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N OVE M B E R 2019

Milk from forage: Focus on colostrum Soil and grass and early care tips and pointers to key to reducing boost productivity

to prevent calf mortality

GHG emissions


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Healthy cows = productive cows Take positive action on Johne’s

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Always discuss Johne’s surveillance requirements with your vet

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main article boost milk from forage

5 6 11 15 17 21 31

From the editor Cow talk Value added: mobile vending machine NMR Dairy Management News Roger Evans CRV Avoncroft Breeding Information ForFarmers Nutritional News/ Thompsons Nutritional News 45 Boehringer Ingelheim Health News 46 Events and contacts MAIN A RT IC L E

8 Five pointers to increase milk from forage REPORTS

12 Cheese puts Leicestershire-based herd on global dairy map 32 Meet two herds vying for Gold Cup glory FEEDIN G


Forage focus reaps rewards/Automated systems require careful management CA LF R E A RIN G SPE C IA L

8 special calf rearing

23 New-born care and dam nutrition

Gold Cup finalists


34 Manage soils to sequester carbon and reduce GHGs HEA LTH

38 Vaccination key to protecting calf health 40 Mapping the medicine-reduction route BREEDI N G

42 Investing in tomorrow’s milkers


to From newborn

24 first calving in







Ben Spence:

David Clarke:

“We decided to take the milk vending machine to the customers”

“Diverting more milk into cheese production was an easy decision to make”


.UK 22-10-19 11:10


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Focus on the

next generation It’s all about the next generation – both in this issue and our accompanying Young Stock supplement. We have our annual calf-rearing special, which takes a look at the steps that producers can take to reduce mortality rates in young calves to an absolute minimum. And supplementing the dry-cow ration with choline could be part of the solution, when it comes to giving the new-born calf the very best start possible. Turn to page 23 to find out more about the latest ideas and research. We also have the third article in our series on reducing the carbon footprint of dairying – even more topical following the recent climate change protests in London. The UK is already way ahead of other countries in terms of reducing emissions and tackling climate change – and that’s across all industries and not just agriculture. This time we look at how grassland – or more specifically soil – can be managed to sequester carbon and reduce GHG emissions. And, as with any increase in efficiency, there are cost

benefits for producers too – as well as environmental benefits. See page 34 to find out more. We meet the first two of this year’s six NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition finalists in this issue. These are two great units that are tackling issues, such as reducing antibiotic usage in a responsible way. Find out what else they’re doing, which also caught the eye of the judges, on page 32. We also feature an award-winning business on page 11 in this issue’s Added Value column. The North Yorkshirebased Spence family is selling milk direct to the public through a mobile vending machine. We caught up with them to find out more. Back to young stock, and Roger Evans offers his thoughts on why – and how – age at first calving has improved considerably since he began dairying. And – apparently – it’s all thanks to silage and moving away from mouldy hay. Read more on page 17.


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Energy boost for high yielders improves feed efficiency An energy boosting feed product, which has been proven to improve milk production, has been launched by Cargill Animal Nutrition. Turbopro is a blend of rumen protected B vitamins and palatability enhancers and, in trails, it has been shown to boost milk production by 1.8kg per day in early lactation and by 1.2kg per day in mid lactation. Added to minerals or in feed, the product is recommended for high-yielding cows producing more than 29 litres of milk per day in early- or mid-lactation. And its main function is to support glucose production in the liver. “Propionate is a fatty acid produced in the rumen that, in the liver, is synthesised into glucose,” says the company’s Philip Ingram.

“We know that 85% of gluconeogenesis occurs in the liver, and that glucose is the main energy source used in milk production. “So if the efficiency of this process is improved then there will be more energy made available for milk production.” Trials involving more than 1,000 dairy cows showed improvements in milk production where the product was added to diets of milking cows from early lactation. Results also saw an improvement of 1.2kg per day of milk in mid-lactation and did not significantly affect fat or protein production. The blend has been shown to provide a return on investment of 5:1, based on a milk price of 25ppl, or 6:1, based on a milk price of 30ppl.

Tackle parasites at housing to avoid losses Producers are being reminded of the importance of treating first- and second-season grazing heifers at housing for gutworms, as well as all infected cattle for fluke, to prevent problems getting out of control and causing production losses. West Sussex-base vet Maarten Boers, from The Livestock Partnership, says that using a knockout treatment for gutworms at housing for first season grazing cattle is important due to their lack of immunity to kill off the infective larvae, which can go on to have catastrophic consequences on their health and production. “They don’t have immunity to fight off worm infections in the same way that mature

