Controlling the production cost of winter milk is key to making winter milk production profitable and sustainable on farms.

The cost of production has increased and looks set to continue to rise as input costs on farms are on the up.

So, it is important that input costs are monitored and controlled in order to ensure that winter milk production remains profitable.

Winter milk

Forage is the core ingredient in every winter milk total mixed ration (TMR), with the quality of that forage dictating the amount of concentrates required.

Put simply, poor quality forage will require more concentrates than higher quality forage, to obtain the same level of milk production.

The target for a winter/liquid milk production system should be to feed 74%+ dry matter digestibility (DMD) silage.

Typically, every five-unit drop in DMD will need 1–1.5kg extra concentrates to compensate for the lower energy level.

So it is possible that you may be over feeding concentrates when the forage is of high quality.

By determining the quality of your silage you can reduce production costs, which means more profitable milk production.

Grouping cows

Another way of controlling winter feed costs is to group cows.

Typically, TMR’s are formulated to provide sufficient nutrients to the most productive animals. This means there may be a number of cows that are being over fed, compared to their production level.

This would include cows that are longer into their production cycle and have passed peak milk.

To save on feed cost cows should be grouped and lower-yielding cows fed a different diet to the higher yielding cows.

The grouping could be spilt this way:

  • Group 1: Highest yielding/early lactation group (cows giving more than 28kg milk or less than 150 days in-milk);
  • Group 2: Lower yielding/late lactation group (cows giving less than 28kg milk or more than 150 days in-milk).