Augmenting cow’s milk production is a prerequisite for improving the profitability of dairy farms. Forage resources and the limited number of stalls can only allow the rearing of a limited number of cows. Increasing milk production at the farm level requires that the productivity per cow be maximised. Still, an appropriate solution cannot be implemented without conducting a consistent and thorough audit of the herd. What variables should one take into account to increase the profitability of dairy farming? How can one improve productivity per cow?
What are the profitability variables of dairy farming?
The key variables that can allow an increase in a farm’s margin through milk production are:
- The volume sold: the amount of milk sold is the first lever to maximise revenue. An increase in production volume and commercialisation allows a dilution of the burden of increasing fixed costs (heating, electricity…).
- The sales price: this price highly depends on the market and opportunities available on the farm. Indeed, certain levers at the farm level can allow for higher profits. The first entails the command of milk composition with regard to milk solids (fat and proteins).
The second lever relates to controlling milk quality to avoid potential risks, such as pathogens and somatic cell count issues. These two levers can maximise the price of each tonne of milk.
Optimisation of the diet: improvement of the Milk Index, or the amount of milk produced per kilogram of dry matter intake, is likely to generate a high return on investment considering the initial feed costs engaged.
The control of maintenance fees: some maintenance costs are proportional to the number of animals present on the farm. These costs encompass the following: legal constraints for the control of manure, animal housing and milking equipment needed to ensure decent working conditions, employment costs…. Boosting the productivity per cow ensures a better return on investment for these expenses.
What are the necessary steps to take for increasing milk production?
Beyond the diet, rearing conditions and herd management have a direct impact on the amount of milk produced per cow per day. The first step to be implemented consists of undertaking an audit. The conclusion drawn from this audit will help identify areas for improvement.
This process will consider various factors, including nutrition, health, environment, and herd housing, with a focus on the following points:
- Management of reproductive issues: poor reproductive performance increases the calving to calving interval and, therefore, the average length of lactation. As a direct effect, low reproductive performance can prevent the diet from being fully utilised.
- Control of health issues: the various diseases commonly encountered in dairy herds can reduce the efficiency of digestion (ketosis, acidosis, fatty liver, alkalosis ...) and cause disorders in eating behaviours (acidosis, lameness) as well as affect secretory tissues (mastitis ...).
- Housing conditions: housing must favour a better expression of the full potential of animals’ behaviour. Animals should have permanent access to the feed bunk and drinking water. Appropriate housing must also prevent the emergence of diseases inherent to rearing contexts (the importance of ventilation, brightness, bedding quality, stall setting...).
What lessons can one draw from examining herd performance?
An examination of herd performance is also required. A close analysis of production performance can help to identify the nutritional levers that need to be activated first.
- A detailed analysis focusing on each animal group (stages of lactation, parity) can shed light on some risky situations. With a general analysis, one would not be able to detect these risks. An estimation of the production potential likely to be expressed, the levels of fat content, protein, and urea that have been observed will bring out nutritional imbalances. This will lead to a definition of corrective actions for better adjustment of the diet. These include, among other examples of corrective actions, the management of protein intake and type of energy, fibrousness, etc.
- Indicators of nutritional levers: it is also necessary to set up some specific indicators that can allow, at a glance, the identification of the nutritional levers required to meet production ends.
Only then will it be possible to design an appropriate and optimised diet. Optimisation ration software, such as Wefeed, can be used for this purpose.
By comparing the diet that has actually been fed and the ensuing performance results obtained, one can assess the feed efficiency of the diet from a techno-economic point of view.
Finally, some solutions allow a reduction in the breakdown of rumen and optimisation of microbial protein synthesis. Thus, the amount of digestible protein in the intestine is increased and these proteins become suited for milk production.
All these steps can be undertaken depending on the characteristics of herd size, diet, and housing conditions... To be implemented, such decisions need constant interactions with specialists. The tools are right at your fingertips; please do not hesitate to contact our experts!
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