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DE C E M B E R 2019

Cow health:

revamped lameness scheme set for 2020 relaunch

Manure management

to reduce emissions will also prevent nitrogen losses

Next generation:

dairying opportunities for new entrants

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CONTENT FEATURE S

5 7 11 14 19 23 33 39 49 54

From the editor Cow talk Value added: Christmas trees Roger Evans ForFarmers Nutritional News/ Thompsons Nutritional News Boehringer Ingelheim Health News NMR Dairy Management News CRV Avoncroft Breeding Information Veterinary practice: copper toxicity Events and contacts

main article new entrants

MAIN A RT IC L E

8 New entrants – what’s the attraction? REPORTS

12 System switch improves efficiency for one Gloucestershire-based unit 16 Two more top herds vie for gold MANAGE M E N T

20 Dairy links create well-oiled hub COW HEA LT H SPE C IA L

25 Anthelmintic use and hoof health SERIES CA RB ON FOOT PRIN T

8 special cow health

series carbon footprint

36 Manure management to reduce nitrogen losses FEEDIN G

42 Review winter rations/Successful start for ambitious new entrants HEA LTH

46 Mastitis – thinking beyond the tube BREEDI N G

50 On watch around the clock

DECE MBER

2019

Cow health:

ness scheme revamped lame nch set for 2020 relau

ement Manure manags will also sion to reduce emis losses prevent nitrogen

: Next generations for nitie dairying opportu new entrants

.COW MAN T NEWS AT WWW GET THE LATES

AGEM ENT. CO.U

25

36

Andrew Eastabrook:

Becci Berry:

“Switching to block calving has improved profitability”

“Cross breeding means that we are milking more resilient cows”

K

ON TH E C OV E R

Dairy relations: a cow and her calf get better acquainted Picture: Martina Mamulová

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FROM THE EDITOR

Festive reading –

a look ahead to 2020 Another year has flown by and, already, we’re looking to 2020 – and a new decade – to see what’s on the horizon. AHDB will be launching it’s revised and revamped Healthy Feet Programme in the spring. And promises that it will be more producer led and, therefore, user friendly in it’s approach to tackle a production disease that’s still too prevalent on many UK units. We have the latest information about the scheme on page 28. Next year may also be the year to take stock of manure management, with a close eye on reducing emissions to ensure that dairy units are ready to comply with future ‘clean air’ legislation. And the good news here is that, although significant investment may be needed on some units, there are also cost savings to be made. Find out more in the fourth article in our series on reducing dairying’s carbon footprint, on page 36. The next generation of dairy producers is the focus of our article on page eight. We spoke to an adviser, based in North Wales, to find out more about the

opportunities that are helping to attract more young people into the industry. Something else to look forward to in 2020 is Dairy-Tech and this year’s NMR/RABDF Gold Cup finalists will be particularly excited to find out who will lift this coveted prize during the event. We feature two more of the six herds, who are through to the final round, on page 16. The final pair will be profiled in our January/February issue. Cow health features strongly in this issue, with an article on reviewing mastitis treatment strategies on page 46. And another on parasite control on page 26. Roger Evans dislikes Christmas, so don’t expect any festive cheer from him. But he is in a positive mood as he ponders progress in cow temperament and how, in his view, Holsteins blazed a trail in terms of reducing the risk of being kicked in the milking parlour. The CowManagement team is, however, in good festive spirits and wishes you all a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2020.

RACHAEL PORTER

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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During the dry period udders are at considerable risk – new infections occur at up to 10 times the rate during lactation1, increasing the risk of mastitis in early lactation. Such mastitis cases were recently estimated to cost your farm an average of £322.2 It’s not surprising that a panel of bovine mastitis experts recently released a consensus statement recommending an internal teat sealant (ITS) for ALL dry cows, on ALL farms.3 Boehringer Ingelheim – a global leader in udder health - now introduces Ubroseal®. The sealant has a flexible tip length to reduce the risk of teat damage. This prevents full insertion which may increase the risk of infection with major pathogens.4 There is also an ergonomic plunger for ease of application and it comes with the exceptional technical support you would expect. So you can feel confident using Ubroseal® ITS protection for your whole herd. Speak to your vet about the right drying off plan for your farm.

Every dry cow. Every dry period.

References: 1. Crispie et al., 2004. Ir. Vet. J. 57, 412-418. 2. Rollins et al ., 2015. Prev.Vet. Med.122, 257-264. 3. Andrew Bradley, QMM Sand University of Nottingham, UK; Sarne De Vliegher Ghent University, Belgium; Michael Farre SEGES, Denmark; Luis Miguel Jimenez Servet, Spain; Thomas Peters, MBFG Wunstorf, Germany; Ellen Schmitt-van de Leemput, Vetformance, Villaines la Juhel, France; Tine van Werven, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. 4. Bradley et al ., (218) Proc.NMC.

Ubroseal® Dry Cow 2.6 g Intramammary Suspension for Cattle contains Bismuth Subnitrate. UK: POM-V IE: POM. Further information available in the SPC or from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Limited, RG12 8YS, UK. UK Tel: 01344 746960 (sales) or 01344 746957 (technical), IE Tel:01 291 3985 (all queries). Ubroseal is a registered trademark of the Boehringer Ingelheim Group. ©2019 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Ltd. All rights reserved. Date of preparation: Jul 2019. AHD 12600. Use Medicines Responsibly.

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19/11/2019 11:49 26-11-19 10:17


COWTALK

Review hoof-care protocols at housing Recent wet weather means cows’ feet may be softer at housing, which can lead to an increased risk of bruising from standing on concrete surfaces. So says vet Sara Pedersen, who explains that the transition into housing puts pressure on maintaining foot health, due to cows spending more time standing on concrete and increased contact with slurry. “Although the lameness risk is heightened, housing also presents the perfect opportunity to review management protocols, including optimising detection and treatment of lameness while cows are indoors,” she says. The comfort of the lying surface is a crucial factor that influences how much time cows spend lying down. “It’s important to check all cubicles are accessible, any damage is fixed, and worn mattresses are repaired,” she stresses. “Management at milking can also be

bovens bovens regel o

reviewed. If cows are being milked twice daily and spending more than an hour standing for each milking, this can mean too much time spent away from cubicles. “And this has a knock-on effect on lying times,” she says. “In this situation I’d recommend splitting the group to reduce milking and standing times.” Housing is also the ideal time to review protocols for detecting and treating lameness, and to make sure these work with wider herd management plans practically day-to-day. “Mobility scoring is important year-round, but it’s worth considering how often your herd is being scored and working it into the team’s timetable, so it remains an integral part of the routine. “Weekly or fortnightly is ideal, as detecting and responding to lameness early gives the best chance for successful treatment.”

Ryegrass genetics unlock forage potential Opportunities for producers to improve performance from forage are at an unprecedented high, thanks to significant advancements in perennial ryegrass genetics during the past decade. That was the key message from Germinal GB’s Ben Wixey, speaking at an event at IBERS Aberystwyth University. He pointed to improvements in perennial ryegrass digestibility, which have been achieved alongside continued increases in dry matter yield, and improved disease

resistance and persistency. “The simplest way to measure the improvement in grassland potential is to look at the ME yield per hectare that’s now possible from the best performing varieties on the Recommended Grass and Clover List.” One of newest varieties on the list, the late diploid perennial ryegrass AberBann, has an advantage of more than 11,000—MJ/ha. With 5.4—MJ required to produce one litre of milk, that equates to about 2,000 litres/ha, or £500/ha at a milk price of 25ppl.

“To tap into this potential, producers should reseed their grassland routinely, in order to maintain sward quality. “And to be sure that they’re accessing the best available genetics, they should always consult the Recommended Grass and Clover List when buying seeds mixture. “By implementing a reseeding programme, managing sward quality, and aiming for optimum utilisation, the potential to produce more from home-grown forage is there for most producers,” he added.

Silage mycotoxin levels pose a risk to UK herds A high risk of mycotoxin contamination in this year’s forage is posing a challenge for many UK herds and could be responsible for struggling milk yields and excessive feed waste and underutilisation. So says Alltech’s Bob Kendal who adds that

while many producers have lots of forage available this year due to a bumper harvest, he is seeing a record number of mycotoxin related enquiries: “And many silage test results have shown high levels of penicillium. “This is thought to be linked to poor clamp consolidation at harvest, due to overflowing clamps, which has created aerobic conditions that are the perfect environment for penicillium mycotoxins to spread.” “The problem has been further compounded during feed-out, with poorly managed clamp faces allowing further air penetration, which results in the growth of surface mould.” Mr Kendal warns that once mould is visible, the damage may have already been done. “Even a low level of mycotoxin contamination

in silage has the potential to have a detrimental impact on rumen function,” he says. “So producers need to test forage for contamination, regardless of whether they think they have a problem or not, as mycotoxins can easily go unidentified.” The Alltech 37+ service tests forage for more than 50 different strains of mycotoxins, which helps producers and nutritionists to quickly identify the presence of mycotoxins. “If there is a problem, it then allows a nutritional solution to be developed and implemented to tackle the identified issue. “Adding a mycotoxin binder to the TMR can help to reduce the long-term risk of health and performance issues. This will also help to reduce feed waste and underutilisation.”

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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MAIN ARTICLE NEW ENTRANTS

Dairying opportunities: new entrants are finding a foothold on the career ladder in North Wales

An industry with app Is there a lack of interest in the dairy sector, or is it just not appealing enough? The uptake of dairy opportunities in North Wales would suggest not. We look at the career paths available to keen new entrants in the area. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT

F

eedback from discussion group and meetings in North Wales suggests that there’s no shortage of keen youngsters when it comes to a career in dairying – and that there are opportunities out there. AHDB’s senior knowledge exchange manager Richard Davies has seen a huge interest among mainly young people keen to enter the dairy sector in his area during the past five years. “Many have been successful, and the trend looks set to continue as more opportunities arise,” he says. Opportunities for new entrants are arising from family farms and large landowners, who are introducing dairy into their

Richard Davies: “Those keen to climb the dairying ladder will need to gain experience” 8

businesses and are prepared to enter into arrangements such as Farm Business Tenancies and share farming. Many are on good grassland sites, previously used for beef and sheep, that have the potential to convert to dairy and increase profitability.

Dairy expertise “These owners want to bring in dairy expertise. They are looking for keen and ambitious new dairy entrants who are prepared to take on responsibility,” says Mr Davies. He’s seen a lot of new units going up across North Wales and some major investments are being made. Nearly all of these new dairy systems are grass based and either spring- or autumn-block calving; the low-cost nature of these systems is attractive to new entrants compared with high-input and more capital-hungry units. Monthly AHDB discussion groups run by Mr Davies attract around 30 people from across North Wales. “And most are between 20 and 35 years old and at all stages of their dairy careers. But they’re keen, and there’s a real buzz about the meetings. “And when land owners see this commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to work hard in young people they are often

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Matthew Jackson: “There are plenty of opportunities and the dairy industry offers a great career path”

ppeal prepared to look at opportunities that will encourage a career in dairying.” He sees a range of goals and not all of them want to shoulder a lot of financial responsibility, but they might have positions on units where they can take on a percentage of herd ownership, maybe between 10% to 50% of the herd. “There are many options that can work; maybe share milking 10% of the herd, or leasing some cows – it all depends on goals, attitudes to risk and responsibility of all those involved. However, many offer a good career with incentives.

