Australian farm consultant David Beca took farmers through the different on-farm performance metrics that correlate with profit.
He said that as the amount of pasture harvested per farm increases, so too does farm profitability, and this has a very strong correlation.
The other key point is that as the amount of pasture in the cows’ diet decreases to be replaced by meal or silage, the level of profitability decreases and the cost of production increases.
David said the impact of this was sharper in Ireland, because concentrate feed costs are much higher in Ireland compared to in Australia and the cost of growing grass is much lower in Ireland.
Interestingly, he said milk yield per cow has a very low correlation with profitability and is not something farmers should be focusing on.
“Most farmers are limited by land and what that land can grow. So farmers need to consider that pasture is the product and milk is the by-product of that pasture, so focus on pasture to improve profit.
“Most farmers are not intuitively knowledgeable on how to make money because the more concentrate you feed to a dairy cow the more biologically efficient she becomes and the more likely it is that you’ll make less money as a result. Dairy cows are one of the most challenging animals on the planet to manage in that regard,” he said.
Summing up, Beca said farmers should look at their whole farm business to analyse options to improve profitability.
He said farmers should understand which metrics correlate with profit and to focus on these, always focusing on pasture harvested as the primary driver of profit and the percentage of pasture in the cows' diet as the primary driver of cost of production.
He cautioned farmers against going down a high cost and low profit path, and said farmers should continue to breed a cow that has the ability to consume large quantities of grazed grass.