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Thread: Small dairy farm

  1. #1

    Small dairy farm

    I live on a small (80 acre) ex dairy farm where I run a flock of sheep, I'm not right up to speed on the dairy job but I was just wondering would on this size of farm would it ever be viable to milk cows again ? Is anyone milking on a smaller farm and if So what breed, yield etc? All parlour, dairy , bulk tank etc are still fairly decent. I'm just curious that's all , like I say I'm defiantly no milk cow expert.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    If you fancy milking,try sheep

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    where in the world are you?

    have you got cow tracks? water troughs? paddock size etc? Just thinking if you could do a rotational grazing system. Whereabouts are you? We milk once a day on just grass, block calving...need little or no housing, can employ seasonal labour at times of need (calving, mating etc) and then you also have a downtime for a couple of months. it is an easy system to work (i think easier than a tmr or high input system) and also a protitable system...

  4. #4

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by rugbytommy View Post
    where in the world are you?

    have you got cow tracks? water troughs? paddock size etc? Just thinking if you could do a rotational grazing system. Whereabouts are you? We milk once a day on just grass, block calving...need little or no housing, can employ seasonal labour at times of need (calving, mating etc) and then you also have a downtime for a couple of months. it is an easy system to work (i think easier than a tmr or high input system) and also a protitable system...
    n.
    I'm in Lancashire, quite high rainfall and all permanent pasture, I've some tracks but there's a fairly long winter round here.i don't think I'd ever get an early turnout or late bite, I've got troughs , average field size is probably 7 acres. The previous tenants milked here up til about 2000 I think. What type of cow are you milking on once a day? What's your a stage yield?

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    Senior Member matthew's Avatar
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    Re: Small dairy farm

    The first thing to look for is a buyer for your milk.
    If nobody will collect, you'll have to think of a plan B. The days are long gone when the MMB collected everyone's milk and then 'got rid' of it the best way they could.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Re-seed the ground, rent a further 20ac and milk 60 cows. (In short of course)


    What size is the parlour/cubicle shed?

  7. #7

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheep View Post
    Re-seed the ground, rent a further 20ac and milk 60 cows. (In short of course)


    What size is the parlour/cubicle shed?
    It's an 8 x 4 abreast parlour , cubicles for 60 cows and a pair of coverd clamps, I think a modern buck rake would struggle to fill them tho, it's all from the days before tractor cabs unfortunately!

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    depends if you wanna make money or have a hobby farm, lol

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Fzs View Post
    depends if you wanna make money or have a hobby farm, lol
    Eye! I was basically wondering what sort of profit if any compared to my ewes or some other beef enterprise, i do other work aswell but the dairy Jobs more tying I reckon. Could it make a wage , that's all or are the days of 50 cow herds long gone

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Well you have some of the most important things there already, buildings etc

    why did the previous tenants give up ?

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Unless you can find a niche market for what you produce then i wouldn't bother the cows alone would cost 60k plus, you margins wouldn't be that high and its a massive tie. Why not go and do some relief milking and get paid for the hours you do without all the hassle.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    I tendered for an FBT a couple of years ago, on a 220ac farm with redundant dairy buildings for 55 cows, old parlour & silage pit that was suitable for self feed. I wouldn't consider milking that sized herd as a full time job, and it's too small to employ anyone to get any time off whatsoever. My business plan involved putting a single robot in, and utilising the existing buildings for a high input/high output Holstein herd, run as a part time enterprise alongside sheep. Even had a provisional milk contract agreed, but pipped to the post by a ridiculously high tender (good luck to them).

  13. #13

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Fzs View Post
    Well you have some of the most important things there already, buildings etc

    why did the previous tenants give up ?
    They ended up on another farm which they own, that's a good while ago now tho, there was a tenant between me and them with sucklers .

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt lee View Post
    n.
    I'm in Lancashire, quite high rainfall and all permanent pasture, I've some tracks but there's a fairly long winter round here.i don't think I'd ever get an early turnout or late bite, I've got troughs , average field size is probably 7 acres. The previous tenants milked here up til about 2000 I think. What type of cow are you milking on once a day? What's your a stage yield?
    what rainfall, do you know? we have about 1000mm (in a normal year, last year was more like 1400mm), We graze them from start of february no problem till november. with cow tracks and common sense you can graze them very easily in a wet year. if farms on the west coast of scotland can do it and do it well, i am sure anywhere can! that is a good field size, most of ours are around that (but we have 400+ cows). We are milking a NZ jersey with some NZ jersey x Friesian milking now (as well as some three way crosses with Norwegian Red coming through). We dont really work on yield, we work on milk solids as we are on a cheese contract. we produce about 3000 litres (down from 4000 litres on twice a day) at 6.0 fat and 4.5 protein annual average. Never trim feet, no lameness, have had 2 cases of mastitis since calving in feb, no real problems of any sort (touch wood). Is a great system to farm.