Career path “Those keen to climb the dairying ladder will need to gain experience,” says Mr Davies. “A typical route might be working as one of the farm staff and progressing to second in command to the manager before perhaps becoming a share milker or entering a joint venture. Further down the line the opportunity to take on a tenancy or buy into a farm may be possible.” This could mean moving units and even gaining some experience overseas. New Zealand has provided a good training ground for many new entrants into these grass-based dairy systems. Taking a stake in a dairy business will require equity but examples have shown that this does not need to discourage new entrants. “Salaries in the dairy sector can be very good, particularly for a young person. And often there’s free accommodation. “So there’s a chance to build up some capital and invest it. We often see these young people buying heifer calves to rear then sell or buying property to rent. This adds to the pot and it also shows the bank that you’re serious about equity growth.”

While the big issue on the horizon is the ability to secure a milk supply contract, there are still processors that will take the milk. “A lack of processing capacity may stifle expansion eventually, but for now there are opportunities, certainly in North Wales. These grass-based systems are profitable and robust at times of low milk prices.” One dairy producer who was a new entrant 15 years ago, in 2004, says there are plenty of opportunities for those keen to get into farming and, particularly, dairying. Matthew Jackson, originally from Didsbury in Manchester, is now in a 50:50 share farming agreement with David Wynne Finch on the Llyn peninsular. Matthew owns the 400 crossbred cows and runs a simple grass-based, spring-calving system. He left school at 15 and headed to North Wales, where he milked 30 cows. Keen to get more experience, his journey has included stints working in New Zealand, where he learned the ropes in low-cost grass-based dairying, and, more latterly, share farming and managing people as part of a team. In 2007 he got the opportunity to work on a 1,200-cow unit as the junior herdsperson. “I was offered a salary of £18,000 and a house. My mum told me to ‘bite their hand off’ and she was right. It gave me the opportunity to save and meant I could invest in some heifers to rear on some rented land.”

Share-farming agreement Increasing heifer numbers year on year not only built up some equity but it also got Matthew noticed as an ambitious young dairy producer. This led to him being offered, and being able to accept, a position in a share-farming agreement. It’s taken Matthew a little more than a decade to achieve his ambition of owning and managing his own cows and, more recently, of buying land. With a business partner he has recently invested in two 300cow units in mid-south Wales. Both are modelled on the lowcost, grass-based system where he has built his knowledge and expertise. “There are plenty of opportunities and the dairy industry offers a great career path,” he says. “There are heaps of jobs advertised online, many offering good incentives for those who turn up, show ambition and are prepared to work.” “I would recommend setting goals, taking advantage of discussion groups, building a network, socialising with likeminded people, and gaining experience through travelling.” Valuing the opportunities that he’s had, both in the UK and New Zealand, Matthew is keen to put something back and help more new entrants get a foot on the ladder. “We have managers on each of our units and we’ve been keen to incentivise their roles,” adds Matthew. “One has a 10% share in the cows and the other has a profit share. Both are committed to dairying and prepared to learn – the opportunities are there for anyone.” l

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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VALUE ADDED CHRISTMAS TREES

Name Helen Bowker Herd size 180 cows Adding value Christmas trees

Exeter

Oh, Christmas tree ... It may be a seasonal product, but growing Christmas trees is a year-round and time consuming enterprise on one Devon-based dairy unit. “There’s weeding and pruning to be done all year round,” explains Helen Bowker, who runs the ‘Cotley Christmas’ business, in partnership with her husband Lester and mother Margaret Burrough, which sits alongside their 180-cow herd. The family began growing trees back in 2003 on a former outdoor pig unit, which was hit hard by FMD in 2001. “We decided that we were never going to be 100% reliant on livestock production again. The trees came first, and then the dairy herd,” Helen explains. The Bowkers began by selling between 200 and 300 trees direct to customers. Now sales are more than 2,000, with a further 2,500 trees sold via wholesale each year. Today there are 40,000 trees growing on 10 hectares. The trees take a long time to grow – up to 10 years for a seven-foot nordmann fir. “We grow these and Norway spruce. The latter grow quicker and are the more traditional tree that people love because it smells nice,” says Helen. “But more people are now buying the nordmann fir because there’s less needle drop, but you don’t get that pine, ‘Christmas’ smell.” The main challenge when growing trees are weeds. “If they compete too much, the trees don’t grow to the desired conical

shape. Pruning is also vital. When trees are around three years old we remove the lower branches, again to create a good shape.” For Helen, the enterprise is also about injecting some of that tradition back into Christmas and, to this end, the family sets up a Christmas experience, including a small shop, at the farm, based near Exeter, each year. “‘Cotley Farm Christmas’, which opens during the last week of November, is all about reviving what Christmas is about,” says Helen. “Visitors can buy a tree – that’s at the heart of it. But we also have reindeer. We bought our first two in 2008 and we have nine now. They’re quite an attraction and they’re relatively easy to look after alongside the cows,” she says, adding that visitors are asked for a donation to the exhibit, rather than paying an entry fee. “And it all goes to charity. We support the Send a Cow foundation.” “The attraction brings the community together – around 25 people from the village help to run it each year. And it also reconnects consumers with farming. We get lots of questions from visitors.” There’s no plan to expand the business further but changes are afoot. “We’d like to sell around 3,000 trees direct and fewer via wholesale, which is a lot of work for low margins. And when Christmas is over, we plant between 3,000 and 4,000 trees each spring to maintain stocks.”

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HERD REPORT HARTPURY HERD

System switch improves efficiency

During the past three years the management system at one Gloucestershire-based unit has been totally re-engineered, moving from all-year-round to block calving. We spoke to the farm manager to find out more about the reasons behind the change. TEXT PHIL EADES

W

hen Andrew Eastabrook took over as farm manager at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, in January 2017, the herd was averaging around 10,000 litres on an all year-round calving and housed system. And, on paper, this appeared to be a successful herd. But, looking beyond the headlines, Andrew could see that yield was dependent on a high-input/high-cost system with a feed rate of

Caroline Groves: “A clear plan and attention to detail have contributed to the herd’s success” 12

around 0.4kg per litre. “We were feeding large amounts of concentrates at the expense of forage,” he explains. “While we were producing plenty of forage, it wasn’t being fully utilised. The system was also impacting on herd health with lameness and mastitis issues, as well as a higher than desirable incidence of displaced abomasum.” He adds that there were also calf disease problems, predominantly due to the buildings being occupied all year round, with no chance for a break. “I was also concerned that an all-year-round calving herd didn’t dovetail effectively with the other enterprises on our mixed farm”, says Andrew. He had worked on block calving units before and he likes the focus it allows. “With a tight block, everyone can concentrate on calving, then on breeding cows or other tasks, while releasing staff as required for forage making, lambing, or harvest as required. “Grass growth also tends to tail off here in the summer and early autumn, and an all-year-round calving system was making it difficult to graze cows. So, we made the decision to move to tight autumn-block calving set up.”

Forage intakes Now, two years later, the cows are calving in a 12-week block between August and October, feed rate has reduced to 0.3kg per litre, forage intakes have increased from 8kg DM/cow/day to more than 14kg DM/day, and milk from forage is 4,000 litres per cow. That’s a fivefold increase, up from 800 litres. Andrew says that three major elements were essential for the effective change of system. The first was to tighten calvings into the block. The initial stage was to consider the herd on a cow-by-cow basis. “Around 15%

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COMPANY PROFILE Name Location Herd size Average yield

Andrew Eastabrook Hartpury University and Hartpury College, Gloucestershire 260 cows, plus 150 followers 9,127 litres of milk, at 3.98% fat and 3.37% protein

of the herd tested as ‘red’ for Johne’s disease, so these cows left the herd. Cows that already calved in the block timeframe were put back in calf, while cows that calved in the three months prior to the target block were allowed to milk on so they calved in the block.” Cows with no chance of ‘going around’ but were good quality cows were put in calf for spring and sold as fresh calvers to generate a cash flow. Heifers were all served to calve in the block, which meant that some were calving for the first time at just 21 months old. The oldest calved at 26 months old. This strict approach was followed for two years and, in 2018, 170 cows calved in the block. This year the entire herd calved during the 12-week period. The target is a block of 280 calvings in 12 weeks in 2020.

Tipping point Andrew explains that the second element was to progressively drive down concentrate use and increase forage intakes. “We started by reducing concentrate intakes by between 0.5kg/day and 1kg/day and boosting forage dry matter to compensate while watching milk yields closely. We saw no change in yields, despite the concentrate reduction, so the exercise was repeated until we got to the tipping point when milk yields started to be adversely affected. “Today we’re feeding 6.25kg of blend per cow – down from more than 12kg. We’re happy at this level, but we will monitor milk price and reduce it further if producing marginal litres is uneconomic.” For practical reasons, all housed cows are fed the same ration. Late-lactation cows can be grazed without supplementation and Andrew simply lets them go dry with a reduced risk of being over-conditioned. The third element behind the switch to block calving has been to improve forage quality and consistency. This meant changing to an opticut system and increasing the Next generation: young stock at Hartpury College’s unit

Gloucestershire

hectares of maize grown. Andrew has worked closely with Promar’s Caroline Groves and she says that a clear plan and attention to detail have contributed to the herd’s success. “The move to block calving has improved efficiency. Andrew has set metrics to allow him to monitor progress and keep the plan on track. From a high-cost system, he is now producing more than 9,000 litres and feed costs per litre are 11% below the average.” Milk from forage is 50% higher than the average. “And in 2018, despite the dry summer, the herd increased yield by 2% while cutting purchased feeds by 23%. With these figures it’s no surprise that they were awarded the southern-area region title, and were national runners up, in this year’s Milkminder Manager competition.” Looking forward, Andrew says the focus is to maintain the tight calving pattern. All cows and heifers are now fitted with heat detection eartags and the target is to serve all cows within 80 days of calving. He wants to improve herd health and has made a good start, with Johne’s levels now down to below 1%. Block calving has improved calf health because calf housing can be cleaned, disinfected and rested for several months. Andrew also wants to improve breeding and push the herd into the top 10% for genetic merit. He also wants to breed robust cows and is focussing on milk constituents, ease and speed of milking, calving ease, and fertility. “An efficient herd is a key part of our role as an education centre and block calving has helped improve the practical experience for our students,” he says. “We need to demonstrate high quality management and the herd is a key part of the farm at Hartpury, which will soon be opening an Agri-Tech Centre,” he adds. “This centre will demonstrate new technology and monitor its impact on productivity and profitability, giving industry a chance to see technology in action on a commercial farm before making investment decisions.” l Student experience: the herd plays a key educational role

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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A FEW WORDS FROM ROGER EVANS

Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans is grateful for Holstein bloodlines and particularly their temperament

