As Christmas approaches and 2021 comes to an end, now is a good time for dairy farmers to review their 2021 farm performance.
The aim of doing so is to determine whether or not there are any technical performances that could improve, for 2022 and beyond.
2021 farm performance
On most dairy farms, inside the farm gate it has been a good year, with good grass growth and inputs pushed early in the year obtained at a low price.
But as many input costs are set to rise, now is a good time to look at making some improvements on your farm to increase efficiencies.
Grazed grass is key to the Irish production model, so getting cows to grass and keeping them at grass for as long as possible should be a driver on dairy farms.
Some questions farmers can ask themselves include:
- Are all my paddocks performing, do I need to reseed?
- Do I have good enough access to all my paddocks? Would extra roadways help?
- Did I make too many, or not enough bales last year?
- Am I maximising the number of days at grass?
- In relation to soil fertility, do some paddocks need lime?
- Did I reach grass growth targets and how much concentrates/cow were fed?
Depending on the farm and the system, there will be different questions to be answered.
As input costs increase, there may be chances to save, by making some small changes to the farm’s current system and maximising the grass on-farm.
Improving or maintaining soil fertility is a step that can be taken on every farm to reduce input costs in 2022.
In any dairy system, an under-performing cow is likely holding the system back.
Some question to ask about cow performance:
- Did my cows achieve my milk solids target?
- Am I happy with the cell counts?
- Was there an issue with mastitis or lameness?
- Am I happy with how the calving and breeding season went?
- Are all the cows pulling their weight?
- Am I milk recording and if not, should I be?
Again, depending on the system, there may be other questions to ask.
Cows that are not pulling their weight should be replaced. From speaking to farmers this year, many have seen how certain cows and their daughters are more inclined to have lameness, cell count or mastitis issues.
Breeding from these cows in 2022 should be avoided. Farmers should focus on the cows that do not cause issues and continue to put milk and milk solids into the bulk tank.
2022 is set to be a challenging year for dairy farmers – and most likely all grassland farmers.
So asking questions about your current farm performance is warranted; it may save you money.
The questions for your farm might be different, but the important thing is that you ask these questions and consult with your advisor about improvements that could be made.