Forage feeding maintains high milk yields

Thursday, 16 January 2020

By Felicity Rusk

Throughout 2019, GB average daily milk yields* tracked significantly above the previous year. Between July and November, the rate of growth fell and has now returned to more historic normal levels.  

Milk yields have increased by an average of 1.1% per year over the last four years. In December 2018, average yields were up by 4.0% on the year before. This growth increased even further in the spring, to reach nearly 8% by March 2019. However, in November and December 2019, average yields were up by just 1.6% and 1.3% on the year respectively.

Last winter was remarkable. Following the challenges of the drought through the summer months and the subsequent lack of forage, many producers used concentrate feeds to get through the winter period. The higher plane of nutrition boosted milk yields, and broke milk yield and milk production records.

What is significant is that even though producers have moved back to a more forage based system this winter, they have still managed to deliver average yield gains compared with this high concentrate feed period.

GB milk production has been tracking below 2018 levels since October, with November and December down by 0.8% and 1.1% respectively. Furthermore, the GB milking herd recording a 1.8% decline (42,200 head) at 1 October, compared to the same point in the previous year.

The growth in yields is therefore continuing to compensate for the decline in the size of the milking herd, which is in line with what we expected when we published our milk production forecast six months ago.

*Estimated milk yields have been calculated using AHDB milk deliveries and BCMS cattle population data. An adjustment was included to account for cows that were in the dry period.

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