Perfect timing I was thinking back to what I had written in my previous column, about calf rearing and how heifers often had a hard time on a winter diet of poor hay. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind (of which there are many), I seem to remember some stuff we learnt at college. There was some research on heifer rearing that had shown that they performed better as cows if they had varying diets when they were reared. I can’t remember the detail now, but I do recall that it was all described as high or low diets’ and it should alternate to give the best results. These days it is not possible to rear your heifers to calve at two years old if you want to include a period within that two years where the heifer is fed a poor diet. With hindsight, and cynicism, doesn’t that high/low management diet exactly describe what happened anyway? ‘Low’ diet was provided by the poor hay on offer in winter and the ‘high’ would happen when the heifers were turned out to grass. At about this time there was another important step forward in terms of improving the heifers we reared – temperament. For years I had used a well-known Friesian bull and had been extremely pleased with the results – really pleased. But eventually the time came to change sire. Inadvertently, I selected a bull that produced small, fat heifers that were slow milking and bad tempered. Slow milking and bad tempered is not a good combination. I can still remember that bull’s name. His semen should never have seen the inside of a flask. Success in life is often all about timing and I moved to using Holstein bulls. Some of the first-cross Holstein Friesian cows that I bred were, to be honest, the best cows I ever bred. But even before those heifers were born I went to a farm sale one day, just to have a look. There was an imported in-calf heifer that was the first pure Holstein I had ever seen. There was only the one and I decided to buy her. Others must have thought the same because she topped the sale, by some distance. She had 13 calves for me, as did the heifer that she was carrying, but I didn’t get another heifer out of either of them. They were both what I would, today, call ‘extreme’ cows. They had bones sticking out everywhere. But they were so quiet. I used to sell my calves at Shrewsbury market and visit the dairy section while I waited. You had to be careful as you walked behind the cows and heifers because some would try to kick you as you passed. I can remember a farmer telling me: “You don’t want to be kicked milking a cow, you don’t get any more money for her than for the others.”

“Slow milking and bad tempered is not a good combination”

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Merry Christmas & a profitable New Year

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26/11/2019 10:36 26-11-19 11:40


GOLD CUP FINALISTS

Two more top herds vie for gold

Becci Berry, Brimstone Farm, Coleshill, Wiltshire HERD FACTS System Farm size Herd size Yield Milking SCC Calving interval Milk buyer

all-year-round calving 356 hectares tenanted National Trust mixed farm 166 crossbreds 8,824kg milk, 3.81% fat and 3.27% protein twice a day 176,000 cells/ml 370 days Muller Becci Berry

Becci Berry stepped in to managing the family farm following the death of her husband Richard. She picked up the reins of the cross breeding project that he’d started, which aimed to breed a cow best suited to the farm. That means less stature than the previous black-andwhite cattle, and improved health traits and longevity. Scandinavian Reds, Brown Swiss and Holstein are now in regular use. The Montbeliarde breed improved health traits, but produced cows that were too big for the unit’s clay soils and were more expensive to keep. Since establishing the crossbreds, Becci and her herdswoman, Gillian Maconochie, are milking cows with better health and fertility. “Cross breeding has helped us to breed stronger and more resilient cows that are easier to manage – both at grazing and when housed,” says Becci. The herd’s pregnancy rate is 29%, with two services per pregnancy, and the replacement rate is 22%, which illustrates the improved longevity of the herd. Depending on the weather, the herd is turned out to grass in February and rehoused from mid-September. The wet clay ground can be a limiting factor, so dates need to be flexible. Cows are TMR fed in groups during winter and individual cows are topped up to yield with concentrates in the parlour.

Preventing disease and minimising treatments is helping them to reduce antibiotic use. “We are in health schemes for Johne’s BVD, IBR, and mastitis, and also carry out monthly mobility scoring through the Healthy Feet Programme,” adds Becci.

Public perception

The unit’s Fullwood Crystal software also helps to prevent any problems early on. And if there are any unknown health challenges, bulk tests and qPCR tests are carried out. And blood samples are taken, where necessary, to identify problems. “It’s important to collect information, analyse it, benchmark, and make changes to improve,” adds Becci. The same goes for grassland management to improve output and utilisation. Becci uses a plate meter and collects data to better understand the nutrition at grazing. As a National Trust tenant with footpaths through the farm, Becci is acutely aware of public perception. “We have to be accountable, so it’s important we portray a good image to the public and stand by that. Social media can be a huge opportunity not only for individual producers, but also the industry to get our message out there and provide facts to consumers.”

What the judges say “Becci Berry and her team have a willingness to learn from outside the farm and attention to detail was evident. This, coupled with an energy that appeared relentless and a wish to invest and improve the farm for the longer term, has been key to overcoming the many challenges faced during recent years.”

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In final countdown to this year’s NMR RABDF Gold Cup, we meet the next two finalists, both Wiltshire-based, who caught the judges’ interest. Both high performance dairy businesses are in the running for the top spot as we head towards Dairy-Tech 2020, on February 5, when the winner will be announced.

Gavin Davies & Bryn Moore, Stowell Farms, Marlborough, Wiltshire HERD FACTS System Farm size Herd size Yield Milking SCC Calving interval Milk buyer

all-year-round calving 1,142 hectares 526 Holsteins 10,728kg, 3.46% fat and 3.14% protein three times a day 147,000 cells/ml 394 days Watson’s Dairies

Herd manager Bryn Moore and farm manager Gavin Davies

Competing in the final round for a second year running, Stowell Farm’s manager Gavin Davies and herd manager Bryn Moore have set ambitious targets for their herd, which is housed all year round and milked through a 38-point Boumatic Xpedia internal rotary parlour. “When I arrived in 2015, key areas of concern were fertility, mastitis and lameness,” explains Bryn. “These were challenged head on and, with additional support from specialist consultants, the changes have made a big impact on herd performance.” Improvements in fertility has seen the calving index drop and it is still falling – by seven days during the past 12 months, since the Gold Cup qualifying figures were published. The voluntary waiting period is 60 days for cows and 70 days for heifers. “This index has been achieved by improvements in conception rate and an increasing pregnancy rate. The latter has increased from 18% to 27%, with a current 12-month rolling average of 25%,” says Bryn. The Cow Manager ear tag system has been successful along with the skill and attention to detail of the team. Mastitis cases have dropped from 100 cases per 100 cows in 2015 to 18 cases per 100 cows in 2019. This has been

achieved by: making corrections to milking equipment and reducing teat-end damage; changing parlour routine; alterations in the treatment protocols, particularly allowing more self-cure opportunity with the use of antiinflammatories; changes to housing conditions; and greater attention to detail. “And we have just introduced the MastDecide system into our mastitis treatment plan too.” Lameness has been tackled using a similar approach – and with similar success. The current rolling average mobility score is 90%, with minimal culling required.

Continual training

Both Gavin and Bryn believe that success relies on good staff and they value their team at Stowell. Continual training is a priority for all staff, as well as annual appraisals. Staff welfare and ensuring that they have a good work:life balance, as well as job satisfaction, are important parts of the mix. Despite big improvements in herd health and productivity, Stowell’s team keeps looking for those small marginal gains to ensure the business remains efficient while maintaining high standards of health and welfare. These factors, they believe, will hold them in good stead for the future.

What the judges say “Stowell Farms is a well-invested dairy business and continues to invest to maximise the opportunities. Ensuring that the whole team has access to key performance data, and working with industry professionals, keeps the herd on track. The business’ proactive approach to teach children about dairy farming is also impressive.”

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FORFARMERS FOCUS

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Maize seed 2020

Dan and Stephen Britten

Alec Bowden

National Excellence in Farming Awards winners announced Outstanding producers from across the UK have been recognised in the 2019 ForFarmers Excellence in Farming Awards. The national award winners, who were announced at a ceremony at The Farmers Club in London on November 21, are: Britten Farming, from Shepton Mallett in Somerset; J H Hutchinson & Son, based near Whitby in North Yorkshire; and W B Bowden & Sons, who farm near Falmouth in Cornwall. The three winners won their awards for Dairy Feed Efficiency, Forage Manager of the Year and Young Stock Producer of the Year, respectively. The Britten family, who scooped the Dairy Feed Efficiency award, impressed judges with their drive to improve business performance since son, Dan, returned to the family farm three years ago. Investment in cow tracks, silage storage and grazing mixtures has contributed to milk produced from forage increasing from Jonathan Hutchinson

36% to 43% during the past two years. Jonathan Hutchinson, who runs a 450-cow herd, was commended for his excellent grazing and silage production. With a regular reseeding plan in place and a clear plan for future improvement, grazing is carefully measured and controlled, and silage is is well made and stored. Judges were impressed by his approach to grazing on his paddock-style platform and his dedication to making highly digestible forage.

Young stock Alec Bowden’s outstanding approach to heifer rearing saw him lift the Young Stock Producer award. His family runs two herds of high-health pedigree Holsteins, with all replacements being reared on site. The judges commended the team on all aspects of the rearing process, from their carefully-designed specialist calf unit, right through to colostrum management and regular growth monitoring. They were commended for their dedication to heifer rearing, recognising how important healthy replacements are to the future success and advancement of their pedigree herd. Speaking at the ceremony, ForFarmers’ group marketing director Henry Verwaijen said that this year’s entries were, once again, of an extremely high standard. “This highlights the forward-thinking, professional producers within ForFarmers’ customer base. “Every winner should be proud of their award, because there were many exceptional nominees in every category.” As well as receiving their awards at the London presentation lunch, each winner also won two places on an organised study tour in Europe.

Maize is an excellent source of energy and starch for inclusion in cow rations. By feeding a proportion of forage maize, together with grass silage, feed intake and milk production will increase. Selecting a maize variety to maximise both dry matter yield and silage quality, provided by the starch content, will ensure that producers see the best return on their investment. Following lower than expected yields for some forage maize varieties this year, due to climate conditions, along with concerns and some limited availability of product with bird repellents, many maize growers should be looking to cover themselves to guarantee a supply of their chosen variety. Along with a fungicide, the most likely bird repellent available will be Korit. But it will not be available on large volumes of seed. If Korit-treated seed is used then it can still be sown within the typical sowing window, at the recommended 30mm to 40mm depth, with a soil temperature of between 8ºC and 10ºC. Using a maize-starter fertiliser will also aid rapid and successful establishment. Seed treatments that use plant extracts and soil-enhancing bacteria to promote maize establishment are also becoming popular. If sowing after grass then Sonido-treated seed should be considered to provide some control against wireworm. For more information contact your local ForFarmers representative or call 0330 678 0982.

