Unique dairy farm comparison data from 9 countries

Dairy herd management software contains a lot of detailed and structured data from dairy farms. Comparing this data is difficult when the data comes from many different sources. You can easily end up comparing apples with bananas. But if the source of data is unique with similar data validation rules, then the data becomes comparable and meaningful. In this paper we have this ideal situation. All the farmers in the comparison use the UNIFORM-Agri herd management software.

Farmers can voluntarily join this monthly farm comparison project and automatically each month submit about 35 Key Performance Indicators per herd to a central database. They can then compare their own results against a group (all, or just in their own country, or with other filters). This paper shows the averages per country, with a minimum of 100 farms joining the farm comparison in that country.

Next year we expect to have some more countries being able to participate too. The data sources for this benchmarking is rich and contains general herd data, annual production data, fertility data, health data and some sustainability data. Not all are shown in the table, but interesting conclusions can be made.

Tabel 1. Average results from dec. 2021 coming from a minimum of 100 farms per country, all farmers using UNIFORM (or a branded version).

Herd composition and Sustainability
It is clear that on every dairy farm animal’s that do not produce milk, are not efficient, and they have a negative impact on sustainability but also on the financial results. So too many youngstock, heifers calving too late and cows leaving the farm too soon all have a negative effect. Below we see how the farms in the different countries are doing.

The herd size varies from 146 in France to nearly 500 in Denmark. But what is more interesting to see is that the number of youngstock per 10 cows varies a lot.

The Netherlands is the lowest and Brazil is the highest. The regulations in the Netherlands are very much focusing on sustainability and that forces farmers to minimize the number of youngstock.

The result of that is:

  • Low number of youngstock per 10 cows (6.3)
  • Heifers are calving at a young age of 24.8 months average.

Countries with opposite figures do still have the room to improve when it comes to sustainability.

Milk production, yearly and in December 2021
The 305-day milk production per cow in the 9 countries is on average 9535 Kg. The Spanish farmer’s joining this farm comparison are doing 11034 Kg and score the highest in this group. And Brazil is the lowest with 8404 Kg, this is partly due to 100% grazing on some farms and more variation in breeds.

The actual production in kg milk per day per cow is on average 28,5 kg and again Spain is the highest with 35,0 kg and France is the lowest here with 26,2 kg. In this comparison we do not look at the fat and protein levels, this might be interesting to look at too.

The SPP is a milk production corrected for all animal related factors (like age, Days since calving etc) and it shows the same results, so there is no influence from a high number of young animals or special calving seasons.

Fertility, as a rolling average by December 2021
Fertility results on dairy farms vary a lot at farm level but also between countries. Good fertility management of youngstock can be simply measured with the average age at 1st calving. In the overview we see that this is on average 26 months. The Netherlands scores very highly with 24,8 months and Brazil scores the lowest with 31,3 months. The well-accepted figure of 2 dollar per day of cost when heifer’s calve too late shows the big win that Brazilian farmers can get.

Out of the 9 countries Denmark has the lowest age at first calving with 24,6 months, and we also see that Denmark also scores the highest with the pregnancy rate (19,7) with cows and the UK is a good second best with 16,6.

These are averages for all the farms in the different countries. However, the target for each individual farmer should be over 20% and many farms are not there yet. In all countries we also see high performing farms who reach that 25% pregnancy with very good management and strict protocols. So, it is possible, but not easy.

Udder health based on somatic cells
For somatic cells (SCC) we only have one KPI and that is the average SCC. This varies a lot between 172 in the UK to 368 in Brazil. Below the 200 barrier it is only the Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Canada, and the others are all above the 200 barrier. This can be influenced by the milk price policies from the milk factories. When penalties for high SCC are higher, farmers are forced to manage it better.

National regulations have influence in the technical results on dairy farms. The regulations for sustainability in the Netherlands have a clear and positive effect on the related results (KPI’s) at the farm level. That is what we see.

Production levels, fertility management and udder health also differ between countries. The level of individual farm management is probably one issue, climate (temperature and humidity) can have an effect on a whole country. But in general in all countries there is still room for improvement.

Harm-Jan van der Beek

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