Houghton Lodge Farm: keeping tight control of costs is crucial
Eurodairy pilot farm, Houghton Lodge in Leicestershire, was a redundant dairy unit until Evolution Farming and Farmcare Limited invested £1 million of seed capital in 2016. The money has been spent on farm infrastructure including two 24:48 swing over parlours, reseeding of ground previously laid to arable and laying 20,000 sleepers for cow tracks.
Run by Evolution Farming, keeping tight control of costs is crucial. This has allowed the farm to maintain a profit even though cow numbers and milk yield are lower than originally planned.
Tom Rawson from Evolution Farming explains: “We’re 50 to 100 cows short at the moment, so we’ll do 2.1m litres this year, which is around 500,000 short of plan, but will rise to 3.5m litres next year.
“We can’t afford another year of being understocked. Every month since we started milking, the milk price has gone up, which was a lucky break and compensated for the lack of litres.”
The 428ha farm, with 273ha grazing platform, has 800 cows, the majority of which calve in spring, with one herd calving in autumn. Grass is key to keeping costs low, and they work on a rotational grazing system from February to November.
Tom continues: “Our aim is to have the whole herd spring calving, as this keeps things simple. The compromise for now is having a split block.
“We’ve saved £44,522 on overheads and we’re £12,763 ahead of our planned profit and loss. Our aim is a total economic cost of production of 22ppl.”
Achieving that cost of production puts the farm in line with other good performers, according to the recently released key performance indicators from AHDB, as part of the Optimal Dairy Systems work to help improve farmers' competitiveness.
“Houghton Lodge is not a finished farm but does show you can rent a farm, persuade people to invest in the project and hopefully make a success of it,” concluded Tom.