Articles & Presentations

What Farm System Maximises Profitability on Pasture-Based Dairy Farms?

Update to presentation after statistics completed on data – May 2019

By David Beca


This presentation was initially developed in 2008 for presentation in Australia and New Zealand. It was based on groupings of benchmark data and was subsequently further developed and presented in South Africa, Argentina and Uruguay. Then in 2018, all the individual sets of farm data were extracted from the Red Sky database and a statistical analysis completed with the assistance of Gonzalo Tuñon. This version includes all this latest data.


This presentation poses the question; which of the following 4 factors is the primary driver of profitability and what are the impacts of each factor:

  1. Higher milk production per cow
  2. More cows per hectare (higher stocking rate)
  3. More intensive farm systems (less pasture per cow)
  4. Higher pasture harvest


High pasture harvest is a critical aspect of profitability and is derived from high comparative stocking rates and management excellence.

Farm system design must be targeted at lowest cost of production for sustainable, internationally competitive dairy businesses.

Highest levels of profitability based on low cost of production will most probably come from:

  1. Friesian/crossbred cows of 470-570 kgs liveweight; and
  2. Total dry matter intakes of around 75%-90% of bodyweight; and
  3. Milk production of 375-550 kgMS per cow or approximately 4,700-7,500 litres per cow; and
  4. Cows consuming over 3 tDM per cow of pasture; and
  5. Cows consuming no more than 1.9-2.2 ton (wet) per cow or 6-7 kg (wet) per cow per day in Victoria (Australia) OR 1.1-1.4 ton (wet) per cow or 3.5-4.5 kg (wet) per cow per day in Tasmania (Australia).

To read the full paper please click here.

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