The UK dairy industry is rapidly dividing naturally into the high & low input systems. Each to their own preferred system. But why would a University & an Agricultural newspaper seek to pit one sector against the other group of farmers.
Our Dr Mike Wilkinson from Nottingham University clearly knows nothing about the efficiency nor the high calibre of pasture based dairy farmers in the UK or elsewhere in the world.
Has he ever been on a low input pasture based dairy farm in the UK? I doubt it as he spoke at the recent British Society of Animal Science conference in Nottingham clearly not understanding the outstanding technical efficiencies of the pasture based system. Nor has he fully considered the numerous inefficiencies of the high input systems of milk production.
The average milk production per cow in the UK is approx 7000litres/year times 2.5 lactations. This equals a lifetime production of approx 17500litres per cow. The low input pasture based dairy cow that Dr Wilkinson was so critical of only produces 5500litres per cow per year but over 5.2 lactations = 28600 lifetime production.
Which high yield cows would you prefer Dr Wilkinson?
Add to the lifetime production the ability to calve every 365 days for more than 5 lactations & we have a very scientifically efficient system. These are genetically very sophisticated dairy cows that are fed simply & naturally on pasture. The high breeding efficiency of the crossbred cows & the clover fed pasture means a very low carbon footprint. Pasture based dairying doesn't rely on protein from South America.
Pasture based dairying in the UK is for smart thinking professionals. It attracts smart young entrants to the dairy industry....it's a pity the UK Universities are not playing a greater part of this sector.
Pasture based dairying is at the forefront of science & technology. Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity.
Grazing management is simple but sophisticated. It requires real management skill..
Dr John Beddington called for sustainability in agriculture...times have moved on..we no longer wish to destroy the very environment we depend on for food.
The pasture based dairying has a long term sustainability. Under pasture there is a healthy soil with high soil organic matter (soil carbon). Although UK soils are decreasing in carbon stocks those soils under low input pasture systems are increasing the soil organic matter & contributing to the UKs Soil carbon stocks.
Sustainability is clearly something Mike Wilkinson hasnt considered with his high input milk production that relies on cereals, protein from South America, depleting soil carbon, tractors & fuel. Not to mention poor herd fertility & a low number of lactations & lifetime production.
Lastly Dr Wilkinson.....you need the public support for healthy locally produced food. Today the public is well informed & with social media can rally support or opposition to farmers & farming practices eg. notinmycuppa. http://notinmycuppa.com/ High input systems do not have public support.
Pasture based dairy farmers are proud of the public support they get & will fight back to protect that support.
Current UK Pasture Measurements
Few areas of the UK have had either any rain or enough rain to significantly influence pasture growth on UK dairy farms. The long dry spell is of increasing concern as it follows a relatively dry 12 months.
Pasture growth has hit "Magic Day" on many pasture based dairy farms as soil temperatures increase. Cornwall (not really part of England!) is having an amazing spring with some farms having already cut silage.
Average Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)
South Ayrshire Scotland AFC 1962, Growth 64 rotation 18 days
Dumfries 1910, 36
North Wales 1950, 44
Cheshire Organic 2000, 39
Lincolnshire 2350, 115
Nottingham 2000, 60 (no rain for 2 months)
Nottingham 2064, growth 69, demand 65 (no rain.. silage?????)
East Staffordshire 2080, 56
Staffordshire 2004, 60
Herefordshire 2080, 50 (no rain 6 weeks)
Herefordshire 2099, Growth 59 demand 32
Gloucestershire 2230, 77
Oxfordshire 1940, 50 (demand 48) no rain
Pembrokeshire 1970, 61
Pembrokeshire 3085 (complete farm), 105 growth
Somerset organic 2300, 45 (paddocks shut for hay)
East Sussex 1947, 47 (no rain since early March relying on Chicory fields)
Dorset 2600, 87 (third farm shut for silage) perfect grazing conditions
Dorset 2443, 91
Dorset 2462, 79 (planted 15ha Chicory & Plantain for summer)
Devon 2500, 75
Devon 2180 , 65 (demand 51)
Cornwall 2100, 105 (third farm shut for silage)
Cornwall 2498, 94 (silage already cut).....Cornwall is not in England????(Ed comment)
Southern Ireland 2100, 68 Lots of bloat around