This well known adage came immediately to mind when a colleague from the Mirabel area sent me a page from his grandfather's 1937 school book. The article came from the Institut d'agriculture d'Oka and stated that 10 good cows were more productive than 15 mediocre ones. Imagine, that was 75 years ago and the proverb is just as germane! That's when we realize that we haven't invented anything in terms of analyzing productivity and cost-effectiveness.
Although we have a greater number of tools and our data sources are more accurate, the conclusion remains the same. Advancements in terms of genetics and management philosophies produced higher levels of dairy production than the 6,000 lb presented in 1937. Nowadays, 50 cows with 10,000 kg will usually be more cost-effective than 60 cows at 8,300 kg. Savings are for the most part the result of reduced fodder needed to feed cows and fewer replacement cows. Overall, concentrates do represent expenditures, but so does fodder!
For several years now, additional production days have been granted in the fall. However, when reviewing statistics for milk delivery we notice that fall milk production is another good example of things that stay the same year after year. Despite incentive measures implemented by the FPLQ, truth is that only a minority of dairy farmers take advantage of this opportunity to make more money and fill their coffers. In fact, less than 50% of breeders produced milk fat above and beyond their allocated production rights last fall! Global quota reached 97% and we produced only 31% of the kilos of additional milk fat allowable.
Isn’t it sad to know that there is money available - cash on the table - and it just stays there? I understand that additional production rights rose to 9.5% of the quota over the past year and that it is cumulative, but what annoys me is that this is nothing new. A marked increase in production across the province is significant as of January… just after the incentive period for producing fall milk, which extends from August to December.
I talk with dairy farmers on a regular basis and it’s encouraging to see that some of them prepare for this period with more calvings at the end of the summer and even sell cows (at a good price) that have just finished calving. Furthermore, the average price of milk in the fall is usually higher: We’re talking about one dollar more per hectolitre compared with the rest of the year.
If we want to change a result, we need to be ready to change how we do things. We’ve long been talking about maximizing farm revenues, seeking the best rate of return per quota kilo. There are several strategies to be considered. I invite you to speak with your expert-consultant and implement the strategy that is right for you, such as changing your annual production cycle to improve your bottom line. You’re thinking about cost-effectiveness… So are we!