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By P&L Agriconsulting, Aug 22 2020 02:58PM

Topically heat stress has been seen widely throughout the spring summer of 2020, however it is not a problem that only occurs in the summer. A Dairy cow has an optimal temperature range in which is seen to be comfortable, that is between 5C and 15C. Temperature alone is compounded by the humidity when looking at heat stress, how many sheds in the winter are warm, damp and stuffy.

The signs and consequences of heat stress can vary widely, and are not limited to a drop off in milk which is the widely accepted view. Some consequences of heat stress are quite subtle and, therefore, make it harder to realize the full animal welfare impacts and economic damage that may occur if ignored. The consequences of heat stress can include lower dry matter intake, milk fat depression, reduced pregnancy rate, cows calving early, calves with low birth weight, and compromised immune systems, resulting in increases of retained placentas, metritis, and mastitis. Consider these when assessing the suitability of your winter housing.

Collecting yards/milking parlours tend to be the hottest area on dairy farms with overcrowding driving up temperatures. Adding measures to lower the temperature in this key area can pay dividends as cows are frequent visitors to these areas. As such the collecting yard is often one of the easiest and most economical places to start. Add a fan, consider sprinklers; however bear in mind when considering adding sprinklers to the holding pen is that, without proper ventilation, it could turn in to a sauna, by lifting the humidity level.

There is often a higher return on investment for heat lowering measures for dry/transition cows and fresh calvers. Transition cow cooling can help reduce metabolic diseases and improve start-up milk. Cooling high groups can help improve reproduction and peak milk. Improved ventilation/stocking rates should be considered a priority.

For more information please contact Sarah Lea at P&L Agri-Consulting on 07903 021875 or [email protected]

By P&L Agriconsulting, Jul 6 2020 09:12AM

• This grant has now been extended for the months of June/July and August 2020

• The grant is ready to reapply for in August 2020

• The new extension now provides a grant of 70% (reduced from 80%) of average trading profits- for a 3-month period

To Note, as previous:

• You or your business must have been affected by Coronavirus

• It will be paid out in one instalment

• You can continue to work while receiving the grant

• HMRC will calculate how much you are owed- by using your tax returns

By P&L Agriconsulting, Feb 14 2018 03:46PM

Does Rotational Grazing suit my farm?

There is a very strong correlation between farms that graze grass efficiently and those that achieve much higher than average profitability per hectare, this is amongst dairy, beef and sheep farms.

There are several options when grazing eg. rotational grazing, set stocking or strip grazing. However there is a recent move in the UK to more rotational systems, this is proven to produce higher volumes of grass per hectare.

When setting up a rotational grazing system, the following areas must be considered:

Daily grass demand- this may change throughout the season, for example with suckler cows and calves, has animal growth rates increase throughout the season.

Infrastructure- what Is the easiest way to split fields or utilise the existing water troughs, costs can be saved by using electric fencing rather than permanent structures.

Measuring Grass- ideally grass should be measured on a weekly basis with a plate meter, which measures both the height of the grass and the density. Could you get funding for one of these on the recently introduced RDPE small grant scheme? This information can then be entered in to grazing tools and used to make key decisions, such has fertiliser applications and supplementary feeding volumes.

Rotational grazing will help to open-up the sward and encourage ryegrass growth, so having the cleanest and newest grass varieties is not a necessity, especially at the beginning of this process.

Don’t be afraid to make changes throughout the season, for example during the highest growth periods, paddocks can be taken out for silage. Whilst near the end of the season extra fields can be bought into the rotation when grass growth slows and preserved forage has been made.

The challenge is to plan and set up your system now so that you can utilise grass in the coming months. P&L can help with planning and monitoring your system - we can walk your fields and monitor results to help you achieve the best results.

To find out more contact P&L Consultant Sarah Lea on 07903 021875 or email [email protected]

By P&L Agriconsulting, Jan 2 2018 12:22PM

Preparing for Lambing - Last 6 Weeks of Pregnancy

Correct ewe nutrition is one of the most influential factors behind periparturient losses, this is especially important in the last 6 weeks where 70% of the foetal growth occurs

Providing the ewe will the correct nutrients in terms of energy and protein levels will aid the following:

· Prevention of negative energy balance in the ewe

· Prevention of Hypocalcaemia and pregnancy toxaemia (twin lamb)

· Maintenance and growth of unborn lambs

· Production of good quality colostrum and adequate volumes

A ewe can only consume 2-2.5% of her body weight in dry matter (DM), therefore in an 80kg ewe this equates to 1.6 to 2.0kg DM. This is complicated by a 10% reduction in dry matter intake (DMI) during the final two weeks of pregnancy.

There are many options for feeding in this last 6 weeks of pregnancy, the decision on farm will be dependent on availability of products and individual ewe/flock demands.

