Viability of Dairy Ranching compared to beef and milk production systems for small-scale farmers in South Africa

Author: S.M. Grobler & M.M. Scholtz
Year: 2019
Issue: 1
Volume: 12
Page: 11 - 16

Dairy ranching can be defined as the practice of keeping cows of relatively low milk yield, being parted from their calves in the evening, milked out in the morning, and spend the day with their calves at foot. These cows are usually not milked in the evening. Dairy ranching ensures low production costs with lesser liabilities than intensive milk production systems, which include relative resilience to rising feed prices. The aim of the study was to generate results from a project that imitate dairy ranching that can be used by existing and new emerging cattle farmers and to benchmark the system of dairy ranching in comparison with small-scale dairy production and an ordinary beef cattle suckler (weaner calf) system. The project commenced with an experimental herd comprising of five purebred 24-month-old heifers of the Bonsmara, Brahman, Jersey, Nguni and Red Poll breeds. The animals were compared in the following three systems: Small-scale dairy farming of Jersey cows; dairy ranching of Bonsmara, Brahman, Nguni and Red Poll cows and a weaner production system of Bonsmara, Brahman, Nguni and Red Poll cows. Data from the project was used to simulate results from a small-scale farm with a carrying capacity to sustain 25 Large Stock Units. When comparing different breeds in different production systems, the Nguni cows followed by the Brahman cows showed the highest potential income from a weaner production system. In the dairy ranching system, the dual-purpose Red Poll cows showed the highest potential income. In Jersey cows milked in a conventional dairy system, potential income reduced by 32% when cows were milked once per day instead of twice daily. The conventional dairy produced a higher potential income than a weaner production system but less than the dairy ranching system. Grobler_Vol 12_Article 1

Keywords: Dairy ranching, small-scale dairy, weaner production
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