Why a profit monitor is an essential for all dairy farmers

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Gerard Sherlock

Gerard Sherlock

The mild weather since Christmas came to an abrupt end last week with the first snow of the winter arriving. Thankfully it didn't last or hang about.

It's such a pity that the weather changed just as we in this region can now officially spread slurry. Ground conditions are still alright so I will be trying to spread as soon as the weather improves.

At the weekend I had to move a few load of slurry from one tank to another as it was getting full.

I walked the cow paddocks last week and there are very good grass covers on them. The average cover is 1022 with covers ranging from 900 to 1400 on the paddock that was reseeded last year.

Since the beginning of December paddocks grew an average of 8kgs/DM/day. This would be very high and unusual as in other years it would be down at 2-3kgs/DM/day.

Ballyhaise College has recently recorded growth rates of 11kgs/DM/day. I would hope within the next two weeks to get some of this grass eaten by the cows.

Calving began in mid- January. There are 16 calved with plenty more due in the next four weeks.

So far I have lost one calf from a heifer. Calves are being stomach tubed with three litres of colostrum as soon as possible after being born.

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I also spent a couple of days repairing the individual calf pens. The slatted floors were rotten. They served their purpose well as I reckon some of the timber dated from 1983.

I am due my second TB herd test in two weeks time; hopefully it will be a clear one.

I opened the first cut silage pit last week. I have no test results yet. It is very dry.

The second cut was tested and the results of it were 25pc Dry Matter, pH 3.88, Protein 14.4pc, ME 9.8MJ/kg DM, DMD 64. I was expecting a higher DMD value as the silage has a good protein value.

On January 3, my eight bulls made their final journey to Liffey Meats. One more bull is still being finished as he had an injury on his leg. The eight averaged 384kgs cold weight at €3.60/kg. They were 21 months of age.

Grading scheme

As they were Hereford and Angus Crosses, I was pleased with their weights and their gains.

The price was disappointing. I did have a look in the supermarket to buy some meat at similar prices but none could be found.

I was amazed by the grading scheme being used by the factories now. Gone are the days of the simple R3 or O2.

Now there is R-3-, O=3- and lots more. Only two out of the eight animals had the same grade. This has to be very confusing for the beef producer. They did leave a modest margin behind them, but it wasn't enough to encourage me to finish more.

The one saving grace with slaughtering cattle is that you are paid for them very promptly.

The Teagasc profit monitor for 2018 was completed and analysed at our last discussion group meeting in January.

My overall farm profit was down from 2017.

This was due to a reduction in sales, a slight increase in purchased feed, an increase in other variable costs and an increase in fixed costs.

The common costs on the farm were 20.83c/litre while the common profit was 13.93c/litre. The reduction in sales was due to the drop in milk price.

The increase in costs was due to more work being done on the farm during 2018 such as reseeding, repairs and maintenance and capital expenditure.

The drought didn't really affect my farm as the increase in feed costs was due to the late spring of 2018. Milk solids continue to rise - 481kg MS per cow was achieved in 2018 at 3.99pc butterfat, 3.36pc protein.

One interesting exercise I did was to look at the whole farm profit rather than the milking platform profit on its own.

When I multiply the total farm hectares by the farm stocking rate I get the total livestock units on the farm. For me 65pc of these are dairy cows while 35pc are either replacements or other animals.

As the replacements and others are showing very marginal profits, my goal is to reduce these livestock units and increase the cow units. This in turn opens up the debate whether we should be rearing replacements especially if the ground needed for them is rented.

This year, for the first time, provision is being made in the profit monitor on the hours we work on the farm.

It is a real eye opener as it showed that the developing, efficient farms where fewer hours per day are spent working, can return a wage.

The profit monitor produces endless reports which highlight all aspects of our business. It should be a must-do for every dairy farmer.

Yet last year only about 9pc of the country's dairy farmers completed the profit monitor. It's still not too late to do one for 2018.

Gerard Sherlock farms in Tydavnet, Co Monaghan

Indo Farming


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