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MANAGEMENT DAIRY HUB

Dairy links create

well-oiled hub

Why have parlour and monitoring devices operating in splendid isolation? Far better to link them into one dairy hub, reduce duplication and have the most current and comprehensive management information in the office and out on farm. We look at one system that ticks all the boxes. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT

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he Uniform Agri dairy management system set out to be a premium dairy data hub and to link technologies. Set up in the late 1980s by a Dutch team and continuously developed during the past three decades to work alongside more advanced parlour systems, monitoring and recording systems, the now global team fully appreciates the need to link all the data and turn it into accurate, reliable and practical management material. “The success of the Uniform system – that is now in 70 countries with more than 10,000 dairy producer users – is that it is developed by people with real knowledge in dairying and real knowledge in IT,” says Uniform’s Graham Nowell, who manages the UK office with a team of six from new premises at Sedgemoor Auction Market. “We’ve developed a number of interfaces with all the main parlour systems and activity monitors,” he says. “And we are constantly updating the links. This has cut out tiresome duplication. No other system links to so many data recording components commonly used on dairy units.” Uniform is also updating its reports to meet new

demands, such as those for medicine reporting, and for meeting farm assurance standards.

Dashboard ‘snapshot’ “It takes on the dairy herd admin, with milk records, heat and fertility data and production information analysed within one program and providing real time action lists,” he adds. “And the dashboard – or home page – is a key feature that all users like as it gives a snapshot of the herd situation. It’s ideal for a busy unit.” Validation is a strong feature in Uniform. “It won’t let you put in a cow that’s just calved if she’s already calved within the possible time frame for example. This sort of in-built scrutiny adds to the system’s robustness.” Uniform has recently updated its reporting to be more akin to the Red Tractor scheme – a scheme that most of Neil Christensen: inputting cow events that link with parlour, Heatime and NMR data on the Uniform system

Uniform dashboard gives an up-to-date snapshot of the herd situation

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producers are in. “Increasingly, farm assurance scheme operators are encouraging producers to get Uniform to manage their records.” The two-way flow of information maintains the current status of data with inputted cow information, such as calvings, being relayed back to the milk records. “The information is current and that’s what producers like,” adds Mr Nowell. Forging more links has been possible with the recent introduction of Uniform Pro Consultant. “It’s a thirdparty link that the vet or adviser subscribes to. With the producer’s permission, the on-farm data is available to the third party.” A real jewel in the crown is the Uniform app, which works off or on line and on an android or iPhone. “This is an instant ‘hit’, particularly where the signal isn’t good,” says Mr Nowell. Action lists and Vetcheck reports ‘sync’ onto the phone from the office PC or laptop and can then be accessed around the farm or in the fields – anywhere for that matter. And event information can be added. Once users are back where there’s a WiFi signal they can press a button. “It’s as easy as that to sync the new data back to the main hub. ‘Sync and refresh, then you’re done for the day’ is what we remind users.”

“I input all the events data – usually daily,” says Neil. “It doesn’t take long – even if I’ve a few days to catch up on. The herd calves year round so the amount of information is fairly constant.” Four staff work with Neil on the dairy unit and they will refer to the Uniform reports daily to pick up details of cows needing attention and to collect the latest management reports. Neil installed Uniform in 2016 after looking around for a system that would interface with the Heatime activity system, NMR and the unit’s GEA parlour. “We were collecting a lot of valuable information and I needed it ‘all under one roof’ and in one system,” says Neil. “I looked at systems that could do this and the same name, Uniform, kept cropping up.” Helped along with great support from NMR’s software trainer Cath Smith and the Uniform office, Neil admits he enjoys using the system.

‘App’ appeal

Uniform has proved itself as a labour-saving device on one Somerset-based dairy unit. Equally important, though, says producer Neil Christensen, who owns the Steanbow herd near Shepton Mallet, is that it’s allowed him and his team to keep on top of managing the 650-cow pedigree Holstein herd. The Uniform program runs off the main PC in the dairy office and it’s a hub in every sense of the word. It’s where data is input; this is Neil’s job, and one he likes to do as it keeps him right up to date with the herd’s progress. It’s also where his dairy team come for action lists and data relating to their specific responsibilities, such as fertility actions and drying off lists.

“We’re taking advantage of the app too,” he adds. “We can see reports and current cow information on our phones as we’re among the cows. Validation is good, so we can be fairly confident we’re seeing up-to-date and accurate information.” But there’s always more to learn and for the team at Steanbow that will begin with making better use of the medicine book, starting with scanning in medicines and keeping track on line of usage. “This, and a lot of other information, on the system helps us with our Red Tractor requirements. It reduces duplication and makes it easy both for herdsmen and for me in the farm office. And it’s reduced a lot of the manual data input between systems. “We’d struggle without Uniform now. We run a highinput herd, housed all year and on three-times-a-day milking – averaging about 12,000kg. We need an integrated system that pulls all our data together. We’ve got to be at the top of our game and keep on target to achieve the best from the herd.” l

Uniform provides a hub of current herd information for the Steanbow team

Cow records are viewed and events added on the hoof using the Uniform app

Communal hub

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HEALTH NEWS

High fluke risk for heifers

Replacement heifers may be carrying high liver fluke burdens this winter and, to limit the negative impact on growth rates, producers should review their treatment plans. So says Boehringer Ingelheim’s Sioned Timothy, who explains that wet weather in late summer and autumn, combined with mild temperatures across much of the UK, has provided ideal conditions for the mud snail – the intermediate host of liver fluke.

“Liver fluke infections in heifers contribute to slower growth, increase age at first calving, and decreased lifetime production values,” says Ms Timothy. “Cattle do not develop immunity to liver fluke, so it’s important to remove the parasite promptly to help heifers reach their target growth rates.” Treating for liver fluke at the point of housing ensures that cattle benefit immediately from the production improvements associated with fluke control. But a single treatment at housing may not be sufficient to remove all liver fluke present, which also helps to reduce the fluke infection risk the following year, by removing the opportunity for fluke eggs to be shed on the pasture after turnout in the spring. Cattle may be infected with a mixed population of fluke at housing, including varying ages and strains, which could also include a mixture of triclabendazolesusceptible and resistant strains,” adds Ms Timothy. “Production losses can be caused by all ages of liver fluke, but it is the adults that have the greatest effect, reducing feed intake by up to 15% even where burdens are low.”

Optimising calf immunity can reduce antibiotic use Moving into the winter season presents all manner of challenges for calf rearers, according to Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ailsa Milnes. “We don’t know how severe the weather will be or if many producers will be hanging on to stock, instead of selling, meaning that over-crowding could be an issue. “That said, there is a set of relatively simple steps that anyone can take in order to help optimise calf health.” A calf health and management plan, which is developed in conjunction with a vet, will cover areas including: housing, with a focus on minimising draughts, good hygiene, space per calf, mixing of age groups, and nesting scores; colostrum feeding – both in terms of volumes, timing and quality; and health, to rear a robust by improving its own immunity with vaccination. Since calf rearing was identified, by Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance, as a particular hot spot for antibiotic use, more than two years ago, the sector has been tasked with increasing preventative healthcare and improving management processes, to minimise disease incidence and

antibiotic use. And sales of calf pneumonia vaccines have risen by 35% since 2011. “Vaccinating young calves with an intranasal pneumonia vaccine such as Bovalto Respi Intranasal, which protects against recently circulating strains of RSV and PI3 and can be used from 10 days of age, provides protection for 12 weeks, starting from 10 days after vaccination,” says Dr Milnes. “This can then be followed with Bovalto Respi 3 or Bovalto Respi 4, to provide continuing protection against PI3 and RSV. Both vaccines also protect against Mannheimia haemolytica and Bovalto Respi 4 also protects against BVD, which is important for herds buying in young stock with unknown BVD status.” She adds that al vaccines in the Bovalto range protect against recently circulating strains and allow a flexible approach, which can be tailored to meet individual farm’s needs. “There is also some data that shows a rapid response using Bovalto injectable vaccine following the use of Bovalto Intranasal vaccine,” concludes Dr Milnes. The #Calfmatters Health and Welfare Blueprint is an online resource, which can be found at www.calfmatters.co.uk

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Report reveals industry role Sales of antibiotics for livestock have fallen by 53% in just four years, according to the latest annual Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance Sales and Surveillance (UK-VARSS) report. Published by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the figures, from between 2014 and 2018, highlight the commitment of those involved in livestock production to playing their part in tackling antimicrobial resistance, according to the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH). “NOAH’s particular focus has been on the development of our AMBP (Animal Medicines Best Practice) training programme, launched in 2018. And this is proving to be a useful tool for producers and vets,” says NOAH’s chief executive Dawn Howard. “The changes seen on farms up and down the country are testament to producers engaging with the need to change the way that antibiotics are used,” says Boehringer Ingelheim vet Ailsa Milnes. “It is also encouraging to see, in parallel with the reduction in need for antibiotics, a parallel rise in vaccination, to one of the highest levels in seven years,” adds Ms Howard. “This demonstrates a better understanding of the role that good welfare and husbandry plays in helping reduce the risk of disease spread, and therefore the need for antibiotic treatments. “But it is important to remember that, when animals suffer from bacterial infections, it is responsible that a vet prescribes the appropriate antibiotic to protect their health and welfare.”

For more information about Boehringer Ingelheim’s products: www.boehringer-ingelheim.co.uk www.calfmatters.com Telephone: 01344 74 69 60 Email address: ukcustomersupport @boehringer-ingelheim.com

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COW HEALTH 26 Anthelmintic use Best-practice pointers for treating cattle against parasites.

28 Hoof health Scheme to tackle lameness set for revamp and relaunch in 2020.

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COW HEALTH SPECIAL PARASITE CONTROL

Pointers for

parasite control Treating dairy cattle for parasites – both internal and external – can be complicated. So we share some key areas of best practice when it comes to their control through the safe and effective use of anthelmintics. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER

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et autumn weather means that liver fluke poses a significant risk to dairy herd profitability on many units this winter. And, indeed, other parasites – both internal and external – may need tackling during the housing period. So what can producers do to make sure that they get the best results from parasite-control products? Effective use of anthelmintics is a key component of effective parasite control, but ensuring you get the most out of treatments given requires a backto-basics approach. And it all starts with knowing which parasites you’re dealing with and understanding their lifecycle. So says Boehringer Ingelheim’s vet Sioned Timothy, adding that only then can producers – with help from their vet or SQP (suitably qualified person) – select the best treatment to effectively tackle the problem. “Take external parasites as an example. Some are surface feeding parasites, such as chorioptic mange mites or biting lice, and others will burrow into the cattle’s skin, such as sucking lice and sarcoptic mange mites. It’s important to know what you’re dealing with. If you only treat for non-burrowing parasites with an injectable macrocyclic lactone product, you may not achieve the same level of control post treatment, because this is less effective against surface parasites than a pour-on treatment.

Accurate diagnosis “So, to be sure of what’s causing that itch, ask your vet to carry out a skin scrape and get an accurate diagnosis.” Then, and only then, can informed decisions be made about which product or products need to be

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Seek advice when buying anthelmintics SQP Mark Pass, from Beeston Animal Health, says that he’ll easily spend half an hour discussing a potential parasite issue with a producer, before he prescribes an over-thecounter anthelmintic. “These conversations – about the parasite problem, diagnostics, the cattle and the management system – are vital to confirming a diagnosis and the lifecycle stage or stages of the parasite in question. It also means that the producer invests in the right product at the right time.”