    It makes money even on a low milk price. We are not at the mercy of soya prices in south america etc....It just needs investment in cow tracks, troughs. wouldnt go too mad on housing or parlour...you could milk 100 cows on a grazing system (not too intensive) at a stocking rate of 3 LU/Ha. 100 lightweight grazing type cows (450- 520 kgs) would be very easy to manage. i think if you are going to go a more holstein way then you will need to upgrade housing etc...

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by rugbytommy View Post
    what rainfall, do you know? we have about 1000mm (in a normal year, last year was more like 1400mm), We graze them from start of february no problem till november. with cow tracks and common sense you can graze them very easily in a wet year. if farms on the west coast of scotland can do it and do it well, i am sure anywhere can! that is a good field size, most of ours are around that (but we have 400+ cows). We are milking a NZ jersey with some NZ jersey x Friesian milking now (as well as some three way crosses with Norwegian Red coming through). We dont really work on yield, we work on milk solids as we are on a cheese contract. we produce about 3000 litres (down from 4000 litres on twice a day) at 6.0 fat and 4.5 protein annual average. Never trim feet, no lameness, have had 2 cases of mastitis since calving in feb, no real problems of any sort (touch wood). Is a great system to farm.

    It makes money even on a low milk price. We are not at the mercy of soya prices in south america etc....It just needs investment in cow tracks, troughs. wouldnt go too mad on housing or parlour...you could milk 100 cows on a grazing system (not too intensive) at a stocking rate of 3 LU/Ha. 100 lightweight grazing type cows (450- 520 kgs) would be very easy to manage. i think if you are going to go a more holstein way then you will need to upgrade housing etc...
    Sounds really interesting reading about your system, what and how much forage do you conserve each year? Do many cows slip out of the calving period?

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Agree you could milk 80-100 cows and not go for high input if only because experience limited in dairy cows and buildings not really up to it. 6000 litres off a tonne of concentrate would be a reasonable target and aim for 500k+ milk sold. You don't need big Holsteins to hit that yield. be wary of investing too much in the infrastructure of someone elses farm unless something can be done on rent terms but good infrastructure essential for grazing herd. Profit wont be huge but better than anyother alternative livestock net of sfp and on a farm of that size. Dairy always outperforms beef or sheep on an average per acre basis but would take more of your time and be a tie if affordable relief staff unavailable also capital investment demand is much much bigger on a dairy farm. Would rent at least another 20ac and milk 100 on 100ac

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Getting buildings and equipment up to Assurance Scheme standards may be a massive task and may well be the reason that dairying was abandoned 12 yeas ago

  18. #18

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Courier View Post
    Getting buildings and equipment up to Assurance Scheme standards may be a massive task and may well be the reason that dairying was abandoned 12 yeas ago
    That's certainly a very good point, the leaches probably won't dig it as it is.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt lee View Post
    That's certainly a very good point, the leaches probably won't dig it as it is.
    Getting it up to scratch could take a bit of money, If it's your own farm it is probably worth spending, if not then you may be investing in what may be someone elses farm in a few years time (depending on tenancy agreement).

  20. #20

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by robinjac View Post
    Agree you could milk 80-100 cows and not go for high input if only because experience limited in dairy cows and buildings not really up to it. 6000 litres off a tonne of concentrate would be a reasonable target and aim for 500k+ milk sold. You don't need big Holsteins to hit that yield. be wary of investing too much in the infrastructure of someone elses farm unless something can be done on rent terms but good infrastructure essential for grazing herd. Profit wont be huge but better than anyother alternative livestock net of sfp and on a farm of that size. Dairy always outperforms beef or sheep on an average per acre basis but would take more of your time and be a tie if affordable relief staff unavailable also capital investment demand is much much bigger on a dairy farm. Would rent at least another 20ac and milk 100 on 100ac
    Grand , thanks for all the info so far everyone it's all very interesting, the biggest disadvantage to the first generation farmer is not having a farming dad to ask your daft questions too!

