Discipline: management; Keywords: KPI’s, TMR, breakeven milk yield, reproduction parameters, margin above feed costs.  

For dairy farms to be economically sustainable, herd managers should continuously monitor specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Indicators must be based on quantitative or performance goals which are specific, measurable, attainable and relevant. These may include the average daily milk yield of the cows, their daily feed costs and specific reproduction parameters. These to a large extent are farm specific as each farm is unique in terms of natural resources, infrastructure and management style which will affect milk yield, production costs and breakeven milk yield. The aim of the study by the author referenced below was to develop KPIs for production performance and trends over time for a Jersey herd on a total mixed ration (TMR) feeding system.  

Milk production records were collected once a week from a herd comprising of about 710 cows in milk. Cows are fed TMRs in seven feed groups twice a day in fence-line feeding troughs. Data consisted of individual daily milk yield records, number of days in milk (DIM), and daily feed cost per feed group. Feed groups were grouped according to milk yield and stage of lactation. First lactation cows were grouped separately. Based on the herd milk price and daily feed cost, the breakeven milk yield levels were estimated for all cows within each group. Gross margin per cow, margin over feed cost within feed group and margin above breakeven milk yield were also estimated. Furthermore, following monthly cow pregnancy testing by rectal palpation, reproduction parameters were calculated and monitored. Trend lines for specific parameters were fitted using simple linear or polynomial regression equations.

The mean ± standard deviation daily milk yield of the cows was 20.0 ± 0.8 kg per day and ranging weekly between 18.4 and 20.9 kg per day. The feed cost per group varied between R41 to R81 per cow per day. With an increase in the average daily milk yield the profit margin per cow increased linearly (P<0.01; R2 =0.86). An 11% decline in herd milk yield resulted in a 30% decline in margin above feed cost. Reproduction parameters indicated that 87% of all cows were in milk. The interval from calving to first service was 63 days with 72% of cows serviced before 80 days in milk. The days open for all cows were 95, with 70% of cows conceiving within 100 days after calving. The number of services per conception ranged from 1.9 to 2.3 for a conception rate of 0.43 to 0.52. Overall, 72% and 85% of cows more than 100 and 200 days in milk, respectively, were confirmed pregnant. The mean DIM was maintained at 160 ± 5 days, ranging between 151 and 168 days.

A number of KPIs was developed and trend lines fitted. The difference between milk income and variable feed cost is a simple, easy to estimate KPI. It was recommended that Jersey farmers (principle applies to other breeds as well) should develop their own indicators which may include daily milk output, gross profit margins and specific reproduction management indicators. Other factors that require regular monitoring may include the cost of heifer rearing, heifer survival from birth to first calving, age at first calving, animal health and diseases, genetic associated sales and marketing.


C.J.C. Muller, 2019. Key performance indicators for a dairy herd towards economic sustainability, In: Proc. of the 51st Annual Congr. Of the SASAS, Bloemfontein, 10-12 June 2019, Abstract 127.