He says that producers should always be wary if they’re not offered advice at point of sale. “No country store should be selling POM-VPS anthelmintic products without asking questions or offering a degree of consultation,” he stresses. “The age of stock, the grazing system, test results from bulk ELISA or faecal eggs counts to confirm the presence of parasite are all questions that help to paint a clear picture of what’s going on and how best to tackle it.”

used to tackle the parasite problem. Invariably at housing there is more than one parasite to tackle. Some products can treat two or more at the same time – sometimes internal and external. Ms Timothy stresses that it’s also important to know the lifecycle stage of the parasite you’re dealing with. “Liver fluke, for example, goes through multiple developmental stages within the animal, and the products that are available to treat fluke have different spectrums of activity against these stages – they all treat mature fluke, but their efficacy against earlier stages varies. “This means that, if cattle are treated at housing, it’s important to consider that some fluke may survive treatment and to take measures to combat the risk that cattle fertility and productivity may be compromised as a result. This will require action later in the housing period, either performing diagnostic testing to determine fluke status or administration of a strategic follow up treatment to ensure cattle remain fluke free.” Similar considerations apply when treating worms. Not all anthelmintics are effective against the inhibited stages of the gut worm Ostertagia ostertagi, which can go on to cause type 2 ostertagiosis or winter scours after housing.

Product persistency “This may be particularly important in groups of young stock that have been heavily exposed to parasites during the grazing season,” says Ms Timothy. “Product persistency should also be taken into account – not all wormers protect against reinfection, a feature which may be significant if cattle are returned to infected pasture after treatment for gut worm and lungworm. The product data sheet will provide information on these properties.” Another area that warrants attention, and is essential for both product efficacy and reducing the risk of resistance, is dosing. “Check that the applicator, syringe or dosing device, is measuring accurately before you begin treating stock. And weigh the animals to be treated so you administer the correct dose to ensure parasite kill.” She says that modern dairy cows are often larger than the 550kg to 600kg animals, which the standard dose for

Mr Pass says that a good SQP will also offer advice on how to store and administer anthelmintic products. “We even run workshops on oral dosing, injection and pouron products. It’s all about ensuring the efficacy of an anthelmintic – to prevent any resistance issues but also to ensure that it actually does what producers needs it to do: to kill off the offending parasites and, at the same time, protect the future efficacy of the product by reducing the risk of selection for resistance.”

many cattle treatments applies. “So check and adjust the dose accordingly. If you don’t, you won’t get the full benefit of treatment and the risk of selecting for anthelmintic resistance could be increased.” Ideally, the gold standard is to weigh each animal to be treated and calculate the dose accordingly, but that’s far from practical on many units. So Ms Timothy recommends weighing a representative sample of cattle in the group and treating to the heaviest weight. “Where there’s a lot of size variation, cattle can be subdivided into two or three ‘weight’ groups and dosed accordingly.

Correct storage Storage is important too – anthelmintics must be stored according to the data sheet. Exposure to conditions, such as direct sunlight and extreme temperatures, can damage the product and prevent them from being effective. “Storage really can make all the difference and it’s important to check individual product labels,” she says. “Some products have a limited shelf life once opened. Others can be resealed and stored, and can continue to be used until their use-by date.” She stresses that after each use, applicators or dosing devices must also be detached and cleaned, and the product must also be resealed – so keep the bottle lid. “These devices are designed to be used again and again, but need to be correctly maintained. Leaving an applicator filled with a dose of product could damage the equipment. So always detach applicators and clean and store them correctly.” It can be complicated to target anthelmintic use efficiently, effectively and responsibly – not least when there’s also milk-withhold to also consider. “So, if in doubt, it’s always good to get advice. And there’s plenty of that available at point of sale for anthelmintic products. “SQPs are well versed in what to ask producers and how to make sure they buy the correct product and use it at the correct time and in the correct way. “They’ll talk producers through the whole process and make sure that they see returns on their investment in parasite control, and that the products are used in a responsible way.” l

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COW HEALTH SPECIAL HOOF HEALTH

New pathway to

lameness control A revamped scheme to help producers tackle lameness is set for launch in 2020. We spoke to one of the vets tasked with reviewing the programme to find out what changes are afoot. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER

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he success of AHDB Dairy’s mastitis control plan has prompted a revision of the organisation’s Healthy Feet Programme (HFP). The former was developed and managed in conjunction with some of the UK’s top cattle vets. Launched in 2008, it has seen significant uptake among UK producers and, the latest figures show that it has contributed to reducing the number of clinical mastitis cases in participating herds by, on average, 20%. Some herds saw even greater reductions and this figure continues to improve each year. On the back of this success, AHDB has revamped the organisation’s Healthy Feet Programme (HFP) and it hopes this new scheme will help to emulate the success of the mastitis control plan and see a reduction in lameness in our dairy herds. Vet Sara Pedersen thinks it could. She’s part of the team charged with drawing up changes to the existing HFP to make it more accessible and simpler for producers to follow – or dip into if they prefer that approach. The team also comprises hoof-health specialist vet Nick Bell, vet and cow signals expert Owen Atkinson, as well as hoof health specialists from AHDB Dairy.

Sara Pedersen: “The scheme will be producer led and focused on guidance, rather than prescriptive advice” 28

HFP, which was first launched back in 2008, is set for a re-launch in spring 2020. “The existing HFP is proven. We have numerous on-farm studies that show that it works. But to really tackle the problem we need to increase uptake and engagement,” explains Ms Pedersen. “So we’ve been tasked with reviewing the HFP and making changes that will result in better uptake and direct engagement with producers.” AHDB has developed a more straightforward approach that’s producer centred – and also geared up for nutritionists and advisers.

Mobility mentors “In its current incarnation, it’s mostly delivered by vets and, to date, more than 120 vets and qualified foot trimmers have been trained as ‘mobility mentors’. By opening up the new programme to suitably trained advisors and nutritionists, it will hopefully increase engagement and make it easier for producers to access the scheme,” says Ms Pedersen “In our experience, producers are more likely to tackle a problem – particularly something that can be as daunting as lameness – if it’s done on their terms, at their pace, and approached using their ideas and solutions. Most producers already know what needs to be done on their units to tackle lameness, but need guidance on how to prioritise any new regimes or changes – and how to implement some of the more difficult aspects of lameness prevention – as well as help in bringing the whole farm team together to solve the problem. The programme is less about ‘you should’ and ‘you must’ and more about identifying the barriers to change and addressing these so that solutions can be implemented. To avoid putting producers off, the team is also looking at what it calls Healthy Feet Programme ‘ Lite’, which is an entry level approach. “This involves a visit from a trained mobility mentor,” explains Ms Pedersen. “It gives producers a taste of what the programme can offer, but there’s no long-term commitment. The ‘Lite’ programme may be enough

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for them to sufficiently tackle a problem. It will highlight areas where improvements can be made to ensure that lameness incidence falls as a result of changes implemented after this initial visit,” she adds. “Producers would also have the option to sign up for the full programme, if they felt they needed further help and support to tackle a lameness problem.”

investment – perhaps a new foot bath or modifying or replacing cubicles. But it will all be at the producer’s pace and realistic. “It’s not possible – either due to time or financial constraints – to do everything at once. But this puts the producer on a path towards tackling the causes

Producer-led programme Note that Ms Pedersen doesn’t say ‘advice’. “The HFP approach isn’t your typical advisory scheme,” she stresses. “It’s producer led and focused on guidance rather than prescriptive advice. The producer, when asked what they think they should do to tackle a particular problem, such as poor lying times, often has the answer already. The role of the mobility mentor is to guide them through the various options to finding the right solution for their herd. “There will be some easy wins – low- or no-cost changes that can be made that make a difference. Such as reducing standing times when waiting to be milked. Or more frequent scraping of passageways. “And there would also be things that require

More accessible scheme Something does, indeed, need to be done to help producers take control of hoof problems in their herd. Ms Pedersen says that lameness in the average herd runs at around 30% – that’s one in three cows. “So it clearly needs to be addressed. The programme is there and it works. We need to highlight it to producers and make it more accessible.” The best-managed herds are seeing lamenss rates lower than 5%, according to Nick Bell. “My impression from working with progressive producers is that lameness has reduced in UK herds, as techniques and knowledge have improved. But there’s still more to be done. And, increasingly, milk buyers are also starting to look at lameness incidence in the herds that supply them. So the more proactive producers can be on this issue the better.”

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COW HEALTH SPECIAL HOOF HEALTH

of lameness – and controlling it – once and for all. It puts them in control and provides them with achievable targets.”

Four ‘success factors’ for controlling lameness

Fair caveat

Low infection pressure

Ms Pedersen believes, to some degree, that producers are sometimes fearful of tackling lameness. “The biggest step is usually admitting that there’s a problem. Many are concerned about their milk contracts, believing that if they admit to a lameness issue that this could have repercussions. “And I think that’s a conversation that needs to be had across the supply chain. If producers can show that they’ve signed up to a scheme to tackle lameness and they’ve made a commitment to reduce the incidence in their herd, that would be a fair caveat to add to a milk-buyer contract. “But to stipulate that it has to be below a certain percentage and expect producers to achieve that overnight is unrealistic and will actually drive many producers to dis-engage altogether. “Far better to have them thinking about lameness and making some progress, than do nothing for fear of milk-buyer repercussions.” l

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• Hygiene: How clean are the cows? • Footbathing: How effective is the current regime?

Good horn quality and hoof shape

• Foot trimming: When and how are cows being trimmed? • Nutrition: What is horn quality like?

Good cow comfort and cow flow

• Cow comfort: How comfortable are cow beds and what stops them maximising lying times? • Cow flow: How do cows move around the farm and what condition are the walking surfaces in?

Early detection and prompt effective treatment

• What measures are in place for detecting lameness? • How are lame cows treated, is best practice implemented?

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Proven protection, generation after generation *

Rotavec Corona is the only vaccine which contains the most prevalent strain of rotavirus in Europe.1,2

Make sure your calves get the benefit of Rotavec Corona.

* Protection of the calf is gained through single shot dam vaccination during each pregnancy, 12-3 weeks before birth, combined with effective colostrum management. For further information please refer to the Rotavec Corona SPC. Reference: 1. Crouch C., Oliver S. & Francis M. (2001) Serological, colostral and milk responses of cows vaccinated with a single dose of a combined vaccine against rotavirus, coronavirus and Escherichia coli F5 (K99). Vet Record. Jul 28; 149 (4): 105-108. Use medicines responsibly. For more information please refer to the Responsible Use sections of the NOAH website. Rotavec® Corona contains inactivated Rotavirus and Coronavirus and E. coli K99 antigens. Legal category POM-VPS Refer to the packaging or package leaflet for information about side effects, precautions, warnings and contraindications. Further information is available from the SPC/Datasheet or Intervet UK Ltd trading as MSD Animal Health. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942. Advice should be sought from the medicine prescriber. Rotavec® Corona is the property of Intervet International B.V. or affiliated companies or licensors and are protected by copyrights, trademark and other intellectual property laws. Copyright © 2019 Intervet International B.V. All rights reserved. Tel: 01908 685 685 • vet-support.uk@merck.com • www.msd-animal-health.co.uk GB/RUM/0918/0293

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Do you have Cryptosporidium occuring in your herd?

