The varying profiles from block calving herds

Published 20 September 17

As part of our new approach on optimal dairy systemswe have looked at the differing milk production profiles of spring and autumn block herds to help farmers understand one impact of operating a block calving system.

Spring block herds generally calve February to March and aim to maximise milk from grazed grass. As a result, milk production peaks in the spring, remains relatively high throughout the spring and summer, before tailing off in the winter months. The graph below shows typical milk production profiles from five spring block farms. Despite them all following the general principles, there is still a wide variation in milk output from these farms, particularly around the autumn and early winter period.

Spring block milk profile 

For autumn calvers the general aim is to push for higher yields during the winter as well as benefiting from fresh spring grass. The chart below shows milk production profiles from five autumn block herds. The first thing to note is the variation in timing of the block. Two of the herds are dry throughout July and would be calving in early August. Others are choosing August as the dry month, with calving taking place from September. This timing will be chosen by the farmers based on a number of factors including geography and climate, as well as their milk buyer requirements.

Autumn block milk profile 

In general, autumn block herds tend to show less seasonality in their milk profile than those operating spring blocks. However, the timing of the block can still make a significant difference to the overall milk production profile.

It is the variation in timing of the block, as well as the combination of spring and autumn block herds, that can provide a relatively flat profile overall from a milk pool. This allows farmers to deliver what their milk buyer desires, while still having the flexibility to run the system that is optimal to them.