It’s an old adage, but one that tends to ring true, but as soon as you hear it makes you remember that sickening feeling in the bottom of your stomach that you had on exam day, when you realised that actually milking cows and driving tractors after school every night was unlikely to contribute to a successful outcome in your maths exam! Nevermind, most of us have attempted to confine that feeling to history, but there may just be more than a few of you that get that same feeling when you open your clamp of silage or look at your costings or bank statement?
The problem is we live in a benchmark world so apparently, we are all miserable failures. If this were true farming would be long forgotten about and we would likely be lounging around in our carpet slippers amongst shoulder high thistles, bracken and reeds (but possibly with a nice bundle of environmental payments in the bank?). One thing that we can take from the benchmarking concept is the fact that at least we are trying to challenge ourselves by looking at actual data. Unfortunately looking at individual headline figures can be misleading, but consider those figures within the whole picture of your business and you can define some sense of where to go to. Just remember that many parts of your business affect the success and cost or reward from other parts of your business.
Okay, so with an effective reward for our endeavours firmly in mind, let’s think about what is relevant now that we are heading full tilt towards a glorious summer!? Attention will firmly be on grazing and harvesting crops of grass and cereals in the most effective way. At this point, it is easy to focus on our neighbours as the benchmark for when we do things resulting in epic failure as you bumble along with a last minute plan. So now is the time to make sure that isn’t going to happen this year, and to be fair it needs to not happen if you want to be here for the future as a successful business.
Clarifying exactly what you want to achieve, cut or graze wisely is the basic starting point. Is what you want to achieve possible with your farm? You must be realistic and you will need some help with assessing real-life potential because often we just aren’t sensible with our assumptions and that can work both ways, I see as much underestimation of yield capability as overestimation. Most of you farm too much land. Those extra acres 5 miles down the road that might just come in handy in twenty years can be a real poison chalice. They are often poorer than your home ground, yield less and distract you both physically and financially from making the best of your home ground. This is real money that could be in your pocket but is often lining someone else’s.
Multi-cut grass is the current hot topic. It has a real potential value if done right, but you need to be aware of 7 key points.
Preparation-Early preparation of harvesting kit means you are ready for any dry window
Ley’s -Have you got consistent enough grasses and land to respond to frequent cutting
Regrowth- Can you get fert and slurry on within 2 days of leaving the field with the forager?
Feed out- You must achieve 28% to 40%DM in the clamp or you will fail to achieve stability and feed out intakes that are crucial to how this concept generates more milk.
Cutting- You must not scalp the field, leave half a leaf behind, to achieve rapid regrowth.
Fertiliser-do you know how much fert and slurry to apply?
System- will this type of silage work for you? Heavy slug fed systems may struggle.
It’s a similar thought process for grazing optimisation. In my experience when you think you are worried about running out of grass, you always achieve more output per acre. Less is more. Too many acres in the rotation and you very rapidly end up grazing poor quality grass, because it grows too fast in front of you to achieve grazing at the right height. If good quality grazing was green and poor was purple, you would soon realise the difference. Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s all the same and herein lies the generation of a big problem, Butterfat.
Grazing overgrown grass does not enhance your fats, grazing short young grass does not enhance your fats. Grazing the right height of grass significantly helps to maintain your fats. Fat depression is largely an effect of three issues, milk increase, slug feeding and grazing incorrectly. You could add heat stress to that list too, but even that can be significantly decreased with some often fairly simple techniques.
Incorrect grazing leads to greater throughput through the cow, so any fibre that you add to try and minimise fat loss often goes through too fast to make a difference and that goes for C16 fats as well. Success still revolves around good grazing. Any grass is not for free and that is part of the problem as we often don’t factor in that cost. Extra profit from better grazing is not the total value of the concentrate that you have displaced, but the difference between the cost of the cake minus the grass growing cost. If you are shocking at grazing or making silage, it is totally possible to make more money from feeding concentrate than grass. We advocate costing total cost of production so forages are included. We can help you work out your forage costs and then they can be entered into costings giving you a far more realistic reflection of the cost of feeding cows.
As I said at the beginning, success in all of this revolves around how well you plan things and whether they are possible to achieve successfully on your farm. Why don’t you see how much difference can potentially be made to your profitability? We can help you run projections and set out feed, forage and fertiliser plans, that allow you to make decisions on whether a system is right for you. We are the only company out there with total control of our inputs via our mill and our bespoke diets and fertilisers through our feed and forage teams.
Delivering lifetime profitability requires all the parts of the jigsaw to fit together and who else is as well positioned to deliver those total farm solutions.