Growth can be simple and cheap
The cubicle barn with a 2x8 herringbone parlour was installed in 1997. Next to the barn, the farmers built a machinery room and storage area for large round bales of hay and straw. An indoor manure storage area connects both buildings with each other. In theory, this storage area can be easily transformed into housing for at least 40 extra dairy cows. However, that will require an investment in boxes, feeder gates or pipes of around €50,000 maximum. However, the brothers don’t want to expand, despite the good technical and financial results. They have a factory quota of 974,000 kilo of milk. Their dairy co-operation Agrial accepts an extra 3% on top of the quota, without a penalty. If they exceed the 3%, the levy is €0.05 per kilogram of milk (0-5% extra litres). For the next 5% the levy is €0.10 per kilo. Therefore, up until 29,200 kg on top of quota, there is no discount. If the brothers deliver 100,000 kg of milk more than the quota, they receive, on average, €0.08 below the base price (which is €0.33 at time of writing this article, including bonuses). A yield of about €0.25 per kilo for the final litres is much more than the variable cost of these litres, which is around €0.16, Philippe explained.
No straw in ration for more milk
The cows have limited access to pasture from late March until the end of October. In spring and autumn they go outside during the day and in the summer only at night. They can forage a fresh field twice a day, and after a week they return to the first plot. The French farmers prepare the ration in the pasture period with the mixer wagon. The diet consists of 7 kg dry matter (dm) corn silage, 2 kg soy, 1.3 kg dm corn-grain and 1 kg of straw. Their feed advisor is now recommending they replace the straw with a kilo dm of (high energy) corn silage, corn-grain or grain meal. This way, the milk yield can easily be increased by at least 1 kilo per day, without having to increase the herd size. These are the first 20,000 kilos of extra production that are allowed without extra costs.