Economics of Feeding Dairy Cows on Well-Managed Pastures
Jon Winsten, Sarah Flack, Lisa McCrory, Joshua Silman, Dave Hoke and Bill Murphy
Duration: 1994 - 1995
Feeding expenses can account for 60% of dairy production cost, so it is an aspect that has most potential for cutting costs and improving farm profitability. The objective of this study was to determine profitability of dairying based on well-managed pasture compared to confinement dairying. Vermont pasture based farmers (23 in 1994 and 21 in 1995) who participated in the University of Vermont Pasture Management Outreach Program provided economic production data during individual, persona interviews. They represented a wide range of farmer pasture management expertise, pasture sward development, and per cow profitability. Their economic production data was compared to 24 Vermont confinement dairy farms, comprising the top 25% in per cow profitability of farms using Agrifax accounting. The pasture based dairy farmers earned an average of $579 net cash income per cow over 2 years; whereas, the top 25% confinement farms averaged $451 per cow. The largest savings found amongst the pasture based farms included paid labor, crop costs (seed, fertilizer, lime, pesticide), repairs, fuel and oil. Interviews with the pasture based farms showed that most of them feed too high of a protein supplement. We speculate that as management improves, pasture quality increases, and they select cows that perform better in high quality pasture forage, they will be able to feed less supplement, thereby improving their profitability even more.