Wednesday, 8 December 2021
High-output herds who calve regularly through the year are more likely to be profitable compared with lower yielding all year round (AYR) calving herds or those with an undefined production system.
Herds with flat calving profiles producing over 9,500 litres per cow per year achieved a positive net margin of £145 per cow in 2018/19.
Over the same period, all year round (AYR) calving herds producing less than 9,500 litres saw a loss of £125 per cow. And those with more irregular calving profiles or not calving in a tight block lost £65 per cow.
Autumn and spring block calving herds achieved the highest net margin overall of between £260 and £290 per cow
The figures were calculated after we re-examined our dairy performance results report to explore the full economic costings for herds previously classified as all year round (AYR) calving. The diverse nature of these herds can make it difficult to benchmark performance for this system.
The herds were split into three groups:
- Herds who calved consistently through the year and produced over 9,500 litres per cow per year
- Herds who calved consistently through the year and produced less than 9,500 litres per cow per year
- Herds with irregular calving patterns and not calving in a tight block (these make up around half of all GB herds)
The analysis showed that high-output AYR herds with truly flat calving profiles and block calvers had larger net margins on average, compared with other systems that sit somewhere in between.
Why do high-output AYR and block calving systems tend to perform better?
AYR calving tends to carry higher costs than block calving, so sufficient output is needed to cover those costs and deliver a positive net margin – our higher-output group of AYR calvers averaged around 10,500 litres per cow per year.
In contrast, block calving is generally lower cost, lower output – for example, our spring block calving group averaged around 5,300 litres per cow per year.
These differences are shown by the outputs and costs per cow on the chart below. Herds who don’t consciously focus on their strategy may find they rack up the larger expenses of calving AYR but without achieving enough output to cover those costs.
Is high-output AYR or block calving the silver bullet for a better net margin?
No, it’s not that simple. The figures shown here are averages for each group – when we look at individual herd data, we still see block calving and high-output AYR herds in the bottom 25% when it comes to profit. Some lower output AYR herds with bumpy calving profiles also reach the top 25%.
Any production system can make or lose money, depending on how well it is operated. The most profitable herds make sure their system suits their individual farm, work-force and market their milk is sold into, in order to get efficient output from the available inputs.
System and definitions
Please note you may see slightly different definitions for these systems used elsewhere in AHDB analysis. While aim for consistency, differences in the source data may mean we need to slightly adjust definitions.
- AYR 9,500+ litres – herds with a flat calving profile, yielding more than 9,500 litres/cow/year. ‘Flat calving profile’ means calvings are evenly spread throughout the year over 12, 11 or 10 months. For 12 months 3.3%-13.3% of calvings occur each month of the year. For 11 months 4.1%-14.1% of calvings occur in each of the 11 months. For 10 months 5-15% of calvings occur in each of the 10 months.
- AYR below 9,500 litres – herds with a flat calving profile (as described above), yielding less than 9,500 litres/cow/year.
- Autumn block – herds calving the majority of their cows within a four month window, which peaks in July-December.
- Spring block – herds calving the majority of their cows within a four month window, which peaks in February-May.
- Undefined system - herds that do not have either a flat AYR or block calving profile