Sulzberger Farms Ltd was recently recognised with the 2017 Dairy Business of the Year Award, as well as the Business Resilience Award for the farm with the lowest cost of production, Best Taranaki Farm Performance Award and the Low Input Farm with the Best Financial Performance Award.
Focus on cost control
My farming philosophy is “a dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned”. We don't spend money just to break even, there has to be a good return. Our cost of production was the lowest in the competition at $2.50/kgMS, underpinned by the lowest operating expenses at $3.34/kgMS. I recommend looking at your overall budget and separating the costs that can be controlled from those that can’t, then you can work out what you have to spend. There are definitely things that you need to keep your cows milking and healthy but it’s looking for alternative ways to do things or buying alternative products to save costs.
We have moderate production levels to spread fixed costs over, and over the years we have improved our system so we can get a better return on our supplements. I focus on high consumption of grass and getting cows to efficiently convert it into milk. To do this and to sustain a profit, I try to work smarter rather than harder. The report and analysis we received through the competition have highlighted a few more things we can fine-tune such as increasing the effluent spreading area and trying to grow more grass by re-grassing. We operate on an 85 percent pasture-based system, with the remaining 15 percent being PKE, maize and balage. If we can get more from our pasture, even better.
Keep quality and manipulate your rotation lengths. Supplement feeding can help to protect your post-grazing residuals and keep them between 1450 – 1600 kg DM/ha, depending on the time of year. We feed maize in autumn and early winter which helps us manage costs, extend the rotation and puts the cows in good condition leading into calving.
I grow maize crops on paddocks where I have spread effluent. This saves costs and is a good way of transferring those nutrients to other paddocks.
Soil test individual paddocks and spread the fertiliser in paddocks according to higher/lower fertility patches. This is a way to reduce costs because you use fertiliser more wisely and your grass grows more evenly. You might start to notice that you don’t need to spread fertiliser on certain areas of your farm.