DARD Management Notes: Dairying

Empty precast concrete field drinkers after the grazing season
Empty precast concrete field drinkers after the grazing season

Business Development Groups (BDGs) open for application: Knowledge transfer through Business Development Groups (BDGs), a new scheme funded under Pillar II of the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, opened for applications on 9 November 2015 and will stay open until 4.00pm on 14 December 2015.

BDGs will consist of about 20 like-minded farmers working together, sharing knowledge and experiences to improve the technical efficiency of their farm businesses.

If you decide to apply to join a BDG, you will be asked to commit to the group for three years. Groups will meet eight times per year and the training events will be facilitated by a dedicated CAFRE Development Adviser. As the BDG scheme will change the way CAFRE interacts with farmers I would encourage you to apply if you wish to continue to access the support of your Development Adviser. Development Advisers will agree a business development plan with you which will aim to improve selected areas of your business. Further information is on our website (http://www.cafre.ac.uk).

Future Herd at Greenmount

Sixty cows and heifers in the Future Herd at Greenmount have calved. Their basic ration is grass silage, maize silage and 3.0 kg of a 22.5% crude protein concentrate blend, with some straw in a wagon mix and 17% crude protein parlour top-up.

Twelve first lactation heifers and 15 freshly calved cows make up the ‘start up’ group. On the day of calving, parlour feeding starts at 1.0 kg, building up over three weeks to 5.5 kg for cows and 3.5 kg for heifers. Heifers stay in the ‘start up’ group and on day 29 any heifer yielding above 24 litres also receives 0.45 kg per litre.

On day 29 second lactation and older cows move to the high yielding group. There are 42 cows in this group receiving a minimum of 4.0 kg parlour nut for the first 100 days. Any cows yielding over 28 litres also receive additional parlour nut, fed at 0.45 kg per litre.

Forty late lactation cows are getting third cut silage, whole crop and straw and no blend. Parlour feeding is introduced above M+13 for cows and M+10 for heifers.

Dry cows are fed a low potassium diet primarily of whole crop wheat to minimise the risk of milk fever. The ration also contains straw and bale silage. Three weeks before calving cows receive 1.5 kg of pre-calver, 0.75 kg of soya, 200 g of magnesium chloride and 50 g of a dry cow mineral. Any incidence of retained cleaning or milk fever is recorded to assess ration effectiveness.

Check your electricity costs

There is scope to reduce the amount of electric used on farms by:

Making sure you are on the best tariff. Electricity suppliers can offer more competitive rates to larger energy users. The Utility Regulator’s announcement in March 2014 means that any farm using more than 50,000 units a year (around 150+ cows) is eligible for ‘larger user’ rates.

Changing time clocks. Cheaper electricity in winter time is available from 1.00am to 8.00am. Change the times on your water heater so all the water is heated on the night tariff. Don’t forget about other time clocks on the farm.

Ensuring your plate cooler has an adequate water supply. For maximum benefit there should be a flow of two litres of water for each litre of milk. Investments made to improve water supply to the cooler will be repaid with lower electricity bills.

Insulating hot water tanks and pipes. Many of the old water heaters have a thin metal lid which loses heat to the environment. A 30 mm layer of insulation greatly reduces this heat loss.

Installing low energy bulbs. LED lighting is now an economic option where lights are on for several hours a day. Remove dirt and dust from light bulbs and turn off unnecessary lights.

Empty your field drinkers

And finally, empty precast concrete field drinkers after the grazing season has ended ensuring they do not crack in frosty weather due to ice formation.