Many farmers have recently asked this question in the anticipation that it is one system of farming over another has been more severely affected, but this is not the case. Yes, dairy farmers by the more intensive systems are more affected compared to other livestock systems, though arable farmers are affected depending on cropping and soil type.
The more tightly stocked the dairy farmer the more exposed they have been, and this will apply to all dairy systems. What stands out is the farms who have taken action to cover shortfalls in forage earlier in summer are coping better. To do this a business needs the information and the confidence to spend the money now, so it tends to be the more profitable businesses and those with time to plan ahead based on accurate information.
How much is the drought costing a dairy farmer? Based on average grass growth rates of 25 kg/ha/day less than normal for say 60 days is equivalent to 1.5tDM/ha and combined with the cold late spring another 0.5t/ha was lost. If a farmer is stocked at 2 Cows/ha, this equates to 1tDM/cow in lost homegrown forages be it silages or grazed grass. Less contracting costs may have been incurred and less fertiliser has not been applied and whatever grass has been grown has been used better saving maybe 0.7ppl in costs.
But on the negative side, feed costs have been rising due to demand, quality forage replacers are in short supply and a lot of silage made this spring has already been used.
To replace the 1t DM /cow shortfall with 50% forage/50% concentrates plus feeding it back to cows will cost £230/cow or 3ppl over all litres produced, if the forage can be sourced.
Milk production is falling, and this has cost £50/cow so far. Milk will be shorter in supply in the winter and next spring, but milk price isn’t increasing significantly. Livestock prices have fallen due to more animals being culled to reduce demand.
Taking all the factors monetised above the net cost of drought will be 3ppl or £45k for a 200 cow herd. For some who took action early and bought at lower prices it will be less, for some of haven’t taken action yet, it may mean drying cows off early or even ceasing production completely.
If you haven’t done a comprehensive review of your forage stocks, do so asap and assess your shortfall and put of plan of action in place as soon as possible. Contact Gerard at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local FCG office for help.