Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Total dairy efficiency – An ‘ought to’ in today’s dairy market

Pedro Caramona Published on 21 September 2009

A sharp downturn in milk prices has produced what may be the worst crisis most dairy farmers have seen in their lifetime.

The milk surplus in the country, coupled with the economic recession, has helped drive down demand for dairy products, negatively impairing the price of milk paid to the producer.



These suggestions could help improve operation efficiency.

Review feed costs
Feed costs are the main share of operational costs. Assessing your current program with your nutritionist and preferred suppliers allows you to use the most cost-effective program to achieve your economic goals. The investment in homegrown forages and high-forage diets is starting to gain more importance.

Reserving special attention to correct silage management practices to improve forage quality is imperative to maintain high levels of productivity. Make sure ration changes are evaluated considering a long-term perspective including key ingredients for maintaining performance without compromising health and reproductive performance.

Review supplements with your nutritionist and supplier
Working with the nutritionist and your suppliers is key to ensuring that you are using the most proven and cost-effective solutions on the market. Focus on return on investment and work with reputable companies that have sound research behind their technologies.

Reduce calving interval
Improving reproductive efficiency can bring tangible returns to the producer. Shortening calving intervals result in the increase in production and profitability, moving the herd average days in milk (DIM) towards early and mid-lactation.


Early lactation is the most efficient and most profitable production time of the entire lactation. Feed costs per head per day remain stable and IOFC increases as a result of improved feed efficiency.

Consider improving your heifer program
Reducing the age at first calving (AFC) can highly impact your operation’s profitability. Inefficiencies in getting heifers to breeding weight at a proper age (24 months) and inefficiencies in breeding can create some opportunities and reduce transition-related health problems.

Work with your nutritionist to evaluate if this is an area you can get a better return with minimum costs to your operation.

Target milk quality premiums
Improving somatic cell counts (SCC) and adopting strategies to boost milk components can secure a higher return on investment (ROI) in your operation. Work with your creamery to establish feasible goals to improve your return per hundredweight of milk shipped.

Consider the inclusion of dietary ingredients as selenium, vitamin E and vitamin A, which have been shown to decrease the incidence of mastitis. Milk quality will also affect feed efficiency indirectly through increased productivity at similar feed intakes.

Evaluate labor management and employee training
A great part of your operation efficiency is in the hands of your employees. Take the time to re-evaluate job descriptions and make sure you develop a solid team approach in your operation. Training or re-training programs can be extremely useful to encounter areas where you can improve your program effectiveness.


Encourage communication and keep your work force motivated and aware of your specific goals, especially throughout tough times. Make an inventory of your assets to help you maintain working capital In the current industry scenario cash flow can be a limiting factor as credit accessibility has declined.

Maintaining control of your assets allows you to build an emergency fund that can be used if required. PD

Pedro Caramona