cattle can. If you don’t treat them effectively at housing, then you will see production losses.” Mr Boers also recommends that producers test for fluke and, if in any doubt, to treat all ages of stock. But he also stresses the importance of using the correct product. “We still come across problems where producers have used a flukicide and it doesn’t solve the problem because, for example, it only kills mature larvae, but it is immature larvae they are trying to kill. So speak to your vet or SQP about which product is best to use.” Zoetis’ vet Dave Armstrong adds that both internal and external parasites must be accounted for at housing. Unless cattle are

covered by a previous treatment, they should be ‘cleaned out’ with a persistent product prior to housing to give them enough time for their immune systems to recover. Where mixed parasite burdens are an issue then using a product that contains moxidectin and triclabendazole, as a simple rain-fast pour-on, can provide a single-product solution. “The moxidectin gives five weeks cover against lung and stomach worms, aiding that smooth transition to housing and winter rations. And the triclabendazole in the pouron gives the greatest spectrum of activity against the different maturities of fluke of any pour-on.”

Increased vaccine use could help reduce antibiotic resistence The number of calves in the UK that are being vaccinated key diseases has risen to one of the highest levels in seven years. With use of vaccines key in a number of RUMA’s Targets Task Force goals for antibiotic use, published in 2017, this is a sign that UK producers and vets are engaging in a global effort to reduce antibiotic use and, therefore, antibiotic resistance. The analysis of data from Kynetec, contained in an AHDB report that will be released on October 29 to coincide with the RUMA biennial conference, shows that almost 10 million doses of vaccine were sold for use in cattle in 2018. AHDB’s head vet Derek Armstrong says that the significant rise has been in vaccines


to protect against pneumonia in calves, a condition many vets would otherwise end up treating with antibiotics. “Sales here have risen by 35% since 2011, with two fifths of animals receiving vaccinal protection in 2018. Vaccines for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis have also risen by 50% during the same period.” Mr Armstrong explains that the increasing trend for respiratory disease prevention is particularly relevant at this time of year as cattle head into the high-risk period around weaning and winter housing. “Preventing infection with good nutrition and ventilation, and appropriate vaccination, will also increase growth rates as animals won’t need to divert energy to fight off infection.”

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Improve FCE and boost margins Producers are being urged to keep a close eye on feed conversion efficiency this winter, with just a 0.1 change affecting milk yields by as much as two litres per cow per day. Alltech’s Louise Clarke says that many herds are not achieving the minimum target for feed conversion efficiency (FCE) of 1.5. “And this is contributing to an overall under-utilisation of feed inputs and, ultimately, lost profitability. She adds that the recent Alltech feed waste reduction and utilisation on-farm pilot study showed a wide variation in FCE across UK dairy units. “The average FCE was 1.2, while some high performing herds were reaching 1.7. It’s important to note that 1.7 is the maximum to aim for because beyond this cows could start milking off their backs.” Miss Clarke points out that many producers fail to routinely measure FCE and could be unaware of the impact that it may be having on business profitability. “It can be easily calculated by dividing the average litres per cow per day, corrected to

4.0% fat and 3.2% protein, by the total dry matter fed. This shows the kilogrammes of milk produced per kilogramme of dry matter fed.” She says that putting a monetary value against key sources of feed waste and underutilisation is important to support on-farm improvements, and this is something that Alltech’s new Navigate service has set out to achieve. “The assessment provides quantitative measures that help producers to identify key areas where improvements can be made,” explains Miss Clarke. “It assesses the whole feed process – from the field through to the cow – and FCE has been identified as an area that offers a high potential for gains, with savings of up to £113 per cow per year achievable.” Many factors can influence FCE, including ration balance and presentation and consistency, as well as the environment. Health and fertility are also key parameters that determine how well a cow utilises feed.

Dairy campaign scoops international award A UK dairy marketing campaign has won the International Milk Promotion Group Yves Boutonnat Trophy at the World Dairy Summit in Istanbul. The ‘Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs’ campaign, jointly funded by AHDB and Dairy UK, was chosen from a shortlist of three contenders, including the French and Swiss, as the best advertising campaign.

The campaign used humour to remind people of their love of dairy, focusing on taste, enjoyment and the moments that make life better. The promotional activity featured social media, on-demand TV, digital outdoor billboards, and cinema advertising. And the campaign was seen by 52.5 million people when it ran earlier this year. The campaign helped to reduce the number

of people cutting their dairy consumption, decreased their intention to consume plantbased substitutes, and increased the number of young parents who were certain to buy dairy products. More details of the campaign, including all of the previous advertisements, can be found at or on the Dairy UK YouTube channel

