2014 and the younger empty cows were carried over.

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DemoDAIRY is still on track to make a profit despite the poor spring and reduced milk prices. Spring rainfall on DemoDAIRY was around 30% of average, severely affecting fodder production, and resulting in increased feed costs. The business will make a small profit for the year but when compared to family owned farms the business is performing well in many areas. This 260 cow farm will generate $213,000 to pay labour and finance costs – something most family run farms would describe as a good year.

The farm produced 486 bales of silage and 37 bales of hay, around 160 tonne of DM, well down from the 260 tonne of DM produced in 2013. The pasture harvest from September to the end of December was down by 1.5 t/ha or 31%. Even though the farm had 63 tonne of fodder carried over from 2013/14 there was still a deficit of around 200 tonne of DM that is required to feed the herd over January to June 2015. Most of this has been purchased as cereal hay.

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DemoDAIRY Aims to Improve Fertility

DemoDAIRY is targeting improved fertility rates as the next plank in its revitalisation program.  The demonstration farm at Terang hopes to reduce its empty rate from 28 per cent to below 15 per cent by moving the average calving date forward, and reducing the percentage of cows over 7 year old in the herd.
The farm has already achieved a massive financial turnaround from reducing expenditure after adopting a more suitable stocking rate.

Speaking at a `Focus on Profit – how to cut costs and achieve profits’ workshop on April 2, DemoDAIRY farm management consultant Paul Groves said there was a significant reduction in fertility of the later calvers, a trend observed in most herds.

The age of DemoDAIRY’s herd also presents problems with 48 per cent of cows aged seven and over failing to get into calf. This age group represents about a quarter of the herd.

The farm has already made changes to its fertility program and is already on its way to achieving its goals.
Mr Groves said that since the stocking rate was reduced from almost 300 to about 220, the percentage of cows in calf had improved and there were more in calf early.

“From 75 less cows milking, there are only 10 less in calf. That is a significant percentage improvement,” he said.  Mr Groves said the farm aimed to start calving in mid-April.  He said that last year in tough conditions, April calvers were the highest producing cows in the herd. “They produce about 100 kg/MS better than the July calvers,” he said.  “That’s why I’d like more of those early calvers.” 

This year the farm has 21 more cows to calve in April, May and June than last year.

Mr Groves said split calving was not practical on the farm due to labour costs.

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Profitability over Production Works for DemoDAIRY

A focus on profitability and cost control rather than high production has helped DemoDAIRY to reverse its financial situation.

The Terang farm has reduced its stocking rates and implemented strict cost controls to achieve savings of more than $530,000 this year.

It has turned substantial losses of the past two financial years into  profit of about $60,000 due to big savings in feed costs, herd costs, repairs and maintenance, and labour costs.

The farm is now sharing its experiences with the dairy industry.

DemoDAIRY farm management consultant Paul Groves told a `Focus on Profit – how to cut costs and achieve profits’ workshop on April 2 that “margin is king”.

“You can cope with good and bad years provided you have that margin,” he said.

Mr Groves said the first step in achieving profit was looking at costs and making sure they are under control.

He said that on the DemoDAIRY farm, costs were brought under control by reducing the stocking rate by about 75 cows to 220 cows, from 2.5 to 1.9 cows per hectare.

The farm was achieving more milk solids per hectare than profitable farms, 1248 kg of milk solids per hectare compared to more profitable farms producing 775, but production costs were prohibitive.

“For this farm it all came to adopting a reasonable stocking rate and reviewing costs, particularly feed costs,” Mr Groves said.

“Before you listen to a sales rep saying you will get more production by adding this product, ask does it make me more margin,” he said.

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