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    I suspect you are not in an NVZ but check it out, could have big implications for slurry storage/investment required.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Basic slag View Post
    Sounds really interesting reading about your system, what and how much forage do you conserve each year? Do many cows slip out of the calving period?
    we fill up two pits worth of silage (italian ryegrass) from outlying land. It is enough to feed for 3 months normally, including all our youngstock. not sure exactly how many tonnes altogether. we take round bales of the milking platform if covers get too high (above 3000 normally) but this is "as and when". We have about 8% of cows slip out, these get culled. we are aiming for 5%, hopefully we will get there this year...

    Agree you could milk 80-100 cows and not go for high input if only because experience limited in dairy cows and buildings not really up to it. 6000 litres off a tonne of concentrate would be a reasonable target and aim for 500k+ milk sold. You don't need big Holsteins to hit that yield. be wary of investing too much in the infrastructure of someone elses farm unless something can be done on rent terms but good infrastructure essential for grazing herd. Profit wont be huge but better than anyother alternative livestock net of sfp and on a farm of that size. Dairy always outperforms beef or sheep on an average per acre basis but would take more of your time and be a tie if affordable relief staff unavailable also capital investment demand is much much bigger on a dairy farm. Would rent at least another 20ac and milk 100 on 100ac
    Sounds like a good plan. Yeah, dont go for fancy cows that cost the world....if you simplify everything and make it a very good one man operation then it could be a good little earner. measure everything including grass

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Courier View Post
    Getting buildings and equipment up to Assurance Scheme standards may be a massive task and may well be the reason that dairying was abandoned 12 yeas ago
    Courier, What is assurance scheme standards?

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by rugbytommy View Post
    we fill up two pits worth of silage (italian ryegrass) from outlying land. It is enough to feed for 3 months normally, including all our youngstock. not sure exactly how many tonnes altogether. we take round bales of the milking platform if covers get too high (above 3000 normally) but this is "as and when". We have about 8% of cows slip out, these get culled. we are aiming for 5%, hopefully we will get there this year...



    Sounds like a good plan. Yeah, dont go for fancy cows that cost the world....if you simplify everything and make it a very good one man operation then it could be a good little earner. measure everything including grass
    correction measure everything especially grass! Rugbytommy suggestion is a great one and would allow the OP to work off farm as many smaller irish farmers do.High yielding = high costs in terms of money, hours worked and family sacrifice.

    lazy

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    400 cows, 2 staff members and quite a few acres - You would be amazed at how much that little bit of extra size makes things ever so much easier and keeps the bills under control......and gives you a reasonable life style.


    Come on get real!!!

    your on your own 7 days a week with your 50 cows.
    you slog your heart out milking in your abreast parlour on hot days like this
    your splash through the mud moving electric fences in the dark as you cant afford decent cow tracks and not enough time to get round all the jobs
    you never start the evening milking until 6pm - nobody else is going to do all the million jobs that suddenly need doing in the day time
    You sit down at 8pm for your tea and then start the paper work
    You cant find or afford any kind of relief staff to work in your abreast parlour and successfully do every other multi tasking job of a one man farm while you have a holiday

    The days of 50 cows and an abreast parlour are long gone
    You need a minimum of 70 cows doing 8000 very profitable low cost litres to get your 1 man farm to work successfully, to make money and to reinvest

    Wake up to reality! there is a fine line on low yield and cow numbers.
    80 acres is not going to really do much for an all grazing 100 cow herd unless you can magic grass to grow very successfully

    fair enough if you have spare money or just doing it for fun.

    you would be better of with 10 cows doing 10,000lt and some how managing to sell the milk direct to customers with milk vending machines or something! and rent
    40 acres out to somebody else for good money.

  26. #26
    Senior Member Sam_TM's Avatar
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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by matthew View Post
    The first thing to look for is a buyer for your milk.
    If nobody will collect, you'll have to think of a plan B. The days are long gone when the MMB collected everyone's milk and then 'got rid' of it the best way they could.
    Agree. This would be my first port of call too. It's surprising how few dairies there are, picking up in some areas.
    Find out what the pricing structure is & what your ppl might be. If it involves a 'volume bonus' your 'small dairy farm' might be unfavourably penalised.

    Good luck
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    Re: Small dairy farm

    There's a man not far from here who started off on a farm that size not so long ago and is now well over 1000 milking cows. The main thing is not to think small and start small. For this you will need to invest a fair amount of capital.

