Focus on grass quality decreases feed costs at dairy farms

Nijmegen (NL) - 6 August 2012 -  by Rien Louwes - World animal feed prices are currently at a high level and market experts’ expectation is that this will not change in the coming years. If farmers don’t change their strategy this will lead to higher production costs for milk and meat. The best way to decrease feed costs is by improving forage quality. By choosing the best grass varieties a farmer can make a first step towards a good farm income in the future.

Feed prices at structural high level
High demand from upcoming countries and increased production of biofuels are said to be the main reasons for high feed prices. The world market has faced enormous change over the last five years and prices are structurally higher than before. As dairy production still depends a lot on concentrates (grains, soya) these developments lead to higher costs for milk production. The expected volatility of milk prices after 2015 means a stable farm income is unsure. 


Focus on forage quality
The best way to decrease concentrate costs without loss of milk production is to increase forage quality. Forage that is more digestible is more palatable and leads to a higher total energy and protein intake. There is a big difference between farms regarding how much milk is produced from forage. Farms with a very good forage quality are able to produce 60% of all milk from forage. However, if the forage quality drops production can decrease to 40% or lower. The economic impact of this difference is huge. For example in a situation where 5% more milk from forage can be produced one can save 1 kg of concentrate per cow each day. At current feed prices this can save a farm that produces1.0 million litres of milk €8,000 a year. 

More milk from the best varieties
The first step to obtain more milk from forage is to start with the best varieties for your grassland. Barenbrug varieties are not only selected for an excellent yield, but they also stand for quality. This means they are high in digestibility and protein. Furthermore, high resitance to disease and crown rustensures that high palatability is guaranteed. This strategy has proved to bring higher economic value per ha, but can also decrease concentrate costs. So investing in the best grass genetics is the first step to a good future farm income.