Benchmarking data reveals real performance of NI livestock farms

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) has just published a selection of benchmarking trends that relate to the performance of Northern Ireland’s (NI) livestock farms.

They concern the dairy and suckler beef sectors for the period 2019/2020.

Specifically they show that the top 25% of dairy herds produced an average of 8,392L of milk, feeding 2,606kg of meal.

This equates to 0.30kg of concentrate fed per litre of milk produced. The equivalent figures across the entire gamut of benchmarked herds were: 7,924L; 2,699kg and 0.33kg/L.

The figures also confirmed that the top benchmarked herds delivered significantly  improved levels of economic performance.

Profit per cow

The difference in net profit per cow, relative to an average performing herd works out at +£329 per cow.

CAFRE analysis confirms that the top dairy farmers are getting more milk from less concentrate, and this along with other areas of good physical and financial performance, results in increased profit.

For a farm with 125 cows, (the benchmarked average), the difference in net profit translates to £41,125 for the year.

The same trends are also apparent where suckler to beef enterprises are concerned.. The difference in total output is approximately £120 per cow between the average and top 25% of farms.

Costs for NI livestock farms

The top 25% also had lower variable costs (£70 per cow) and fixed costs (£120 per cow).

In short, it cost the bottom 25% more money to achieve a lower output. This culminated in a difference in a margin of £310 per cow.

For a farm with 54 suckler cows, (the benchmarked average), the difference translates to £16,740 for the year.

Looking at variable costs, the benchmarking figures confirm that the top 25% of businesses are generally lower on all costs, not just one in particular.

Concentrate is the largest variable cost, followed by forage costs, which are mostly made up of fertiliser.

Good grassland management, both for grazing and silage ground, will increase forage quality and maximise output from forage.

Although breeding costs do not account for a large proportion of overall costs, top farms are breeding for genetic improvement, which through time should increase performance.

Vet and machinery costs

The same applies to veterinary and health costs. Maintaining good herd health, treating issues promptly and dealing with the root cause of these problems reduces veterinary costs.

Making use of your vet to plan an effective vaccination policy for the farm is also advised.

The main difference in overhead costs relate to mechanisation and building depreciation.

While money spent on new housing, yards or facilities on the farm will increase costs in the short-term, it is an investment for the future.

Keeping control of overhead costs includes a measured approach to purchasing new machinery and equipment, a maintenance policy for the whole farm including land, buildings and machinery, and using electricity, fuel and water efficiently.

CAFRE strongly advises farmers to talk to their accountants when it comes to agreeing options for capital investment. This will ensure that best use is made of appropriate tax allowances.