Understanding feed crucial to make farms pay
Understanding the added value different feeds give is more important than looking at cost, according to Seales Winslow representative James Hague.
He outlined issues around feed during a talk to the New Zealand Dairy Women's Network at their annual conference last week.
"It's very important to understand value, not cost."
He said the capital values of farms were going up, which was good for owners but meant that getting feed systems right was all the more important for those who were buying farms now.
Fixed costs had gone from 50 per cent of income in 2000 to 70 per cent in 2011 and were predicted to reach 80 per cent this year, said Hague.
"The average farm has 65-75 per cent of its capital going into the overheads."
He said with the right feeding systems, farmers could be getting milk solids that were 100 per cent of liveweight.
"It's not unrealisti . . . they [cows] can do it. The only thing that stops them doing it is us."
Hague said current estimates showed the average New Zealand cow needed to be eating 4-5 kg of dry matter a day more than it was currently.
"We need to be getting this dry matter intake up.
"A feed is a feed. It doesn't matter if it's grass or jelly babies."
He said the first factor to consider was the impact of feed on the rumen environment, given that it's efficiency determined production.
"You've got to make sure that you're putting minerals in. If we want to push milk value, then we like a starchy, sugary feed."
He said grass was different "day to day, paddock to paddock, and blade to blade."
Because of that, farmers needed to watch cow grazing patterns carefully and make sure stock were eating, and therefore getting, the benefits of all varieties on offer.
Hague said that aside from grass there were a number of feeds available.
He said when constructing a feed system, one's checklist should take into account physical structure, dry matter, fat, Crude Protein (CP), minerals and Metabolisable energy (ME).
This would need to be balanced with how well feed stored, how quickly it spoiled, how easy it was to get to the paddocks, and what else it might need mixing with.
Hague said understanding the business model was fundamental to getting feed right, along with knowing the herd and what it needed.