Paddock Grazing

This is especially seen in more robust extensive breeds that usually lamb outside. Sufficient winter growth of grass is needed with this option, which may be especially difficult this season with lower grass growth levels than this time last year. Set stocking is usually returned to 3 weeks before lambing and additional conserved forage is added in bad weather situations.

Deferred Grazing

This where ewes are removed from a block of ground before winter so a wedge of grass is built up, which can then be fed back by strip/paddock grazing. Although this would have needed to be considered in the September period to build up sufficient quantity.


These include crops such has kale and forage rape, a run back section is key with these crops. Brassicas provide a high energy diet but there are specific mineral needs that need to be met with these crops. Adequate protein levels in the overall diet need to be monitored when feeding fodder beet and swedes.

Conserved Forages

In creating a diet of conserved forage there can be huge variation between forages, even form the same field, so analysis is key.

The higher the forage quality, the higher the feed intake, with added concentrates seen to decrease the volume of forage consumed. Concentrates are not necessary in all conserved forage diets, this is especially seen in single bearing ewes.

Energy and protein demand of the ewe is again key in making the decision to feed concentrate. With obvious variation seen in ewe body weight and number of lambs. Energy of concentrates and protein content, along with type of protein is vital. With recent research highlight the importance of good quality protein sources.

For more information please contact Sarah Les at P&L Agri-Consulting on 07903 021875 or [email protected]

By P&L Agriconsulting, Oct 15 2017 08:20PM

By Sarah Alderton

Dairy farmers considering pushing for output just because milk price is starting to rise are being warned to beware of the additional costs involved.

According to independent dairy consultant, Phil Clarke of P and L Agriconsulting, the p/litre needed to warrant moving to an all year round housed herd milking three times a day is far higher than most people would expect.

“It was only when a client asked what would the miIk price would have to be for it to be more profitable for him to change his farming system from grazing based to 3x per day housed all year round.

Mr Clarke calculated in a clients herd of 330 cows yielding 8,600litres and with a cost of production of 21.77p/l, he would need to be getting over 35p/litre for his milk in order to exceed total farm profits, compared to his current system on twice a day milking.

At present many farmers are being challenged to change their system and push for additional litres in light of milk price rises, however many will be significantly better off sticking to their simple lower cost system. As you can see in table 1, even by producing an additional 1 million litres off the farm, it would the milk price to be consistently over 36p/l to benefit the change. The question you need to ask yourself is, Do you think 36p/l for your milk is achievable over the next 5-10 years?

X head Production costs

“With three times a day milking his production costs were calculated to increase by 3.6p/l. When accounting for this increase from 21.7p/l to 25.3p/l and taking into account the yields to rising from 8,600l to 11,600 l/cow he would need be getting over 35p/litre to exceed profits from his current twice a day grazing based system,” explains Mr Clarke.

“It’s easy to forget the extra costs associated with that extra milking. Dairy sundries such as chemicals, plant wash, teat dips, liners and parlour repairs will increase by a third.”

Contracting costs would also increase as all forage consumed are commonly fed out as conserved silage, which has a significant cost over grazed grass.

Mr Clarke explains: “On this particular farm the silage production would have to increase from 600t of dry matter to 1,400t dry matter, as they are currently grazed for seven months of the year. This would increase the total forage production cost from £175/cow to £288/cow.

“In addition, all slurry produced would have to be spread rather than only four months worth, therefore tripling this cost,” he says.

Often labour costs are not costed into three times a day milking, says Mr Clarke.

Added labour costs come, not only from the extra milking, but also because an extra milking takes out time in the day when other jobs such as repairs, renewals and crop work would have been done. This could result in farmers having to employ a contractor to do the extra work.

X head Variable costs

In the 330 cow herd Mr Clarke based his figures on, he calculated the variable costs would rise from £1,150 a cow to £1,920 on three times a day milking (see table one).

In addition, total overhead costs after finance would increase from £723 a cow up to £1,015 a cow.

“You need to remember the extra litres don’t come from fresh air, these extra litres require extra feed, both forage and concentrates,” says Mr Clarke.

He also calculated concentrate costs would rise from £445 to £919, this is assuming the feed rate would move from the current level of 0.28kg/l up to 0.36kg/l and the concentrate cost per tonne would increase from £185/t up to £220 / tonne. This is also based on the client moving from an all grass system to a 50/50 maize / grass based system, therefore requiring a higher protein content in the ration.

X head Breaking even

However, if the 330 cow herd doubled to 600 cows the p/l needed to breakeven reduces from 35p/l down to 31p/l, after additional finance costs on the investment in cows and infrastructure.

“There are exceptions where three times a day milking is working well,” says Mr Clarke.

“Certain farms suit this system because of layout etc. However, if you’ve got a simple low cost system it’s better to keep it that way than push for litres.

He adds: “With the long-term predications for milk price at 26.5p/l, (IFCN 10 year forecast) don’t start thinking we are out of the woods just yet. Focus still needs to be on your cost of production rather than the size of your milk cheque.”

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