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Milk production: fresh grass with low concentrates pays off

Many Swiss dairy farmers use variable proportions of fresh grass (forage or grazing) and supplementary feed in their production. Which characteristics are economically successful in these fresh grass systems? This question was addressed in the project «Optimisation of grassland- based milk production systems based on forage (Hohenrain II)» conducted on 36 pilot farms over three years (2014–2016). The farms were divided into three groups according to the system used: two mixed systems feeding on average 430 kg or 1160 kg of concentrates per cow per year, and a full-grazing system (90 kg of concentrates/ cow/year). Using methodological data analysis, the three farm groups were typified as three individual farms and compared with a structurally similar and more representative reference group. The results show that very good economic efficiency can be achieved with extensive use of fresh grass. The greatest savings are in concentrates, with other savings being made in buildings and labour. With a consistently implemented full-grazing system, farmers can achieve higher productivity and produce at lower milk prices than with mixed systems. Higher milk yields and higher production volumes do not lead to better results. However, all farm types studied produce milk 24 % to 32 % more cheaply than the reference group and show higher productivity per hour worked, with the difference ranging from CHF 8 to CHF 13. The improvement is largely due to better management and strong cost awareness.

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Milk production: fresh grass with low concentrates pays off

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