Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Spring calving systems 1.6c/l more profitable

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Irish dairy farms would be better off to the tune of €83m a year if they were all spring calving operations.

That is the stark conclusion from research carried out by Teagasc's Una Geary and Laurance Shalloo into the relative profitability of a 100pc spring calving system compared to a 50/50 autumn and spring calving set-up. Their research shows that even though annual sales at processing level would take a hit of €66m, this would be more than made up for by the huge savings that farmers would make by being able to produce milk more efficiently.

The findings have huge implications for a dairy industry weighing up its options for future investment in the stainless steel required to process the 50pc extra milk expected to come on stream after 2015.

Many processing representatives have argued that farmers should concentrate on producing more milk during the off-peak months. This would mean processors would not have to make the huge investments necessary to deal with a more pronounced peak supply from spring calving herds.

However, the findings, presented yesterday at Teagasc's research forum in Tullamore, show that returns for the entire industry could be maximised by focusing on spring calving systems only.

The researchers compared milk supplies from a 40ha dairy farm, calving 15pc of its cows in January, 70pc in February and 15pc in March, with a similar-sized operation calving half of its herd in September, October and November (see table right).

The milk prices were based on returns from the Irish Dairy Board from 2008-2010.

Based on a national milk pool of 5.2bn litres, the research shows that processor returns would be €66m lower with the 100pc spring calving milk supply. This was attributed to the lower cheese and casein production relative to butter volumes generated by the spring calving supply profile (see table right).

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The cheese and casein processing capacities used, at 6pc per month, were representative of the Irish dairy industry. The processing capacities for cheese and casein were filled first, then milk was diverted to a combination of butter/whole-milk powder and skim milk powder at a ratio of 76:24 respectively.

After consulting with industry representatives, researchers then applied an annual monthly investment cost of €8.9m to cover the additional capacity required to process the higher peak supply from a 100pc spring calving system.

At farm level, the spring calving model resulted in 1.6c/l higher profitability, or more than €10,000 when modelled on a 40ha farm.

The main reasons for this, according to researchers, were lower concentrate usage, and reduced labour costs and other overheads.

Irish Independent