Management

Adapting to conditions

By Dairy News

Average spring conditions in the South West enabled many farmers to capitalise on improved dry matter yield and to build fodder reserves.

Dry conditions prevailed from November through to May when autumn rains across most of the region provided a good start.

Participating farms in the South West received 93 per cent of their long-term average annual rainfall with the most significant falls occurring in August 2018 and May 2019 and a drier than average period over summer.

Milk production decreased 2 per cent from 502 kg MS/ cow in 2017–18 to 492 kg MS/cow in 2018–19 reflecting individual decisions to manage seasonal risk.

Some farmers reduced milk production as a risk management strategy, by changing calving patterns or reducing feeding levels. The timing of this decision was important, with those who made it early (in August 2018) at an advantage to those who waited until February 2019.

Of the same 24 farms that participated in the DFMP in 2017–18, 12 farms produced less milk on a per on average, total milk solids reduced by 5 per cent to 187 000 kg

Approximately 60 per cent of milk production occurred between July and December.

On a per hectare and per cow basis, milk production per cow decreased from 502 kg MS/cow to 492 kg MS/cow while milk production per hectare decreased from 569 kg MS/ha down to 553 kg MS/ha.

Feed costs increased 10 per cent to $3.20/kg MS from $2.90/kg MS and were the major variable cost on South West farms, accounting for 51 per cent of total costs this year.

Average earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) and net farm income increased from the previous year but were the fifth lowest on record at $150 000 and $27 000, respectively.

Average return on total asset (RoTA) increased to 2.3 per cent from 1.9 per cent the previous year and return on equity remained similar at -0.8 per cent.

Crossley dairy farmer Chris Gleeson said milk price this season was looking positive as there was a lot of catching up to do from last season.

“As an industry we need two to three good years to rebuild confidence,” Chris said.

He said his goal this year was to grow and conserve as much fodder as possible for his 550-cow herd.

“I think there will be a shortage of milk in the second half of the year, milk is still to cheap in supermarkets and doesn’t reflect the quality and freshness of the product and the high cost to produce,” he said.