Dairy farmers will see a new approach from AHDB Dairy as it focuses future work on two production systems.

The new direction builds upon the likely impact of Brexit which could bring opportunities to displace dairy imports or access new export markets. The organisation considers Brexit likely to expose the British dairy sector to more competition, less support and increased volatility.

The two systems are:

• Block calving system in which all cows calve within a 12 week window (spring or autumn), get back in calf, peak in milk production and are dried off together

• All year round calving system in which cows calve all year round with no seasonal emphasis, and no period where the entire herd is dry. Inputs may vary from extensive herds mainly grazing to fully housed herds with very high yields.

Evidence shows that block calving herds typically have lower overall costs of production. These systems are often simpler to operate and bring lifestyle benefits but can be limited by farm buildings, location and contract.

Data also shows the best all year round producers can achieve competitive production costs and managed well can be as profitable as the best block calvers. This system usually delivers a higher output with a greater income but it can be complex to manage, making it harder to spot weaknesses in performance.

Tom Hind, AHDB chief strategy officer said: “We are asking farmers to understand their current system, judge their performance by holding a mirror up to their business and make a conscious, strategic choice about the system that is optimum for them.”

AHDB will showcase and highlight what the best performers are doing under either system and identify the factors critical to performance.

Additional strategic dairy farms will be recruited to demonstrate best practice and encourage farmer to farmer learning. FarmBench will be rolled out to the dairy sector in the New Year and the field based team will offer specialist support for each system.