Cows feeding in barn

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Last year brought more than its fair share of challenges for our farmers, coping with rising input  costs, increasing uncertainty and extreme market volatility.

Our Senior Nutritionist Dr Robin Hawkey believes now is the time to review and evaluate the last 12 months to help draw up your New Year’s Resolutions for 2023.

Whether it’s a formal business plan or just thinking through the key drivers, risks and opportunities, planning for the year ahead can take many guises and levels of complexity.

The evaluation, or reviewing stage, is crucial and can take the form of self-appraisal or performance reviewing.

Consider from last year:

• What worked?

• What didn’t?

• What could be improved and changed?

If circumstances and markets fluctuate, is the business fully understood, both physically and financially? Planning is important so the impact can be evaluated and changes can be made.

On livestock farms, this might include fully appreciating stocking rates and youngstock numbers, appraising forage stocks and silage planning for the year ahead, including forage types.

Remember the droughts of the last couple of years? How did your farm cope? Was heat stress an issue, what plans and provisions might you consider for the forthcoming year?

Producing a simple milk production and livestock sales forecast and feed budget, could be vital in understanding the year ahead.

By understanding key production figures and costs, options can be considered when reacting to market volatility and assessing potential risk. Simple costings are helpful, as is utilising the ‘what if’ function of the Milk Map.

Traditionally, adjusting performance has related to either increasing output with more milk or meat, better quality produce, improving health traits or lowering input costs. These are fundamental to most farms.

Increasingly, labour availability is a major concern, limiting potential for expansion and necessitating the need for simplicity.

Reviewing and evaluating daily operations through the year and considering staff morale will be important for many farms.

The last year has seen a fundamental shift towards environmental concerns, reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change and reducing the carbon footprint of operations and production.

Clearly demonstrated by the Arla Sustainability Initiative Model, this will inevitably be followed by other such schemes in the coming year.

Management changes to improve sustainability will lead to increased efficiencies, which in turn  result in better margins. It will be important to evaluate the key areas which will have most impact.

Areas to consider include:

Forage & fertiliser:

Harvesting, the use of additives, ensiling, feeding, reducing clamp wastage. Producing Nutrient Management Plans to ensure soil health and efficient fertiliser use.

Animal health:

Reducing metabolic challenges and disease, fertility and longevity, including youngstock and heifer rearing, which are both potentially a huge financial and environmental cost.

Purchased feed optimisation:

The efficient use of dietary protein and considering soya usage and alternatives; ensuring fully  alanced rations to optimize food conversion.

Production levels and quality:

More output from the same feed? Same output from less feed? No one knows what 2023 will bring, but setting objectives and targets, understanding key drivers and options and having a process to evaluate and review throughout the year ahead will be vital if the volatility of recent months continues.

What will your New Year’s resolution be?

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