Farm Utilisation

Forage utilisation per ha

When we talk farm costings, farm efficiency, and performance monitoring, we need to talk about figures that are relevant to everyone and lead to tangible information, leading to informed decisions. We believe forage utilisation per ha (FUH) is the best figure to do this.

Milk from forage

In terms of measuring on- farm efficiency, milk from forage is one of the most widely used measurements; as, all things being equal, if your milk from forage goes up year on year, it either means your concentrate usage has reduced without a reduction in output, or milk production has increased without extra concentrate inputs. Both scenarios generally lead to an increased bottom line. Farming isn’t that simple though – things very rarely stay equal. Dairy farms are often going through growth phases, so if a farm increases his farmed area on the same milk output, their milk from forage may increase but they will incur costs for this in farming extra land. The inverse of this, a farm may increase stocking rate on the same area, seeing a significant increase in profitability by feeding heavier, but milk from forage per cow will fall significantly. Similarly, if a lot of bought in silage is fed, at a cost of £150/tDM, milk from forage will increase, however, the more cost-effective decision may have been to buy extra concentrates and generate more milk sales. For this reason, milk from forage is often considered outdated for modern farming practices.

Sustainability

It is important – now more than ever – that dairy farms get the most out of their farmed land; both from an environmental and economic point of view and we need to use a metric that captures this, without being skewed by marginal litres or business growth. The premise stays the same – get the most milk from your farmed land as possible, through increasing yield and forage quality, or improving herd management such as fertility and reducing lameness.

Forage utilisation

We believe that the metric of FUH encompasses this perfectly. The figure describes how much milk is being generated from each hectare (Ha) of your farmed area, irrelevant of any other changes happening on the farm. If you decide to increase feed rate to gain marginal litres or put on an extra 100 cows on the same area, the amount of milk produced from each Ha of land should remain constant. If you decide to rent an extra block of land, then FUH will only remain if that land is managed well enough.

Crucially, FUH is equally valuable for grazing systems as it is for housed systems and anything in between and rightly so, as both systems are operating in the same marketplace for inputs, assets and sales. It also helps to shed light on what crops will generate the most milk for your farm.

In summary, adoption of FUH will help farms identify opportunities for increasing profitability through sustainable land use, and crop production whatever else is happening within the farm business.

To generate the FUH figure, we calculate the energy required to generate the milk produced over the year accounting for seasonal and nutritional fluctuations. From this, we subtract the energy purchased over the year through feeds and divide the remaining figure by the farmed area allocated to dairy (considering youngstock and any other livestock). Any purchased forage is not considered, as this is a purchased feed just like a blend or compound feed, so should not be considered in any overall farm efficiency calculation.

Mark Price

Mark Price 

Dairy Specialist – Midlands

Email Mark
Follow on Twitter: @m_priceo

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