Sustainable dairy – it’s about lifetime performance

Lactation milk yield is, obviously, important when it comes to determining the sustainable performance of a dairy cow.

But according to Co. Antrim Ayrshire breeder John Suffern, it’s far from being the only show in town.

“Lifetime performance is the all-important determinant of dairy cow performance,” he told Agriland.

John Suffern Image: Facebook

Cows that remain in a milking group for a long number of lactations will always be the most profitable animals.

“In my own case, I am a striving to breed cows that will consistently produce at least 60t of milk during their lifetimes.”

Sustainable dairy

“Achieving this requires cows that are inherently healthy while also having the natural ability to remain fertile over many years,” John added.

These are the key attributes that the Ayrshire breed brings to the table when considering its relevance within the UK and Irish dairy industries today.”

John made the comments while preparing to judge the National Ayrshire Show classes at the upcoming UK Dairy Day 2021, taking place in Telford.

Image: John Suffern Facebook

He farms close to Crumlin in Co. Antrim with his land overlooking Lough Neagh. The Suffern name has been synonymous with the highest standards of Ayrshire breeding for many years.

John continued: “Ayrshire numbers continue to remain very stable. In addition to those herds that are exclusively Ayrshire, a growing number of commercial milk producers are investing in breed bloodlines in order to balance other cow types already in their herds.

“There are also a number of purebred Ayrshire herds in the UK and Ireland that are not officially registered with the society.

“I would ask these farmers to seriously consider registering their animals as it is a commitment that will deliver a significant payback for them in the longer term.”

Value of animals in the event of TB breakdown

“A case in point is the valuation of pedigree animals in the event of a TB breakdown,” John explained.

When asked to quantify the benefits that ease of management and longevity can deliver for a dairy farming business, John immediately pointed to the opportunity of developing additional income streams beyond actual milk sales.

He said: “In my own case, I have the scope to sell between 30 and 40 surplus breeding females each year. These sales are adding significantly to the sustainability of the overall business.

Milk output alone does not determine the viability of a dairy farming business. However, cost of production is critically important in this regard.

“In the case of the Ayrshire breed, the high health and fertility traits associated with the cows are helping to reduce production costs per litre.

“The associated ease of management benefits are also making the overall running of a dairy farming business significantly easier,” he concluded.