Little Things Can Add Up to Big Savings

Just a slight increase in butterfat percentage can add a $1,000 per month in income for a 100-cow herd. ( Farm Journal, Inc. )

In dairy farming, it’s the details that can and do add up to cost savings and more profit, says Donna Amaral-Phillips, a dairy nutritionist with the University of Kentucky.

“By realizing small savings, more potential dollars are available for cash flow within a dairy business,” she says.

She notes that higher production does not guarantee profitability, but it does provide the opportunity to pay more bills as long as costs are contained.

“In today’s milk markets, especially when supply management practices [are being imposed by some milk handlers], quality bonuses and butterfat percentage drive milk price per hundredweight, which in turn drives total milk income,” she says.

“Even in milk markets which do not receive bonuses for milk quality, cows give more milk when cell counts are lower, which adds to the bottom line,” Amaral-Phillips says.

For example, keeping somatic cell counts below 200,000 cell/mL will increase milk production 1.5 lb/cow/day (compared to SCCs at 400,000), and result in roughly $12,000 more milk income per year on 100 cows.

“A 2-tenth increase in butterfat percentage results in $978 per month more milk income or $11,736 more yearly income for a 100-cow milking herd,” she adds.

And while milk income typically represents the vast majority of a dairy’s income (85 to 95%), keeping death losses low (less than 7%) and minimizing fresh cow issues improves cash flow and adds additional gross income.