By Jonathon Long
In the UK the dominant approach of dairy farmers to increasing business size has been herd expansion. But this has not resulted in greatly reducing the gap in efficiency between the best and worst. Large differences remain and a study at Manchester University in 2003 estimated that 60% of producers were operating at a loss, says David Colman.
In many cases the gap between the most and least efficient is attributable to fixed costs, but significant differences also persist in variable costs. Feed and forage costs are the main element of variable costs, at about 60% on average.
"Data from Keenan Systems' Rumans nutrition service customers show there is considerable scope for the least efficient producers to make rapid reductions in feed costs."
Evidence available in increasing volume from the Rumans ration performance monitoring data in France, the UK and Ireland, shows these changes do not entail any significant increase in the cost per kg of dry matter feed. Their effect is to raise the Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) and thereby increase milk per kg of feed. This reduces feed cost a litre and increases margin over feed costs.
Success in changing nutrition management has been particularly dramatic with Rumans' customers in France, where a disciplined approach has generated multiple benefits. Good results have also been achieved in the UK and Ireland in herds where the system has been fully applied.