Take steps to halt relentless rise in costs

While recent reports indicate some improvement in dairy markets, dairy farmers cannot afford to lessen their focus on cost control for 2015.

There are two main reasons.

Firstly, the relentless upward trend in milk production costs; and, secondly, the additional costs associated with expansion.

Unless there is a focus on cost control, there is a real risk that individuals other than the farmer producing milk will be the one to benefit.

In general, identify what you want, shop around for the best value available, avail of discounts/special offers/cash deals where available and of benefit to you, and only buy what you need.

Remember that your costs are somebody else’s profit. Talk to your Teagasc adviser for more details on any of the following cost-saving suggestions.

Meal feeding

Two of the bigger cost items are meal feeding and fertiliser.

Meal feeding costs typically accounted for 19% of total costs per litre in 2014.

Including more grass in the cows’ diet will reduce this cost; this will require you to be more focused on grassland management.

For most herds on grass full-time during March, 3kg of meals should be the maximum feed level, and this should be reduced when grazing conditions are good.

Aim for 1-2kg/cow/day during April, and no meals from mid-May onwards. You can decide in the autumn whether meal feeding is justified.

In general, there is a bigger saving to be made by focussing on reducing quantities fed than on price per tonne.

Nonetheless, shop around for the best value.

But do not compromise on ration quality, which should be assessed on an energy (UFL) basis. High protein ingredients add cost per tonne, and may not be necessary, where good quality grass is offered.

A concentrate containing 0.94 UFL and 14% crude protein, will be adequate.

Fertiliser costs

Fertiliser costs typically accounted for 12% of total costs per litre in 2014.

Soil test, so that phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertiliser isn’t wasted. Focus on maintenance dressings of P and K early in the year, and on build-up later in the year. Lime is the first thing to get right before considering building either soil P or K.

Apply slurry/soiled water in the spring to replace some purchased N, P and K.

Match fertiliser nitrogen (N) to stocking rate. Use urea rather than CAN (25% cheaper per kg N) until the end of May — for a potential saving of 0.3 cent per litre on your annual fertiliser bill.

Spread sulphur (20kg/ha; 16 units/acre) on dry farms from April.


Louisa Earls is a manager at Books Upstairs, D’Olier St, Dublin, which is owned by her father, Maurice Earls.Virus response writes a new chapter for Books Upstairs

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