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Top Tips: Managing milk supply

Advice from our specialist Advice from our specialist14-4-2020

With milk supply and demand in turmoil, protecting the milk price and margins will call for some positive action over the coming weeks. Here we look at the main options to consider in dealing with today, whilst protecting the future.

Afbeelding: Milk - Small

It is not a natural inclination to lower production, but needs must, so we should focus on the less profitable litres first. Below are some options viewed in the context of a typical customers farm. 

The herd has 147 cows in milk currently producing 4,463 litres (30.4l/cow) on a rolling 7 day average. A 3% reduction means a drop of 134 litres.

1. Feeding calves

On this farm there are currently 30 calves being fed 5.0 litres of milk made from CMR mixed at 150g/L. Using whole milk for calves would easily use up the milk drop needed if fed at 5 litres. But, given the solids content of the whole milk is less than the CMR, the calves would drop in their nutrition if just swapped across. The table below shows the calculation for this. 

Afbeelding: Feeding calves

It is worth considering fortifying milk with CMR to ensure the calves' nutrition is not reduced. Adding 50g of CMR to each litre of whole milk would lift the nutrition of the calves back to optimal and add minerals and vitamins that are missing in whole milk. 

Our Youngstock Specialists can help calculate the best plan for you and you can contact them here.

Please note:

- There are 7 Johne's animals identified in the herd. Whilst these cows are barren and destined for culling, they are currently milking well and making a good margin. Taking milk out of the bulk tank for calves could be risky, so may be better using milk from known clean cows into dump buckets straight from the line. 

- If taking milk out of the tank for calves ensure it is well agitated otherwise the fat content of the milk drawn off will be lower than your analysis states. 

2. Early dry off

Drying cows off early is a straight forward option, especially for low yielding or lower body condition score cows. 

Using the last herd recording data, cows were quickly identified for drying off early. 

Afbeelding: Dry off

There is always a danger with drying off cows early that they will put on too much body condition before they calve in again. 

Your Account Manager can review the dry cow feeding to ensure body condition is managed through to calving. 

Afbeelding: Costs

Calculating the break-even litres of the diet is also a useful value. On this farm the break-even occurs at 12.7 litres. Most of our list to dry off were close to this value and could now go onto a dry cow ration costing half this amount. Your Account Manager can review the diet cost and calculate the break-even point.

3. Cull cows

It's likely that the number of culls put forward will rise over the next few weeks. Deadweight prices have fallen, but are currently still running over 200p/kg at present. 
Looking at the AHDB data on the EUROP scale, there are only 16% of animals falling into the most profitable grading. A large percent are lacking conformation. 

Afbeelding: Cull

It may be worth considering fattening-on the lighter culls as there is 40-50p/kg deadweight more value in the 3-4L U classes. However, returns can be marginal so a highly effective low cost diet is required. Our feeding solutions have demonstrated growth rates over 1.5kg per day, which deliver good margins. 

Our team can look at cost effective diets to fatten cull cows. Contact us for more details.

4. Feed usage

Purchased feed is without doubt one of the best ways to drive milk production, so cutting back feed usage will certainly drop production. 

As you know, looking after the most productive cows is the priority and doing the other methods above first are less likely to have a negative impact on regaining production levels once we are through this. Fertility levels also need protecting. 
Targeting the least profitable litres, typically at the bottom end of the herd which are already in calf should be the first port of call. 

Your Account Manager can work with you to look at group feeding strategies to ensure feed is being cost effectively used across the herd. 

Key actions we can help with:

•    Review your milk forecast - Plan milk production and feed use over the next 12 months
•    Review calf nutrition - Ensure your calves nutrition stays on track.
•    Calculate break-even on diet cost - Review marginal production from the low yielders
•    Review cull cow nutrition - If keeping culls to fatten, we can provide cost effective feeding options.
•    Review current diet - Review feeding within groups and stage of lactation.


For more information on how you can manage your milk production please contact
your local Account Manager or contact us here.