The role of improved efficiency in reducing the impact of dairy on the environment while improving herd profitability

Apr 18
The role of improved efficiency in reducing the impact of dairy on the environment while improving herd profitability Jack Corless, Rumsol Ltd., Ireland

by Jack Corless, Rumsol Ltd., Ireland

The genetic revolution that has taken place over the last thirty years has resulted in the possibility of achieving average herd milk output per lactation of greater than 12,000 litres. In fact, the current world record for 365 day milk production stands at 32,000 litres from a third lactation Holstein cow in Wisconsin.

The global demand for dairy products is rising, particularly in Asia. However, global milk prices in dairy exporting countries has and will continue to be subject to increasing volatility, leading to uncertainty surrounding the future viability of the industry. The sustainability of the dairy industry is dependent on increased productivity and improved efficiency. In all regions productivity is becoming a function of scale. Efficiency is a function of output per unit of production – the cow – and cost per litre of milk.

In all manufacturing industries, efficiency of utilisation of inputs is a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) when determining profitability. 60 percent of total associated costs of production of milk are directly feed related, so the simplest KPI on any modern farm is milk income less feed costs.

If we consider that the manufacturing ‘machine’ on the dairy farm is the cow, then productivity per cow is the key determinant of profitability. The higher the output per cow, then the lower the maintenance cost per litre. The longer the productive life of this machine, then the lower the capital cost per litre. Finally, the greater the conversion of energy and protein (fuel), the more profitable the cow. This is normal business logic. How do we apply it to this complex biological entity?

If we can improve efficiency of utilisation of nutrients, optimise reproductive efficiency and increase longevity in high yielding dairy cows we begin to approach required targets for profitability and sustainability.

In parallel with production efficiency is the increasing requirement to reduce the impact on the environment. The significant impact that dairy production has on the environment arises from two key components – nitrogen excretion and methane emissions.

Achieving optimum efficiency and minimising the environmental impact of dairy production can be achieved by focusing on the ruminant’s ability to supply it’s nutrient needs as microbial biomass. By formulating to microbial protein synthesis in conjunction with organic matter digestibility we can continue to increase utilisation of nutrients, improve feed conversion efficiency and significantly reduce both nitrogen and methane excretion.

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