Putting a value on the rearing of dairy heifers
Grasp expansion opportunity by rearing replacements off the milking platform and boosting cow numbers by up to 25pc
The prospect of the removal of quota restrictions offers the opportunity of expansion for many dairy farmers. However, geographic and demographic factors, in regard to land structure, present a barrier to expansion in many cases. The solution may lie in collaboration among farmers.
Collaboration between dairy and non-dairy farmers in replacement heifer production may offer scope for a substantial increase in milk production, while also presenting non-dairy farmers with a reliably new income opportunity.
Contract rearing will generally be considered only when access to land is a serious impediment to expansion. However, contract rearing may also be an attractive option for those with adequate land but with a labour or farm infrastructure deficiency as it can allow a dairy farmer to concentrate solely on milk production.
The arrangement, in simple terms, involves a dairy farmer entering into a contractual arrangement with another farmer. Replacement stock is reared on the other farmer's holding. All variable and overhead costs associated with rearing are incurred by the rearer, eg bedding, feed, fertiliser for grazing land, etc. Sometimes the stock owner -- the dairy farmer -- will cover the extra costs of specific vaccinations and breeding.
Charges are agreed in advance, dependent upon the system, and will be on a 'per head per day basis' or 'per kilogramme of liveweight gain' basis. The system of rearing will be agreed by both parties in advance, as will target growth rates. Like any system, there are benefits and weaknesses which both parties must carefully weigh up.
- Where land availability is limited, it can offer the opportunity of increasing cow numbers by 20-25pc.
- Where labour availability or farm infrastructure is deficient, contract rearing could be an option.
- Removing drystock (ie, replacements) will simplify the entire farming system, particularly grassland management.
- The dairy farmer can focus his skills and capital on producing milk and the contract rearer on rearing stock.
- Labour savings for the dairy farmer.
- The quality of heifer coming into the herd may improve.
- The rearer has the assurance of a set price.
- An ideal opportunity for retiring dairy farmers.
- The dairy farmer is using his own stock, thereby retaining control of his herd's genetic profile.
- The arrangement is regulated by a formal contract with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
- Reduced control over the rearing of stock.
- Heifer quality may actually deteriorate.
- Future productivity of a herd can be partially influenced by the abilities of the stock rearer.
- Requires frequent communication and management.
- The consequences of stock coming into contact with other stock on the contract rearer's farm, whereby disease issues may arise after they return.
- The consequences of disease issues arising on the contract rearer's farm.
- Disputes can arise.
COST and BENEFITS APPRAISAL