Project Charlotte aims to cut dairy feed costs

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These are hoped to come as a result of being able to replace imported feed with Island-grown feedstuffs.

A number of dairy farmers have invested in processing equipment to set up a pilot scheme for this year, and other farmers are likely to join in, leading to ‘an eventual improvement of profitability for those taking part’, according to independent dairy consultant Bruce Woodacre.

t is a way of improving farm efficiency that has been highlighted by a project being undertaken at the Centre for Dairy Research, a commercial research organisation within the Department of Agriculture at Reading University.

he research has been funded by the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, the feed company BOCM Pauls, and by a group of Jersey breed dairy farmers in the UK.

n charge of the project is Professor David Beever, who was in the Island recently together with Mr Woodacre, who has written reports on the Island’s dairy industry profitability.

So far, the first year of a three-year project on nutritional principles has been concluded.

It has been called Project Charlotte, after the the name of the Island cow submitted for the project, Pixies Charlotte, belonging to St John dairy farmer Ricky Leith.

It is one of six Jersey cows that are being used for the project at Reading.

rofessor Beever and Mr Woodacre were in Jersey recently to conduct seminars for dairy farmers, to inform them of the results of the project so far.

sked to summarise the aim of the project, Professor Beever said that there had been very little research conducted into feeding Jerseys, and most of the research data into cattle feeding requirements had been based on Frisians and Holsteins.

Treating a Jersey cow as if it was ‘just three-quarters of a black-and-white cow’ was no longer acceptable, as Jersey milk was substantially different from ‘black-and-white milk’.

e continued: ‘You don’t run a Porsche in the same way that you run a Mini, so why should Jersey cows be fed on the same principles as other breeds? We thought that the needs of the Jersey dairy farmer were not being looked after sufficiently.

The animals in the project are being studied to see how much feed they consume, and how they digest this feed.

e said that dairy farmers in Jersey needed the latest technical information and advice, especially in view of decreased profitability.

Mr Woodacre said: ‘the project is about improving farm efficiency, and not just from a technical aspect, but to help overall dairy farm profitability.

The details of the project relate to improving the efficiency of forage utilisation, which is currently only at about 64%.

Top forage utilisation would be between 80% to 83%.

So there is obvious room for improvements in Jersey.

He added that there was now work being done on growing and utilising cereal and protein crops in the Island.

This was more possible because rentals for land were falling, enabling more low-value crops, such as cereals, to be grown by farmers.

If we can progress forwards from this,’ he said, ‘in areas of farm efficiency, over a period of five years the dairy industry can become far less dependent on States handouts.

But it will take quite a few years for this initiative to bear full fruit.

The chairman of the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, dairy farmer Andrew Le Gallais, said that the long-term goal was to create an industry with an ever- decreasing reliance on government support for milk production, while at the same time recognising that it was valid to expect support for activities that benefited the Island as a whole, such as ‘countryside management’.

There is no single solution to the problems that beset the industry,’ he said, ‘rather a number of parallel activities which, when taken together, will lead towards increased profitability.

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