Friday, 13 March 2020
For Suffolk dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore, cutting concentrate use from 11.0–12.0 kg/cow/day to 8.5 kg/cow/day this winter (1 October 2019 to 31 January 2020) has contributed to a saving of £30,000 on bought-in feed.
He credits monitoring daily input and output figures, plus belonging to an AHDB grazing group, for giving him the confidence to drop concentrate rates and produce more milk from forage.
As a further bonus, Jonny says his 300-cow, split-block-calving herd has produced an additional £15,000 worth of milk this winter. While total concentrate savings are spread across the cows, plus 190 calves milk-fed to 9 weeks and an 80-head beef enterprise, nearly all the savings have been made by cutting back on rape, soya hulls, pressed pulp, wheat distillers and parlour nuts for the dairy herd.
The cows have been rotationally grazing for 6 years and, two years ago, Jonny switched to a multi-cut silage system to boost forage quality. Yet, he admits, he didn’t really have confidence in it.
“Working with other farmers who are happy to share their numbers and help each other with some friendly competition has given me more confidence in my grass. We’ve been told for years that it’s as simple as having good forages!” he says.
“On my daily spreadsheet, I can see the consequences of any changes we make: it’s real-time data. I didn’t want to go too crazy because I wanted to get cows back in-calf and in good condition, so we did it gradually – little steps. We dropped concentrate by 0.5 kg/cow/day and upped silage by 1.5 kg/cow/day because the cows needed to eat more forage to achieve the same energy intake. We’ve done this with good silage – feeding it fresh and pushing it up to keep them eating it. Milk yield dropped by 1.0–1.5 litres/cow/day, but soon came back up.”