Farmers Encouraged to Focus on Factors Within Their Control

Farmers are encouraged to focus on controllable factors within the ring-fence of their farm to help the agricultural sector reach its carbon neutral goal by 2040.
calendar icon 6 February 2020
clock icon 2 minute read

Speaking at Dairy-Tech 2020, Alltech retail programmes lead, Ian Leach, said, “If, as an industry, we’re going to meet our net zero target we have to make a collective effort to start reducing our carbon footprint. And for that, we need to consider the practical means by which this can be achieved, while fundamentally remaining profitable.”

Within the last five months, over 100 Alltech Navigate assessments have been carried out looking specifically at how producers can reduce feed waste and optimise input utilisation to help improve the economic and environmental sustainability of farming systems.

Mr Leach explains that common findings across all these farms are being identified. “No two farms are exactly the same. However, there is no denying that feed remains the biggest single variable cost for any dairy producer, costing an average of £230,000 for a 1.5 million litre herd.

“Despite this, we know from on-farm pilot studies that feed is also one of the most under-utilised inputs, with as much as 45 percent of its potential being wasted between field and cow,” said Mr Leach.

“Our assessments are highlighting that losses during ensiling, at feed-out and inside the cow are some of the main areas where producers could be making small improvements to benefit margins, which don’t have to cost the earth, if anything at all, in some cases.

“As an example, over-rolling silage clamps at the end of filling and under-rolling while filling is something we are coming across regularly. Not only is this leading to poor compaction, which negatively impacts fermentation and leads to aerobic instability issues, but farmers are also burning diesel and wasting valuable time by doing this resulting in inefficiencies across the board.”

Mr Leach highlights that they are also seeing many systems where cubicle lunge space is limited against walls. “Ideally, cows should be lying for an average of 14 hours a day. For every hour below this optimal lying time you start to see a negative impact on milk yield of approximately one litre/hour.

“As much as £112/cow/year can be lost by cows only lying for 12 hours a day. Multiply this across a 200-cow herd, and this equates to £22,400 that could have been realised in milk cheques,” he adds.

“If you’re able to assess and analyse critical control points on-farm and take actions based on the data and insight you have gained from this exercise, which is what Alltech Navigate does, then it’s possible to make sustainable and profitable decisions to drive on-farm performance, while also reducing your own carbon footprint,” added Mr Leach.

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