How an extra tonne of grass can reduce many dairy farmers' feed costs by €8,000

Can you afford not to grow an extra tonne of grass?
Can you afford not to grow an extra tonne of grass?
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Addressing grass growth on the whole farm, not just the milking platform, is essential for reducing the costs associated with feeding according to Teagasc Dairy Business and technology Advisor Richard O’Brien.

Some farms are not stocked according to the ‘actual’ grass grown on the whole farm and can’t support the winter feed from home grown fodder and have to outsource this, said the Kilkenny-based advisor at the recent Irish Grassland Association conference.

Considering a farm of 40ha, stocked at 25LU/ha or a cow to the acre, he explained that 14t DM/ha will have to be grown on every hectare in order to support the herd all year round.

“Take a farm growing 14t DM/ha grass grown per ha €200/ha on a 40ha farm, basically means you’re managing grass worth €112,000.

“It’s the overall grass growth that feeds the farm, and that’s the important figure for me.

“If I don’t grow it I have to buy it, and that’s where the prices arise,” Richard explained, who is also the co-ordinator of the Teagasc/Glanbia monitor farm programme.

He said for every extra tonne of grass grown every year on 40ha farm, it is worth €8,000 of feed for the farmer.

Next, he addressed stocking the farm at an appropriate level and in line with the overall grass growth level of the farm. He said that winter feeding takes 5.5t DM/ha of grass grown every year, allowing for 0.8t of meal on a farm stocked at 2.5LU/ha.

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He said although the milking platform may be achieving the 15t DM/ha, the outside block needs to achieving the same level of performance in order to avoid buying in fodder.

“Your platform is growing the 15t DM/ha but not the outside block, and that is what is diluting down the performance. A lot of the outside blocks and silage blocks that are underperforming next to the milking platform.”

“I would say that there is a lot of farms out there that should not be stocked at 2.5 or cow to the acre, that are not growing that level of grass.

“Stock accordingly, if you’re stocked at 2.7 LU/ha, you need to be growing 15t DM/ha, and that’s 15t on every hectare.”

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