    The main problem of being a small herd is that you will find it difficult to find a buyer and you will be severely penalised on the milk price and collection charges. The buyers want as few collection points to fill their tankers as possible. I was talking to someone yesterday who was milking 60 cows and he was getting 25 to 30% less for his milk than larger herds due to various reasons, but mainly the above. That makes any investment in the job totally unviable. It is most important that you have a plan, a budget of some sort, and a longer term strategy before investing in such an extremely capital and labour intensive enterprise.
    The Duck 2015

  28. #28

    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Newholland View Post
    400 cows, 2 staff members and quite a few acres - You would be amazed at how much that little bit of extra size makes things ever so much easier and keeps the bills under control......and gives you a reasonable life style.


    Come on get real!!!

    your on your own 7 days a week with your 50 cows.
    you slog your heart out milking in your abreast parlour on hot days like this
    your splash through the mud moving electric fences in the dark as you cant afford decent cow tracks and not enough time to get round all the jobs
    you never start the evening milking until 6pm - nobody else is going to do all the million jobs that suddenly need doing in the day time
    You sit down at 8pm for your tea and then start the paper work
    You cant find or afford any kind of relief staff to work in your abreast parlour and successfully do every other multi tasking job of a one man farm while you have a holiday

    The days of 50 cows and an abreast parlour are long gone
    You need a minimum of 70 cows doing 8000 very profitable low cost litres to get your 1 man farm to work successfully, to make money and to reinvest

    Wake up to reality! there is a fine line on low yield and cow numbers.
    80 acres is not going to really do much for an all grazing 100 cow herd unless you can magic grass to grow very successfully

    fair enough if you have spare money or just doing it for fun.

    you would be better of with 10 cows doing 10,000lt and some how managing to sell the milk direct to customers with milk vending machines or something! and rent
    40 acres out to somebody else for good money.
    I'm on the urban fringe, sounds like I need a milk round then! I took the farm land only to start with and I've been fortunately recently to rent the whole lot now, any suggestions for summet to consider given I've 2 clamps and cubicles loose boxes etc and only sheep at the mo? I appreciate all your feedback, its fantastic.

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by Newholland View Post
    400 cows, 2 staff members and quite a few acres - You would be amazed at how much that little bit of extra size makes things ever so much easier and keeps the bills under control......and gives you a reasonable life style.


    Come on get real!!!

    your on your own 7 days a week with your 50 cows.
    you slog your heart out milking in your abreast parlour on hot days like this
    your splash through the mud moving electric fences in the dark as you cant afford decent cow tracks and not enough time to get round all the jobs
    you never start the evening milking until 6pm - nobody else is going to do all the million jobs that suddenly need doing in the day time
    You sit down at 8pm for your tea and then start the paper work
    You cant find or afford any kind of relief staff to work in your abreast parlour and successfully do every other multi tasking job of a one man farm while you have a holiday

    The days of 50 cows and an abreast parlour are long gone
    You need a minimum of 70 cows doing 8000 very profitable low cost litres to get your 1 man farm to work successfully, to make money and to reinvest

    Wake up to reality! there is a fine line on low yield and cow numbers.
    80 acres is not going to really do much for an all grazing 100 cow herd unless you can magic grass to grow very successfully

    fair enough if you have spare money or just doing it for fun.

    you would be better of with 10 cows doing 10,000lt and some how managing to sell the milk direct to customers with milk vending machines or something! and rent
    40 acres out to somebody else for good money.
    have a friend who has just started milking again on his fathers farm sub letting the land from his brother at the mo he has 80 cows on 30 hectares and young stock. he block calves and milks OAD through the winter whilst cash flow is an issue. He made 57k in year one including some infrastructure work. he will milk 120 next year with help 3 days week and so on he will grow the system is robust as long as the OP has a talent for the job it will work.would agree though the parlour is an issue

    lazy

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    Re: Small dairy farm

    Quote Originally Posted by lazy farmer View Post
    have a friend who has just started milking again on his fathers farm sub letting the land from his brother at the mo he has 80 cows on 30 hectares and young stock. he block calves and milks OAD through the winter whilst cash flow is an issue. He made 57k in year one including some infrastructure work. he will milk 120 next year with help 3 days week and so on he will grow the system is robust as long as the OP has a talent for the job it will work.would agree though the parlour is an issue

    lazy
    57k profit?? from 80 cows??.....not having a go ...just curious......couldn't the op carry more cows by just using the 80 ac for grazing and buying in winter feed??

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