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Good respiratory health is highly important to ensure your calves reach their full potential. Visit bit.ly/calf-respiration for more details.

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“Crypt-Occur is an excellent product and I would thoroughly recommend it. It is easy to use and the recovery rate in calves is quick. If used in the early stages of crypto it is far more effective than any other product we have previously used. It is an essential product in our calves care routine”

“We have had problems with crypto for years but never found anything that worked. However after using CryptOccur for nearly two years now, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Scours are no longer an issue and the calves are growing on really well. The calves responded very quickly to the product”

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Andrew Nicholls, Trewindle Farm, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

"Crypt-Occur"

Call Andy Berry about on 07969 164066 or visit www.berrysagriculture.co.uk

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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DAIRY MANAGEMENT NEWS

NMR steps up security After the recent cyber-attack on NMR’s systems, the company is now reaching a ‘business-as-usual’ phase in its operations. While there is a small amount of catch-up to do in reporting, all systems for recording and testing have been fully restored and fortified. “There’s still a lot of work to do in the background,” says NMR managing director Andy Warne. “We are backfilling any missing data and we are on schedule to clear any backlog in testing. “I would, again, like to thank customers and stakeholders for their support and patience during a period of disrupted service – and to reassure them that there is no threat to their own systems from NMR and that no personal data was lost.” The NMR Group is accelerating the renewal of any remaining legacy software. “This project impacts many areas of the UK dairy industry where data is transferred from one system to another and where different data formats are required,” adds Mr Warne. “For example, some older systems, including some used on farms, require a CDL file,

therefore NMR is committed to producing this format. But the CDL format was originally designed to compress data for floppy discs and programs required to produce this file are difficult to protect from cyber-attack. “IT is very fast-moving and this recent attack and disruption has emphasised the need to put security at the top of our agenda, so we will work with our customers as we move away from supporting these older systems. The NMR management team is fully committed to an advanced and highly secure system. It will run regional customer meetings starting in February 2020 to present new developments and improvements to core services. “We will also introduce new technology which will mark a step forward in how milk recording is delivered.” Invitations to these meetings will be sent out in early January. In the meantime, customers can contact NMR on 03330 043 043 or by email: Customer Services: customerservices@nmrp.com

bovens bovens regel o

GeneTracker dates The next genomic sample submission results dates for NMR GeneTracker are: December 20, results on February 5, 2020 January 24, 2020, results on March 3, 2020 February 14, 2020, results on April 2, 2020

• • •

New catalogue Soon to arrive is the 2019/2020 NMR catalogue of products and services that now includes information on the new Total Herd Genomics service, Uniform for Consultants program, and details of the Annual Production Report and the Gold Cup competition. All NMR customers will receive a copy in the New Year.

Silver status The NMR marketing team picked up the Silver award for the best internal stand design at the South West Dairy Show in October 2019. All stands were automatically entered. The clear messages and inviting nature of the stand design appealed to the judges.

Tune in to Uniform Users of the Uniform dairy management system can tune into the next on line training session at midday on Tuesday December 12, 2019. From their office desk they can ‘attend’ NMR software trainer Cath Smith

this webinar, which will focus on using the Uniform app on their mobile devices and on fertility tools. Run by NMR trainer Cath Smith, these monthly webinars are proving popular. “We usually have about 100 Uniform users registering for the event and at least 30 on each session,” she says. Uniform customers are invited to join by email and on social media. Costs, along with regular program updates, are included in the monthly subscription. “Uniform customers listen in through their computer, like watching a lesson on TV,” adds Mrs Smith. “They are usually scheduled around lunchtime and last about 30 minutes. And if the timing is difficult for anyone, they can watch a recording. This is like

watching on ‘catch up’ through iPlayer.” After registering, participants receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. “It’s simply a link that takes them straight in. There’s no need for any extra software or downloading.” Uniform has just announced its dates for UK workshops from January 2020. See the NMR or UNIFORM Agri web sites for details.

For more information about NMR products and services contact customer services: 03330 043 043, email: customerservices@nmrp.com www.nmr.co.uk

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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SERIES CARBON FOOTPRINT

Manure management is the focus of the fourth article in our series on reducing dairying’s carbon footprint.

Part 1 Part 2

Assessing your herd’s carbon footprint Improving feed efficiency to reduce nitrogen losses and CH4 emissions Part 3 Grassland management to improve nitrogen utilisation, losses and increase carbon sequestration Part 4 Manure management to reduce nitrogen losses through ammonia and N2O emissions Part 5 Breeding to reduce the carbon footprint

Where there’s muck

there’s money

Although it’s not a greenhouse gas, cutting ammonia emissions will help dairying businesses comply with future ‘clean air’ regulations, as well as reducing the carbon footprint. And it’s more cost effective than many producers may think. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER

F

ortunately the saying ‘where’s there’s muck there’s money’ still applies – even in the face of stricter regulations. So any investment in more environmentally sound manure storage, handling and application equipment will also offer a financial benefit. Producers should see a return on investment in these areas, according to AHBD’s David Ball.

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“Slurry management is high on AHDB’s agenda due to its importance in Defra’s ‘Clean Air Strategy’. Our remit is to work with Defra and the Environment Agency to identify cost-effective measures to reduce ammonia emissions on farms, which are predominantly from slurry.” he says. The good news is that cutting ammonia emissions results in nitrogen being retained in slurry. This makes it a

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more valuable fertiliser resource, reducing the need for purchasing nitrogen fertiliser. Mr Ball says that the first step in tackling these emissions is changing the mindset about slurry. “Many producers still view it as a problem – something that’s costly to store and move around and dispose of. “Instead, they should try to view it as a valuable resource. The N, P and K it contains is, typically, worth around £3 per tonne and there are also other nutrients and slurry properties that make it a superior fertiliser compared to a bought-in fertiliser product. “And, since artificial fertiliser also has a significant carbon footprint, reducing the amount you buy in will have an immediate effect on your farm’s impact on the environment.” Mr Ball says that much of negativity that surrounds slurry comes about because the equipment required to manage it in line with regulations requires capital investment. “Also many units struggle with slurry capacity – they simply don’t have enough storage.

Making changes Mr Ball advocates what he calls an end-to-end approach when it comes to improving slurry management and reducing emissions. It starts with feeding. “Ammonia comes from the urea excreted in urine – it’s the surplus nitrogen fed as protein in the cows’ diet. Feeding cows a more balanced diet that allows them to better utilise that protein this will reduce the amount that they excrete in their urine. “This means there’s less urea in the slurry and better protein utilisation efficiency. It’s a win-win situation when it comes to reducing ammonia emissions and nitrogen losses.” He adds that producers can check milk urea levels, through milk recording and milk buyers’ tests, as an indicator to the level being excreted via urine. “If it’s high – around 35mg/100ml – then take a closer look at your ration. Ideally it should be between 20 and 30mg/100ml, but around 25% of milk urea results are higher than 30mg/100ml. This won’t solve the whole issue of ammonia emissions, but he says that it will help. When it comes to emission from the slurry, it’s all about surfaces. Ammonia is emitted, through volatilisation. Emitting’ surfaces include open yards, passageways, and collecting yards – anywhere where there’s a ‘contaminated’ surface. “So minimising the amount of slurry on these surfaces is important. Frequent scraping and regular wash downs will therefore reduce emissions. Mr Ball says that, again, this is a relatively low-cost approach to reducing emissions and there are quick gains to be had. The next area to consider is where the slurry is collected and stored, in lagoons and slurry tanks. “These, again, have a surface that can emit ammonia. There are things that can be done to stop and limit these emissions.” Reducing the surface area is one approach. A deep slurry tank will have less surface area than most open lagoons. “So, if you’re upgrading or installing a new system, a tall store with a lower surface would be beneficial, he says. Mr Ball adds that Defra will be focusing on storage as a key part of its clean air strategy, with a particular emphasis on covering slurry lagoons and stores. “So this is something that producers need to be thinking about

Useful links For information about reducing emissions and future Government grants available for slurry storage and handling equipment, visit: www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-productivity-scheme www.dairy.ahdb.org.uk/resources-library/research-development/environment/ carbon-footprint-report-year-3/#.XTiribvsZD8

• •

anyway, to stay pre-empt or prepare for any legislation, which is expected to come into force by 2027.” As for the best ‘cover’ solution, Mr Ball says that a fixed cover works well. “That will stop around 80% of ammonia emissions and keep out the rain. Also, allowing a crust to form on some slurries will reduce emissions by between 40% and 50%.” Covers, whatever their design, come at a cost. But as each kilogramme of ammonia contains 822g of nitrogen, some of that cost can be recouped. “At current ammonium nitrate prices, each kilogramme of ammonia lost to the atmosphere is worth 62.5p. So, for example, a 5,200 cubic metre open lagoon will lose around 2kg of nitrogen per square metre of surface area. “It’s worth around £2,500 per year and unless covered, it’s just disappearing into the air. The cost of spreading water from rainfall that would otherwise fall into the slurry in this typical lagoon could also amount to £6,000 per year. These price tags could go towards paying for the cost of a cover.”

Slurry application Legislation is also on its way for applying slurry. “Get this wrong and all that nitrogen you’ve worked so hard to save during feeding and storage will be lost,” says Mr Ball, adding that the use of splash-plate spreaders will be banned by 2025. “But that’s no loss as up to 80% of the total ammonia nitrogen in slurry can be lost through volatilisation when it’s spread this way. “Compare this to a trailing shoe, which reduces losses by between 30% and 40%. Or, even better, shallow injectors, which reduce nitrogen losses, through reduced emissions, by 70%.” These application methods will help producers to meet the clean air regulations, reduce their ammonia emissions and carbon footprint, and save money. “Yes, there will potentially be investment involved, in purchasing new slurry handling equipment. But grant aid could well be available and, again, the cost savings on bought-in fertiliser will help to off-set the cost. “Producers really do need to view slurry as an asset – not a problem. This will make any investment in slurry management that’s required to meet the future regulations more palatable.” l

David Ball: “An end-to-end approach is essential to cut ammonia emissions and N losses” cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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BREEDING INFORMATION

Making more from grass with CRV grazing genetics CRV Avoncroft’s grazing portfolio is going from strength to strength with the introduction of more bulls to the grazing portfolio. Producer favourites – such as Glowing, Phonic and Timeline – feature again in the Friesian team, offering calving ease, production and short gestation periods. Their use on maiden heifers has driven demand. An addition to the Friesian team is Macca son Cortex. He is a high production sire with great fertility, superior udders and plenty of capacity. He’s also a good bull to use at the end of mating periods, scoring –6.3 for gestation length. Stravaganza son Federal was a sell out in New Zealand. He is an outcross to MintEdition, offers extremely high production and is efficient at +6%.

