Dairy tips: Think value not price when planning for spring turnout

With many dairy units now looking to turn out cows as soon as possible to help boost margins, farmers should be focused on ensuring cows perform to their optimum to get best returns, rather than cutting corners, urges nutritional supplement manufacturer UFAC-UK.

To promote efficient use of grass to support healthier and more productive cows, and therefore higher margins, investment rather than cost cutting is the best strategy.

“Rather than asking what savings can be made by making cuts, flip the coin and consider what returns might be achieved from carefully selected feed inputs,” said Mike Chown, UFAC-UK technical ruminant manager.

“Perhaps more pertinently, you should ask yourself ‘how much do I risk losing if I cut something out?’, the answer invariably is that the potential loss will far exceed any saving.”

Focus on what you want to achieve

Chown advises farmers to focus on what they want the cows to achieve, and consider how they can harness seasonality benefits alongside the nutritional supplementation required to support grazing, if they are to maximise the price received from contracts and increase margins.

While undoubtedly turning cows out can help reduce costs, we want cows to graze efficiently and to milk in a way that can achieve those best returns, through a combination of good quality milk and hitting the profile.

“We also need to increase the prospects of keeping the cows on profile in the future, which means getting back in-calf,” he added.

Chown said it requires a change of mindset and strategy in the selection of feed inputs this spring, with the need to address limiting factors, such as grass nutritional value and supply, when cows are turned out.

“Will you get the performance you desire by cutting feeds costs or feeding cheap feeds? I doubt it,” he continued.

“The chances of achieving the required level of performance will come from feeding the right feeds for your situation, and working on return on investment, rather than price.”

Diet adjustments

Chown says suitable adjustments and additions to dairy diets can have a big impact on performance, health and fertility, and therefore margins.

“For example, with the lush, fresh grass in early spring low in effective fibre levels, it is crucial to provide effective structural fibre to complement grazing, to maintain rumen health.

Equally, if you feed for a return, then correctly-balanced fat supplements have an essential place in diets, particularly as maintaining milk quality, fertility and mobility can be a challenge when cows go to grass.

As fats are involved in many functions in the cow, it is important to understand what to look for, and to select a correctly-balanced fat supplement that meets your own herd requirements.