Consistent milk production is the holy grail of dairy farming. In the parts of the world that rely on grain and silage for feed, farmers can adopt a system of consistent calving throughout the year, but New Zealand’s pasture-based system does mean a more compact, seasonal calving pattern and therefore a seasonal peak and trough in milk production.
Extending that peak and shortening the trough is the path to more consistent milk production. There are several factors at play in achieving that, but every step you take towards achieving that goal will make your dairy operation more productive and efficient.
Unfortunately, the weather is one factor you don’t have much influence over, and the reality is that cows suffering environmental stress will produce less milk. Doing what you can to ensure your cows have adequate shelter and are comfortable can help result in increased milk production.
When it’s time to start feeding out the forage, its quality will be a factor in your milk production. For cows to ruminant to their best potential, they need to be fed forage of the perfect length. Cows will produce better on grass cut to lengths of 30-40mm rather than 10-15mm because the longer cut keeps the grass in the rumen for longer. Loader wagons, like those made by German company Bergmann, achieve that desirable 30-40mm cut, whereas forage harvesters cut to 10-15mm.
How often a herd is milked and how many hours between milkings are factors with considerable effect on milk production. Because of this, much research and many studies have gone into the science involved. There is a consensus that for two-a-day milking, cows milked 12 hours apart produce more milk than those milked at uneven intervals. And while there are many arguments in favour of once-a-day milking, increased yield is not one of them. Whether or when you should switch from twice a day to once a day late in the season to preserve milk quality is a question with a different answer on each farm, depending on geographical and seasonal factors.
Quality machinery for quality milk
As pasture growth begins to slow and it is time to start supplementing feed supplies, how much control you have over the exact quantities of forage, fodder beet and other supplements your herd gets will influence milk production. A mixer wagon such as those made in Germany by BvL will make it faster and easier to mix high-quality fodder and discharge just the right amount in a loose, even swath throughout the paddock. This is one piece of kit that will make a big difference to milk production.
It’s clear that getting more consistency in your milk production will make your dairy operation more productive and efficient. Things like the weather are beyond your control but others, such as feed quality, are not. The quality of your forage and of the fodder blend you feed out will be better with a loader wagon and mixer wagon, giving you more consistent milk production.