Monitoring dairy herd performance

The absence of the milking routine frees up a lot of time
The absence of the milking routine frees up a lot of time

THE Dairy Herd Performance Report, which is available through ICBF in association with milk purchasers, is one of the most useful sources of information available to milk suppliers.

The two-page report gives at a glance a picture of herd performance for the previous year, highlighting the key performance indicators, and providing a comparison with the average and the top 10% of herds in the relevant co-op area. This makes the report an ideal basis for target setting and strategic planning.


A quick perusal of a 2012 report, for example, yields some interesting and pertinent facts. The average amount of milk solids sold per cow by Kerry Agribusiness suppliers last year was 342 kgs. This was supplied in milk with an average butter fat content of 3.93% and average protein of 3.35%. When we convert this into milk volume, it equates to 4,570 litres sold per cow. In contrast the top 10% of herds sold 424 kgs of milk solids per cow. Their average butter far and protein contents for the year were 4.15% and 3.49% respectively, equivalent to 5,378 litres supplied per cow. When one factors in the milk price received - 31.4 cents per litre for the average compared to 33 cent per litre for the top herds - it can be readily seen that the top herds realised €330 more per cow for milk sales than the average herd.

The report provides an outline of the characteristics that differentiate both sets of herds, showing that the high performance herds have a textbook calving pattern, with a calving interval of 364 days, compared to 384 days for the average herd. Median calving date - the date on which 50% of the herd has calved - occurs 20 days after the start of calving for the top 10% but takes 35 days for the average herd. It is well established fact that calving interval and compactness of calving contribute very significantly to increased milk solids output and solids content.

The benefits of AI usage can also be seen from the report with double the level of female replacement stock born to dairy AI in the top herds. This is reflected in herd EBI. The top 10% of herds have an EBI of €139 compared to average herd EBI of €113 and their projected EBI gain for 2013 - 2014 based on their (0-1) year old and (1-2) year old heifers will be €9 per year, more than double the average. Nationally, the average herd EBI stands at €113 with the top 10% at €168. Analysis of profit monitor data has consistently shown that improving herd EBI leads to higher margins.

The dairy herd performance report is a key tool in assessing dairy herd performance and together with Profit Monitor and financial analysis provides a realistic and essential basis for future planning and identifying opportunities for increased productivity and profits on dairy farms.


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