Cash is king on dairy farms

While March is a very busy time on dairy farms, it is important to continue to monitor your cash flow.

This is according to the latest advice from Teagasc. It noted there can be a lot of bills in the first quarter of the year, at a time when the milk cheques are small and said that there are a number of things farmers can do in the coming months to improve cash flow.

“The two biggest costs on Profit Monitors analysed to date for 2013 were feed (6.4cpl) and fertiliser (2.9cpl); between them, these two costs accounted for almost 40 per cent of total costs. Thus, it makes sense to concentrate on these.

“Consider your farm stocking rate – both on the milking platform and overall. Overstocked farms will have higher costs,
but may not have higher profits.

It continued: “Match cow numbers to available milk quota for this, the last quota year. While it is tempting to milk more cows, it may be better to carry extra bulling heifers and/or female calves and you will be ready for 2015/2016 with extra cash.

Teagasc also said it is key to manage the herd to optimise milk solids production, spread nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and
potassium (K) fertiliser according to your farm’s requirements and aim to minimise meal feeding by maximising the quantity of grass included in the cows’ diet – use its Spring Rotation Planner.

“Your ambition must be to maximise the expected surplus cash flow at the end of the year. If you want to change the amount of
surplus cash generated by your farm, you need to do something about it – that means doing something different. Don’t wait until
later in the year to start.”

Meanwhile, its monthly tips for March include: Pick your team of AI sires now before the start of the breeding season. Teams averaging €280 EBI can easily be achieved and ensure that every maiden heifer receives at least one AI straw.

“If using sexed semen, target it on well-grown heifers, early calved cows, and cows in good condition. These are your most fertile animals. And make sure to use sexed semen from a team of bulls – don’t rely on one bull only,” it has advised.

In terms of fertiliser, it noted the target fertiliser nitrogen (N) rate this month is 23-40 units N/acre (28-49kgN/ha). Apply 40 units at stocking rates of >1.6 Lu/ha; 23 units/ac at stocking rates of <1.4 LU/ha and 30 units/ac at stocking rates in between.

“Only around 10 per cent of soil samples tested nationally last year were at index three for P and K and had a pH of 6.2 or greater,” it cautioned and is advising farmers to take a soil test now before applying the P and K fertiliser to see what your soil status is.

“Don’t forget that, all too often, we spend too much time focusing on the land around the milking parlour. Over the next
couple of years, progressive dairy farmers will become more dependent on the out farms, particularly for heifer rearing and
silage making.”

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