This years FCG consultants summer tour looked at an existing clients Autumn & Spring block of 10,000 litre cows in Wiltshire. The cows are currently achieving 3,500 litres from forage and 330 litres from grass. The current operation is very restricted, and expansion is difficult. Cows are fed three diets; a fresh M+38 litres, M+45 litres high diet and a Medium/Low M+25 litres. There is 450 ha either owned or rented by the family with a couple of sites particularly suited for a green field site. FCG was split into three groups to look at how the farm should continue. The groups were:
(1) Evaluate current farm performance
The herd was performing well considering the limitations of the farm. Staffing, genetics, production and finances were highlighted as particular strengths. The group did feel however, that the system was complicated with the chalk soil type affecting consistent grass growth, an autumn block calving system would suit the farm. Alongside this, the recommendation was also to introduce in parlour feeding to support late lactation cows, in dry summers, without the need for the use of the feeder wagon. Some investment was also recommended to improve feed space and resolve inconsistency in cubicle sizes, a point also picked up on by group 2.
(2) Long term plan for current dairy unit
The move to an autumn block was also one of this groups key recommendations. They felt that simplifying the system, would be a huge benefit and recommended building a new 300 cow cubicle house along with new silage pits. The current housing would then be used for youngstock and improved facilities for dry cows and calving yards. This recommendation also included the need to increase the grazing platform but this, along with improved efficiency costs, ensured an increased margin compared to that currently achieved by the arable cropping that would be lost.
(3) Develop some outlying building into a new dairy
This group decided to establish a 300 cow autumn block system based on a 7,000 litre cow producing 8% milk solids. The idea would include £1.5m investment to include a milking parlour, herdsman cottage, slurry lagoon, self-feed silage pit with grass silage and wholecrop and a large shed including 300 cubicles. Cows would be calved predominantly outside on standing hay. Three phase electric is only 200 meters away and road access is already established. This recommendation would suit a different breeding strategy and may also fit the long term needs of the business, with regards to succession, if the plans presented by group 2 and 3 could both be fulfilled.
All groups brought out useful ideas, but all pointed towards simplifying the current system and moving completely to an Autumn block. After discussion all groups agreed that a new dairy unit built away from the current site was feasible and a good proposition.
Max, Wes and Andy will now work with the family to review all the proposals and develop a long-term strategy for the farm, so watch this space!
For help with the direction of your dairy business, please contact either Wesley, Andy, or Max at email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com or your local FCG Office.