Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART, CH-8356 Ettenhausen

Pasture feeding or cowshed feeding – which is more economical?

In a «System comparison of milk production in Hohenrain » two dairy cattle herds on an identical land area were compared over three years in different production systems. Higher individual livestock yield and intensive cowshed feeding characterised the «cowshed herd» system, while the «pasture herd» was managed with permanent access to pasture and seasonal calving under largely homogenous conditions. An economic assessment of the two systems based on the trial data yielded the following results: the pasture herd incurred considerably lower external costs and consequently, despite lower milk revenue, returned a significantly higher income (+ CHF 12 000.-). Due to the lower labour input, work utilisation («hourly rate») was around twice as high as for the cowshed herd, depending on the variant. The consistent reduction of important external cost items (e.g. fodder concentrate, silage maize) affected income more favourably than the focus on higher milk revenue using increased livestock yields and intensive cowshed feeding. This is particularly true if lower milk prices cannot be offset by lower purchase prices for fodder concentrate or services (contractors). The latter variable cost items have a considerable impact on the costs of the cowshed herd and can only be compensated for by a reduction in fixed structural costs (machinery, buildings, labour), aided by a considerable expansion in production. As a rule, however, such an expansion in production incurs follow-up costs.

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