Banding is now in effect and the organic nitrogen (N) excretion rates of a cow are now determined by the amount of milk they produce.
This means that farmers who had spent the last number of years trying to avoid entering derogation are now finding themselves over the 170kg of organic N/ha marker.
Herds that are producing over 6,500kg of milk/cow now have an organic N excretion rate of 106kg – putting many of these farms that were below the derogation limit into derogation.
Before the introduction of banding, all cows were given a organic N excretion rate of 89kg of N.
Now these farmers are wondering what to do; if they now have an organic N stocking rate of 180kg of organic N should they export slurry and get below the 170kg of organic N?
Or, should they push on cow numbers to 220kg of organic N, which might make more sense to some farmers?
A number of farmers have also considered increasing the amount of milk produced/cow, i.e. going from 6,500kg to 7,500kg or 8,000kg. However, there is a concern around the potential of a fourth band being introduced here.
Many farmers now find themselves in a position where they would find it difficult, due to cow type, to get below 170kg of organic N without reducing cow numbers or obtaining more land.
Instead of reducing cows numbers, they should ask themselves if there an opportunity to increase cow numbers.
If you have to be in derogation, why not maximise the amount of cows you can keep and milk you can produce from your farm?
Unfortunately, it is likely that the derogation stocking rate will come back to 220kg of N, so if you can get to between 200kg and 220kg – why wouldn’t you?
Obviously this decision will depend on a number of factors, including land type and facilities, but if is possible, why would you not do so?
Let’s take for example, a farm that is 60ha in size with 111 cows currently being milked on the farm.
In this example all the young stock are contract-reared off farm.
The 111 cows on this farm have an average production of 6,800kg of milk, which places them in band 3.
So each cow now has an organic N stocking rate of 106kg and 106 multiplied by 111 equals 11,766kg total organic N produced.
The 11,766kg is then divided by 60ha and it gives the farm an organic stocking rate of 196kg of N/ha.
Prior to the introduction of banding this farm had a stocking rate of 164kg of N/ha, below derogation limits.
Does it now make sense for this farm, that has been pushed into derogation, to increase cow numbers further?
This farm could push cow numbers to 124, or have 13 extra cows, and still be below 220kg of N/ha.
106kg multiplied by 124 cows equals 13,144kg, which divided by 60ha equals 219kg of N/ha.
A 6,800kg cow is producing 6,601L, working of a milk price of 54c/L, which equates to €3,564.54 in milk sales/cow or €46,339.02 for all 13 cows.
So could the introduction of banding actually lead to an increase in cow numbers on farms that have been placed in the higher band?
Or, will farmers instead look at increasing the amount of milk produced by a herd that has been placed in the top band without increasing cow numbers.