Compound feed per cow increased at a faster annual rate than milk output per cow since 1990 despite decreases in recent years in milk to compound price ratio, according to Professor Mike Wilkinson of Nottingham University.

Speaking at the launch of Keenan Systems new InTouch AgriTech recently he said extra profit from higher milk output is being eroded as a result.

According to Prof. Wilkinson the challenge is to increase milk output per unit of concentrate input by improving accuracy of diet formulation and improved feed management.

He outlined the population of dairy cows in the Irish Republic deceased by 20% between 1990 and 2011 but average annual milk yield per cow increased by 38% during the period.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson also said compound feed production increased by 64% during the period. He also added that  farm gate milk price per litre increased by 35%, while compound feed price per kg also increased by 30% between 1990 and 2011.

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Prof. Wilkinson noted that trends in milk and compound feed production per cow, relative to 1990, show there were linear increases in milk production and in compound feed production per cow throughout the period in both countries. However, from 2005 the increases in compound production per cow were greater than those for milk production indicating a marginal milk response to of less than 1L/kg compound feed.

Trends in ratio of compound feed production per cow to milk production per cow and in ratio of milk price to compound price in the Ireland show there was also no evidence of increased efficiency of conversion of compound to milk, relative to 1990, despite a declining trend in ratio of milk price to compound feed price after 1999.

Prof Wilkinson said all the data indicates poor incremental profit on increased milk yield since 2005 due to i) the faster rate of increase in concentrate input relative to the increase in milk output and ii) the narrowing milk to feed price ratio. Combined, the two effects largely eliminate the added profit that would have been expected from the extra milk production per cow.

He said future challenges to milk producers include increasing milk output per unit of concentrate input, especially if there are further reductions in milk to feed price ratio, through improved feed management and more accurate diet formulation.