It has been a relatively quiet month for us beyond the routine milking and feeding etc – although we did take advantage of the mild, dry spell in mid-January to spread some slurry and when the frosts came, put some urea on the winter wheat. Given that it is only mid-February, it’s incredible how green the fields are looking.

Last week Stuart went to the Dairy-Tech event down at Stoneleigh for the RABDF/NMR Gold Cup announcement and while he didn’t bring home the big prize, he certainly brought home other thoughts on improvements/changes we could make, and I’ll hopefully talk about some of them in future articles.

However this time I thought I’d look at the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) figures that AHDB published earlier this month (split into targets for top 5%, top 25% and average performance) for block calving and all-year round (AYR) herds, and how our performance compares, so I apologise in advance that the following is somewhat dry...

The first figure that jumped out at me was the Lifetime Daily Yield (LTDY) with a top target of >19 litres per day. To be honest I think this is somewhat optimistic. Infact the winner of the Chris May Memorial Award for highest LTDY amongst the Gold Cup qualifying herds (Higgins family from Shrewsbury) was 'only' 18.88kg/day. Our figure was slightly lower at 18.80kg/day and based on a back of the beer mat calculation I’d reckon that a 12,000litre herd should be realistically aiming for 17.5kg/day.

Another figure that interested me was the Total Purchased Feed Costs which for a 12,000 litre/year herd came in at 8ppl for the top category and 9.5ppl for average performance. So our feed rate is normally in the 0.4-0.45 kg/litre range and feed costs is £260/tonne (which is a bit on the high side relative to our rolling 12month figure) which would put us well below average performance at 11.5ppl (TPFC).

Interestingly though, this isn’t too far away from the latest Kingshay figure for Scotland which is 11.03ppl. Possibly the AHDB figure has more allowance for forages such as maize silage that tend to be less practical up here.

I guess more interesting than the TPFC is what is left over of the milk cheque i.e. the Margin Over Purchased Feed (MOPF). Unfortunately AHDB don’t give a target figure but again looking at Kingshay the average figure for Scotland is 18.8ppl or £1594/cow/year. On that basis our MOPF/litre is just below average at 18.66ppl but when taking into account the yields this becomes £2470/cow.

AHDB also give a figure for other overheads but it’s not clear if this includes drawings/ family labour. Assuming it does then we’re pretty much on the nose for the top 25% band at 10.5ppl, most of which is labour both employed and family.

The final two targets are pregnancy rate and Age at First Calving (AFC). Our pregnancy rate normally sits at around 20% so meeting the top 25% band. Conception rate is probably lower than it should be at around 2.5 straws/conception but we don’t really push fertility too much based on the somewhat heretical thought that high yielding cows might not get in calf at first time of asking.

As our Calving Index sits around the 395-405 day mark, off a Voluntary Waiting Period of 60 days, we’re doing ok although as inseminations are my job I would say that.

Our AFC is just a smidge over 24 months which is a bit higher than we’d like. One of the issues here is around the dairy check BVD testing as calves need to be more than nine months to make sure they are clear of maternal antibodies before blood testing and then there is a two-month window from their first BVD vaccination to first insemination so to tighten our AFC we’d need to be really on the ball.

Anyway hopefully that has provided some food for thought. Personally I enjoy going through people’s figures in articles but that’s probably just be the geek in me.