DARD MANAGEMENT NOTES: Dairying

Cows grazing
Cows grazing

Cash flow planning: The fall in milk price has put the dairy industry under financial pressure.

However dairying is still a profitable business and it is the lack of cash that is causing problems on farms. A cash flow budget is an important tool you can use to predict how the year will ‘pan out’ for your business.

All businesses need a sufficient supply of cash each month to meet essential costs. A cash flow shows the movement of money into and out of the business over a period of time and the knock-on effect on subsequent months. A simple spreadsheet is all that is needed to draw up an effective budget to provide you with the confidence to manage your finances. It is important it includes realistic estimates of performance, prices, costs and timescale. If a cash shortfall is likely it is vital you discuss your options and not ignore the problem. If additional borrowing is required it is always better to approach your bank sooner rather than later. Having a cash flow budget gives the bank confidence in you and your business.

Get more from grazed grass this season

Maximising the quantity of grass grown on farm, and grazing this grass by milking cows must be a priority over the next few months. The following are key points to consider.

Use soil analysis to establish slurry and fertiliser requirements. Grazing swards usually have good soil indices for phosphate (P) and potash (K) due to nutrient recycling.

If the soil analysis shows an index of three or above for both P and K there is no need to apply slurry or compound fertiliser. Straight nitrogen (N) after grazing will be sufficient all season. At a P Index of two an early application of 17 cubic metres of slurry per hectare (1500 gallons per acre) will supply soil phosphate requirements throughout the season.

Feed efficiency is critical at current milk price and getting grass into the diet is the most important factor in improving feed efficiency as we move into the grazing season.

How does your farm compare with the typical performance of the farms I work with in Armagh?

Average daily milk yield

24.6 litres per cow Average daily concentrate fed

7.9 kilos per cow Average daily milk from forage

6.9 litres per cow Average daily concentrate feed rate

0.32 kilos per litre

Don’t have a fixed turn-out date in your head. Walk the farm and see how much grass you have, you will have more than you think! Start cows grazing a field when the grass cover is 2800 kg dry matter per hectare (the ankle of your boot). Graze grass down to 1500 kg dry matter per hectare (the heel of your boot). Aim for an initial grazing rotation of between 25 and 30 days.

When cows start to go out, start them off on 5 kg dry matter per cow per day from grazed grass. This should take three to four hours of grazing. Build this up to half days over a period of a week to 10 days. View increasing grazed grass in the diet in the same way as setting up a winter ration. Assess grass fortnightly so you can accurately determine how much supplementation is needed throughout the season.

Whole crop management

Iain Johnston, CAFRE Crop Development Adviser in Armagh tells me that winter wheat for whole crop should receive 40 kg of N per hectare (32 units N per acre) when conditions allow to encourage tiller production and retention. He also recommends checking the crop for weeds, particularly if autumn herbicide was not applied and treat accordingly. In all cases get advice from a BASIS qualified agronomist.

If you require information on any of the above topics, contact your local CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser.