Cows in field

Putting our farmers on the map

Over the next twelve months, what are your aims for milk yield and purchased feed use?

Our nutritionists have been asking this question to a large number of customers. The average response is a lift of over 900 litres per cow, with purchased feed use up by 205kg per cow.

The averages hide a wide range of differences, but common for all is the ambition to improve margins, allow the herd to express more of their genetic potential and achieve more production from forage.

The Nutrition team has been using the Kingshay Milk Map to benchmark where the farm currently sits on milk yield per cow and purchased feed use – blue dot – and asking the farmer to mark where they would like to be – red dot.

Kingshay Milk Map

Mole Valley Farmers Head of Agriculture James Hague said: “The Kingshay Milk Map is a very simple way of firstly, seeing how well you are doing against other businesses and secondly, identifying where you would like to be.

“As a farmer-owned business, we want to do all we can to help customers achieve their goals. Having a shared vision of what that ambition helps us to do that more effectively.” With input costs rising significantly, the Mole Valley Farmers team is working hard to bring you cost-effective products, services and advice to help you profitably achieve your goals.

A key output of the Milk Map exercise is to generate the likely extra margin over purchased feeds this move will generate. Mr Hague said: “The Milk Map calculates the ‘how much’ financial value of the move in yield and feed use. But it’s the ‘how to’ where our team can add real value. Nutrition does play a part in achieving the goals on the Milk Map, but just as important are soils, forages, youngstock, housing, animal health etc.”

Mole Valley Farmers has invested in employing a range of expertise to provide the advice and products needed to achieve the ambitions of our shareholders and members. The range of products and services available means we can provide input and inputs into almost all areas that will affect a move on the Milk Map.

So, what are the key findings and actions on the farms ‘Milk Mapped’ so far?

Common to all has been the opportunity to grow and utilise more forage on farm. A calculation of how much dry matter has been utilised on farm (Milk output – purchased feeds = production off the farm) has shown the average farm could utilise an additional 2t of dry matter per hectare (0.8tDM/acre) relative to the farm’s growth potential.

“With the current price of fertiliser, it is very timely to review the productivity of grassland and other forage options,” said Mr James Hague. “Forage is the base of our nutrition and small improvements in forage quality can lead to big savings on purchased feed. Nutrition starts from the ground up.”

Milk composition was also highlighted as a key area on many farms. With many more farms now producing on a manufacturing contract, optimising milk fat and protein could be worth a further 1.25ppl on the milk price for the average farm ‘Milk Mapped’. Rebalancing the diet, opening up the feed and the effective use of some additives are just some of the strategies being adopted by nutritionists to increase milk solids and milk value.

Dairy heifers typically make up a quarter of the herd, so their contribution to the tank needs to be substantial. Improving heifer yield and longevity can help achieve significant moves on the Milk Map. We have invested in a range of trials and development work to help deliver more productive and sustainable heifers into the milking herd.

Our H.E.I.F.E.R initiative – Promoting Health and the Environment through Investment in Feed and Effective Research – has a package of options to help reduce the feed costs of rearing heifers by 20%, reduce their carbon footprint by 20% and increase lifetime output.

There are many other areas that affect progress on the Milk Map. Your farm’s current position and ambition and the key actions needed are personal to you. Mole Valley Farmers is here to help you benchmark, analyse, plan, action and monitor to achieve your ambitions. Your local nutritionist would be delighted to help you get on the map.

Call the Feed and Nutritionist line on 01278 444829 or speak to your local nutritionist.