Attractive sires Flavin, top of the crop in New Zealand, also scores +6% for efficiency. Good capacity and clean udders, as well as medium stature, make him an attractive sire. Scoring –5.5 for gestation length, cows that are bred to Flavin will have more time to recover before mating, have a higher chance of getting back in calf, and will spend more days in milk. Mikado is being offered again after a twoyear break. He is now proven in New Zealand. Mikado sires cows with medium stature, superior udders and great efficiency (+7%). Jack-Frost, Tararua and Seagull all feature again in the cross-breeding team. These bulls Carrick daughter 421

are F12 and above, which means they all carry a minimum of 75% Friesian blood. All three are positive for fertility, have great production and capacity, and strong udder scores. Seagull and Tararua are both proven in New Zealand. Harmon J9F7 is a new addition to the team. This bull, with no Mint-Edition blood, scores –6.2 for gestation length, which makes him a popular choice for producers who would like to tighten their calving pattern. New Zealand-proven Harmon offers high efficiency (+9%) and good capacity, as well as strong udders. New Zealand-proven Sarajevo F12J4, by the popular Macca, is another bull who is an outcross to Mint-Edition. With great production and efficiency (+8%), as well as good udders and capacity, he suits most herd’s breeding goal. Maple F9J7 and Toa J13F3 also strengthen the cross-breeding team. Maple breeds cows with good fertility, high fat, and longevity. Toa, by the popular Triplestar, offers calving ease, fertility, BCS, and capacity.

Jersey team All Jersey bulls offer size and strength. Back on the list, by popular demand, are Diesel, Omnibus and Triplestar, with both Omnibus and Triplestar outcrosses to Murmur. A new team member is Carrick. He is a full brother to the popular Connacht. Carrick daughters have good fertility and superior udders, with high scores for both health and efficiency.

New CRV staff New Zealand-style grazing experts Mark and Sue Duffy began working in the UK in mid-October. Mark is sales manager and responsible for North Wales. As a grazing specialist, Sue is responsible for sales in Somerset and Dorset. Mark and Sue have visited the UK several times to help producers with their breeding decisions. They have a thorough understanding of the farming systems used in New Zealand. Rosie Riches has also joined CRV as breeding sales advisor for Devon and Cornwall. She has experience working within the dairy industry, both in the UK and New Zealand.

For more information about CRV Avoncroft’s products and services: Telephone: 01562 861582 www.crvavoncroft.com www.facebook.com/CRVAvoncroft/

Producers who are looking for a polled Jersey bull, should use Gym PP. He offers great fertility. Manzello son Lucas breeds high milk and above average capacity. Both Gym and Lucas are outcross to Murmur.

Federal daughter 216

Harmon daughter 223

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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FEEDING EFFICIENCY

Successful start

for ambitious new entrants One Cheshire-based dairying couple have overcome the early challenges of establishing a successful dairy unit and are now looking to grow their business and develop a high yielding dairy herd. We spoke to them to find out more. TEXT LAUREN GORINGE

D

airy farming has been a family tradition for both Chris and Amie Lovatt and the couple have always wanted to milk their own cows. They began their business by running Sprinks Farm, near Macclesfield, as a small beef farm, but they were keen to eventually convert it to a dairy enterprise – having both grown up on a dairy farm. The 28-hectare dairy unit was established in 2005 and since then the couple, together with Chris’ parents, Craig and Carolyn, have slowly continued to improve its infrastructure, starting with converting one of the farm buildings into a house so Chris and Amie could live on site. The family’s hard work and dedication has been recognised in this year’s ForFarmers Excellence in Farming Awards, with Chris and Amie crowned regional winners in the dairy efficiency category. In 2014 the couple started the process of converting to dairying, by purchasing 55 heifer calves, all under six weeks old, from local producers. All were purchased within a six-week period so they would be ready to AI at a similar time and were a mixture of Friesian, Holstein and crossbreds. An Aberdeen Angus sire was used to the first service, followed by an Aberdeen Angus sweeper bull.

Robotic milking The first six weeks of milking was done through a bale until they had 40 freshly-calved heifers in milk, which was enough to begin milking via a robot. The first Lely robot was installed in September 2016, with a second following in July 2018. The couple currently milk 70 cows and plan to expand to 100-herd by mid-2020. Chris has worked on a dairy farm since he left school, and still continues to do so, while Amie now works on the dairy unit and also looks after their two young sons, Henry and George, “We wanted our children to grow up on a family farm and having the robots gives me the flexibility to fit work around the boys, keep our workload manageable within the family, and also enables Chris to continue milking on another dairy unit,” explains Amie. “The robots also helped us to secure our Tesco contract, via Muller, as they wanted to support young new entrants looking to use modern milking methods.” The Lovatts now rent a further 32 hectares, with all grass harvested as big bale silage. They do all their own field work and the baling is done by a local contractor. “We haven’t got a silage pit and find that baled silage works for us,” says Chris. “We know we have fields of different grass quality and these can be mowed and baled individually, with bales labelled accordingly when Smooth surface: feed troughs are lined with bathroom tiles

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stacked. We can then test cuts from each field and ensure that when we are feeding out, we mix the source of silage used in order to provide a consistent ration in terms of overall nutrient content and quality. We also use Ecosyl Ecobale additive and find that this improves silage quality.”

mix. “In our experience, the crossbreds require less feed for maintenance and still produce high yields.” She adds that fertility has improved since she’s taken on the role of AI technician: “Because we can serve cows at the optimum time.”

Above left: Chris and Amie Lovatt, with sons Henry (bottom left) and George

Improving performance

Recent review Dry-cow management has been recently reviewed, with help from ForFarmers’ Shane Mooney, because cows were underperforming after calving, “Dry cows are now fed later-cut, lower energy silage, plus ForFarmers’ TRANSLAC nuts in the three weeks prior to calving. The improvements were immediate and we now see better and stronger heats after calving,” adds Amie. Other investments include a robotic scraper, which scrapes the yards with minimum disruption to the cows. “Looking to the future, we want to increase feed space and complete an additional cubicle shed,” adds Chris. “And eventually we would like to build a specialist young stock shed to give us space to rear all of our own replacements. “The robotic milking and scraping systems should allow us manage the herd without the need for additional labour. And we’ll continue to push yields and aim to be a 11,000-litre herd by the end of 2020. l

Right: DIY AI: Amie serves all the cows on the unit

There has been significant investment to improve grass and soil quality – in machinery and seed. “We reseeded 30% of the farm this year and the quality of silage produced has improved. Crude protein has increased from 14% to 17%, sugars from 1.9% to 3.0%, and D value from 500 MJ/kg DM to 600 MJ/kg DM. “We have also started to cut earlier and have adopted a multi-cut system. Quality beats quantity,” adds Chris. When they first started feeding the dairy cows, this was done by simply loading round bales straight into feeding troughs and shovelling grains on top, by hand, four times per day. “Investing in a mixer wagon has given the diet consistency and increased milk yields, as well as reducing our workload,” adds Amie. “Feeding troughs are lined with bathroom tiles to encourage dry matter intake and are double sided to remove the need for pushing up.” This autumn has seen average milk yields increase by 1,415 litres per cow and adding ForFarmers’ caustic wheat to the silage has increased rolling milk protein production by 0.07%. The herd, which is housed and calves all-year-round, is fed molassed glycol alongside ForFarmers’ Performance 16 up to 21 days post-calving, and then concentrate to yield through the robots. Amie carries out all the AI and cows are served using British Blue or sexed semen. “Beef-cross calves are sold, at around six weeks old, through the local market and we are aiming to produce all our own replacements in the future,” says Amie. “We are looking to breed a smaller cow compared to the traditional Holstein, which will better to suit our system.” Norwegian Red sires are currently being used to serve the larger Holsteins in the herd and Holstein bulls are used on the smaller crossbreds to get the ideal genetic

Grass silage: big bales are labelled according to the field where they were made

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cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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HEALTH MASTITIS

Curing mastitis –

thinking beyond the tube A change of tube can seem like the obvious solution when producers believe that mastitis cure rates are not up to scratch. But simply switching products is unlikely to be the answer to successfully tackling udder infection. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER

T

here are several factors that producers should take into account if mastitis cure rates dip – it’s not always about the tube. So says Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s vet Kath Aplin. “Working through a checklist of protocols with veterinary advice can significantly improve the efficacy of mastitis therapy, by identifying and addressing the cause of any problems. Simply switching tubes without doing this may not solve the problem.” Prevention is always the best way to tackle mastitis, but there will always be cases that require treatment – even on the best managed units. And there’s a lot more to treatment than simply selecting a tube and administering it. “So where producers are not seeing the cure rates they expect, carry out a mastitis treatment review. The first important step is to establish exactly what is going on. A few difficult-to-treat cases may leave the producer feeling that they’re not on top of mastitis. So it’s vital to take a look at the bigger picture,” says Mrs Aplin. “Look at your herd data – specifically at the number of repeat cases and also SCC scores in the first three months after treatment. If high SCCs are pro-longed or you’re seeing recurring cases, this could be indicative of an inadequate treatment protocol and warrants further investigation.” Mrs Aplin says that mastitis data must be accurately recorded and also easy to access: “Recording all cases of clinical mastitis via your milk recording organisation, such as NMR, makes analysis much easier and gives you

the bigger picture. It tells you what’s going on and that’s your starting point.” If cure rates are poor, the first question is often: ‘should I change to a different tube?’ “But the tube may not be the problem. How the tube is being used is often the real issue,” says Mrs Aplin.

Early detection Effective mastitis treatment begins with prompt and early detection. “The effort required will vary from herd to herd. If there’s a significant problem with mastitis, time spent on early detection during milking – in other words looking for clots in the milk – will be a sound investment. “But in herds with a low incidence of mastitis, other areas of cow management may take priority. Decide which camp your herd falls into and, if necessary, spend more time on foremilking and early detection. Prompt treatment will help to improve cure rates,” stresses Mrs Aplin. The next area to check is tube insertion. “Review the protocols that are in place once you’ve detected a case of mastitis and decided to treat it.” She says that much is, rightly, made of good hygiene practices when administering dry-cow therapy, but less so when it comes to treating mastitis in milking cows. “So a renewed focus on hygiene might be needed. Clean the teats with surgical spirit and cotton wool, just as you would if administering dry-cow therapy. And make sure that hands and gloves are also clean. This reduces the risk of introducing new pathogens to the udder.”

Mastitis treatment checklist • Mastitis detection protocol • Tube insertion protocol • How often? • NSAID use

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• Injectable antibiotic use • Treatment duration • Which tube?

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Mrs Aplin says that producers should also use the short ‘less invasive’ nozzle on the tube, if this is an option: “Again, this reduces the chance of introducing infection or damaging the keratin lining of the teat.” How often the treatment should be administered will depend on the tube. Some will require twice-a-day treatment and others just once a day. “Using a tube that’s licenced for once-a-day treatment potentially means that the cow is tubed fewer times. This should reduce the chance of introducing infection or of damaging the keratin lining of the teat, which could help to improve the cure rate, as well as saving time in the parlour.” She added that some producers will go ‘off label’ with a once-a-day tube and administer it twice a day, after each milking. “I think they fear that milking the cow removes the antibiotic treatment from the udder. But a product that’s licensed for use every 24 hours will disperse into the udder tissue and milking won’t reduce its efficacy. It will persist in the udder.”

NSAID protocol Something else to consider as part of an effective mastitis treatment protocol is administering a NSAID. Mastitis is a painful condition, so there’s also a welfare issue here – particularly in acute cases. And there’s evidence to show that using an anti-inflammatory alongside antibiotic treatment can improve cure rates. “Research has also shown that using a NSAID such as Metacam, which is licensed for use alongside antibiotics, to treat cows who develop mastitis in early lactation can also have a positive effect in safeguarding fertility,” says Mrs Aplin. If a case of mastitis is particularly severe – perhaps it’s been picked up late or the cow is showing other signs of systemic disease – then an injectable antibiotic may be recommended by the vet. “This is typically for cows that are ‘poorly’. She may be off her feed and running a temperature. It can help her to recover from infection more quickly and successfully.” How long to treat cows for is up for debate. “Veterinary

advice is essential – not just for prescribing which treatments to use, but also for how long. The length of treatment – or number of tubes required – to cure a case of mastitis will vary from cow to cow and according to the pathogens involved. And this is where knowing the herd, the farm and the bacteria involved are key. Is the mastitis environmental or contagious?

Complete cure “The latter usually requires more prolonged treatment for a complete cure. Other cases, particularly those caused by E coli, may require another treatment entirely. So always consult your vet and keep the pathology of your unit in mind,” says Mrs Aplin. So, finally, we get to the tube itself. “Following the mastitis treatment plan will help vets and producers determine if they’re using the best tube, in the best way, to cure their herd’s mastitis. “Changing to a different tube may be part of the solution – for example a change of tube may allow the optimal frequency and duration of treatment for the farm, without going ‘off label’. But, invariably, reviewing the treatment protocols sheds light on areas where techniques and husbandry need to improve. This can often solve a problem and put cure rates back on track,” she says. “So next time you see a dip in cure rates, work closely with your vet and avoid switching to a different tube as a hasty reaction. More often than not it’s the ‘how’ – not the ‘what’ – that offers the solution.” l

Kath Aplin: “How the tube is used is often the real issue”

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VETERINARY PRACTICE DEBBY BROWN Barnard Castle-based vet Debby Brown, who works for Dugdale Nutrition, takes a look at health and welfare issues that can affect dairy herds across the UK. This time she focuses on a nutrition-basedcondition that becoming more prevalent in UK herds.

Watch for

copper toxicity

Producers are very aware of copper deficiency and the problems associated with it. But they’re not so clued up when it comes to copper toxicity and it’s becoming a serious issue in some herds. I’ve recently seen several cases of copper ‘overload’ and the symptoms are very similar to those caused by copper deficiency. This is a problem because misdiagnoses of toxicity, and thinking that cows are actually deficient, leads to additional copper (Cu) supplementation, which simply exacerbates the problem. So, it’s vital that producers consult their vet and nutritionist and check copper levels in the cows’ diet. The optimum level is between 10ppm and 20ppm, with 30mg/kg of feed the maximum supplementation now permitted. Copper is stored in the liver. So, for a clear diagnosis, a liver biopsy is the way to go. Carrying out post mortem checks on a few cull cows will quickly confirm a suspected problem. Blood tests are not reliable because Cu levels tend to be high in samples if there is any inflammation, which there will be if cows are under stress, lame, or suffering from other diseases. The cases I’ve seen have manifested as poor fertility. Cow were bulling and milk yield, fat and protein were OK. But they were not holding to service. I’ve also seen a herd where cows ‘crashed’ after calving, exhibiting a high incidence of LDA and simply just failing to ‘getting going’ at the start of their lactation. Ironically, excessive supplementation is the result of producers becoming more aware of the impact of copper deficiency – and being too eager to avoid it. As a result, Cu builds up to toxic levels. Copper in the diet comes from mineral mixes and other concentrates and forages. It is often combined with copper in licks and boluses. The good news is that the liver will usually recover once copper levels in the ration are reduced, or completely removed for a period of time in the most extreme cases. The key to maintaining optimal Cu levels – so cows are neither deficient or overloaded – is to closely monitor levels in the ration and carry out an annual check.

Encyclopaedia: copper toxicity Cause Excessive copper supplementation in cow rations. Liver biopsy results typically reveal a copper level above 6,000µmol/kg DM.

Diagnosis Checking copper levels in the diet can be revelatory. Blood tests are not reliable. Liver biopsy will give a clear indication.

Symptoms Cows may be jaundiced and are more typically lethargic, dull, and have reduced intakes – but without the brown-tinge to their coats seen with Cu deficiency. An increase in production diseases and conditions, such as LDA, post calving may also be seen. Poor fertility is also typical.

Treatment In the first instance, remove copper from the cows’ diet entirely and then gradually add it back in at the recommended level to prevent deficiency or toxicity from occurring. Molybdenum can also be added to rations if signs are severe, as this helps to lock up Cu.

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BREEDING SERIES OVALERT

CRV Avoncroft, based in Kidderminster, is part of the global organisation CRV. This is the final part in a series of articles about CRV. Here we take a look at Ovalert.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

History and background information Unique features of CRV Breeding programmes worldwide Products and services: SireMatch Products and services: Ovalert

On watch

around the clock How can you keep a close eye on all your cows, particularly when your herd is expanding? CRV Avoncroft’s Ovalert detects and identifies health and fertility signals earlier and more effectively than the human eye and works 24 hours a day. TEXT INGE VAN DRIE

V

ery early in the morning or very late in the evening. These are the moments when most cows show signs of heat, according to US research. “Around 70% of bulling activity occurs at night – before 6am and after 6 pm,” says CRV’s global business development manager Joost van Kreij. And that is precisely when there are few, if any, people around to spot it. And, to make matters worse, heat duration is often short. “More than 30% of cows have heats that persist for ewer than eight hours. And half of this group will persist for fewer than four hours,” adds Mr van Kreij. This means that the chance of missing heat signals is

Joost van Kreij: “It’s like hiring an employee who works, meticulously, for 24 hours a day” 50

high. And this has significant consequences. “We know that cows with shorter heat duration have lower conception rates and that correct timing of insemination improves conception rates.” Better heat detection also offers other benefits. “Early and better detection of heat in heifers results in a lower age at first calving,” adds Mr van Kreij. “And this results in lower rearing costs.” Also, a shorter calving interval means that cows can, potentially, complete more lactations. Their lifetime production increases and replacement costs decrease.

Whole-herd performance Although heat detection is the first step to getting a cow or heifer in calf, the added value of a system like Ovalert is in the integration. “Heat detection has gradually become a commodity,” says Mr van Kreij. ”The true added value of Ovalert is integrated heat, health and feeding monitoring. There’s are a lot of benefits here. Producers can easily monitor the performance of the whole herd with this data.” For example, Ovalert gives an excellent view on the feeding pattern of the group. “It gives an overview per group on the percentage of animals eating simultaneously,” says Mr van Kreij. “This allows producers to see, easily, how precise their cows are being fed. Do they get their daily ration each day at 9am sharp? And how frequently is feed pushed up to the barrier? And how much feeding space is available?” All this data helps producers to fine-tune their feeding strategy, according to Mr van Kreij. “The more consistent the ration is, the fewer

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How Ovalert works HOW IT WORKS 3.

2. 4. 1.

5.

1. The TheSmarttag Smarttag registers the movement and The analysis can be viewed on and yourabnormalities in rumination pattern registers the movement and The collected data will 4. be transmitted to results or standing-lying behaviour or inactivity. behaviour of the individual animal.animal. Data Data collected the heart of de system: the smartphone, process con- tablet or behaviour of the individual PC. The system immediately

collected in the last 24 hours is stored in troller which continually analyses the data. in the last 24 hours is stored in the Smarttag. provides an alert relating to heat the Smarttag. Beacons in the detection, barn send signals to all tags current location the barn. The analysis results can beabnormalities viewed on yourin the regarding eating ortheir rumination patterninand smartphone, tablet or PC. The system When the animals are within the range of 2. When the animals are within the range of the abnormalities in standing-lying behaviour or inactivity. immediately provides an alert relating to the antenna, all data from the Smarttag is antenna, all data from the Smarttag is collected. heat detection, abnormalities in the eating collected.

5. Beacons in the barn send signals to all tags 3. The collected data will be transmitted to the heart of

regarding their current location in the barn.

de system: the process controller which continually analyses the data.

the fluctuations in rumen pH and the higher the utilisation of the feed. And that all results in higher milk production.” Mr van Kreij notes that the data charts or graphs often deviate during the weekend. “That can, of course, be the producer’s choice, but if not, then it is good that they become aware of these changes to feeding activity.”

Early indication Ovalert also records the behaviour of an animal – whether she’s lying, cudding, standing or walking. It also monitors changes in eating time, rumination time, or inactive behaviour. All are easily spotted, not only for an individual cow, but also for the entire herd or for specific management groups. “Changes in this behaviour could indicate that there’s something wrong with the animal and that she requires further attention,” says Mr van Kreij. Typical behaviour for a cow, each day, is to spend between 12 and 14 hours lying down, in 11 lying

periods. She’ll also take between 2,500 and 3,000 steps, spend between four and six hours eating, during between nine and 14 ‘meals’ or visits to the feed fence. And she’ll spend between seven and 10 hours ruminating each day. Using Ovalert, producers can easily check if their cows meet these typical goals. “For example, changes in the patterns can be an indication for health problems during transition, or for lameness,” adds Mr van Kreij. Cow positioning is one of the latest features of the system. “That’s particularly useful for producers using an automatic milking system. They can quickly locate cows that need attention or treatment by following their position on their cow-house map.” Ovalert is in use in several countries in Europe, but also in Brazil, the US and China. And it’s little wonder that producers, worldwide, are enthusiastic about the system according to Mr van Kreij. “It is like hiring an employee who works, meticulously, for 24 hours a day.” l

cowmanagement DECEMBER 2019

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CONTACTS CowManagement is published eight times per year by CRV BV, Publishing Department Editorial team Chief Editor Jaap van der Knaap Editor Rachael Porter Telephone: 01394 270587 E-mail: rachael@reporterjournalism.co.uk Editing, design and production CRV Publishing Contributing writers Emily Ball, Phil Eades, Roger Evans, Lauren Goringe, Allison Matthews, Inge van Drie and Karen Wright Publisher Rochus Kingmans

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Advertisements Nicci Chamberlin, NMR. Telephone 07970 009136 E-mail: niccich@nmrp.com Jannet Fokkert, Froukje Visser, Hilda van der Wal PO Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem, The Netherlands, E-mail: hilda.van.der.wal@crv4all.com

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Illustrations/pictures Photographs by Veeteelt Photography, Ruth Downing (8), Katharine Pankiewicz (11), Richard Stanton (16) and Mark Pasveer (29-30).

Disclaimer CowManagement does not necessarily share the views expressed by contributors. No responsibility is accepted for the claims made by advertisers. No responsibility can be accepted by CRV BV for the opinions expressed by contributors. Whlle every effort is made to obtain reliable and accurate information, liability cannot be accepted for errors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. Printer Stephens and George Ltd. Phone 01685 352097 ISSN 1570-5641

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