Brits take food safety for granted Two decades after some of the biggest food scares that rocked the nation – from salmonella outbreaks to BSE – eight out of 10 adults admit to taking food safety for granted, according to new research from YouGov commissioned by the Red Tractor Food Assurance Scheme. The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults looked at people’s concerns about the food they buy and how their confidence in UK produced food has been restored. The research also reveals a marked difference in the levels of trust between supermarkets and restaurants when it comes to food standards. In the survey 71% of UK adults said they were

confident that the food they buy from a supermarket has been produced to high standards and that they know where it comes from; compared to only half of people who feel confident about standards and traceability when eating out at a restaurant or café. Meanwhile, 76% of people admit that they take food being produced to high safety and food standards for granted. This increases to 79% for Londoners, who are least likely to be concerned about food safety. Red Tractor Assurance’s Jim Moseley said: “If people are now taking food safety for granted, then it demonstrates that we’ve been doing something right. “However, the success in driving up British

food standards must not be undermined by a potential influx of imported food produced to standards that are currently deemed illegal in this country, should we be faced with a no-deal Brexit. “There’s no more important time for people to recognise that not all food is produced to the same rigorous standards as the UK.”

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Take five and boost m The message is simple – make more milk from forage. But where do you start? And how can you break down this potentially daunting task into bite-size chunks, so you can manage changes and monitor progress? TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


ncreasing milk produced from forage, and boosting business profitability as a result, is achievable on most UK dairy units, according to Germinal’s Helen Mathieu. And probably one of the best ways of doing this is to pick out key areas of silage making where there’s potential for improvement and setting realistic targets. The results of a survey of 200 producers, carried out by Germinal and Volac, showed an overwhelming desire by producers to improve production from forage and kick start the stagnation in this critical benchmark seen in herd costings. In a joint initiative to help producers, the two companies launched their ‘Five for 500’ action plan, which focuses on five key areas that can each help to deliver an extra 500 litres from forage.

Forage target “Forage is the cheapest source of feed and herds with higher performance in this area are always highest

Peter Smith: “Taking a fresh approach will help many producers to make good progress” 8

ranked for profitability,” says Ms Mathieu. “So it’s not surprising that 98% of the producers we surveyed would like to improve their performance in this area. “The frustrating part, as shown in our survey, is that less than half of producers actually know what their milk from forage figure is, and fewer still have set themselves a target, despite declaring their desire to improve.” UK figures show that the top 25% of dairy herds are producing around 4,000 litres, or more, milk from forage. But the UK average milk from forage is half this – between just 2,000 and 2,500 litres from forage. “So there’s clearly great scope for improvement,” adds Ms Mathieu. “There’s been little movement in overall milk from forage, certainly during the past 10 years, so we’re recommending a fresh approach that we hope will help a good proportion of producers to make real progress,” says Volac’s Peter Smith.

Significant increase “Grass silage is the mainstay of the forage ration for many, so we’re recommending a focus on specific areas of its production where a significant increase in milk from forage is possible.” So, where to begin? “It was important to break down the process of increasing milk from forage into key stages so it’s not overwhelming,” explains Ms Mathieu. “And it allows producers to focus on one or two areas at a time. Each pointer could help to guarantee up to an additional 500 litres from forage.” Mr Smith also emphasises that each of these pointers must be simple to follow and execute. Before looking at the pointers for improving silage production, producers need a target for each stage. The survey showed that around two-thirds of producers are not setting themselves a milk-from-forage improvement target. “But for the one-third that are, most are targeting an additional 500 litres,” says Ms Mathieu. “This means that cows will need an extra eight megajoules per day from silage. So our recommended plan focuses on five areas within the grass silage making process where simple actions can make that extra energy available.”

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t milk from forage Point number one is to plan a forage budget. “Simple planning, based on the number of animals to be fed and target intakes and expected production per hectare, will ensure that the farm has enough silage of the right quality,” she says. “Planning, with contingency built in, could easily mean an additional 1kg DM/head of quality silage intake.” The second point is to assess the raw material in the field, which means having a clear understanding of the potential performance of each of the fields ear-marked for silage making. “Having this knowledge will allow the best decision making, and if that means a ley of higher quality ends up in the pit destined for the milking cow ration – as opposed to a poorer quality ley being ensiled – then that could raise the ME in silage by enough to make that significant difference,” says Ms Mathieu. Renovating or replacing leys routinely, to maintain productivity and quality, is the third action point on the list. There’s no question that the higher quality silage, in terms of ME produced per hectare, comes from leys with a high proportion of sown species. This translates into increased milk from forage. Mr Smith says that the fourth point of focus must be on reducing in-field losses – most notably by ensuring grass is cut for silage before it comes into head and by achieving efficient wilting. “Each day after grass has come into head it becomes less and less digestible, so its energy content for the cow declines.”

Wilt quickly “Similarly, the longer that grass is wilted, the greater the loss in its digestibility. The aim should be to wilt it as quickly as possible to 30% dry matter, but not much beyond that,” he explains. Last, but not least, is point five – to reduce ensiling losses. Using a quality additive has been proven to preserve silage quantity and quality. Analysis of 26 trials shows that the digestibility of an untreated silage could be increased by four D units, if it was treated. At a dry matter intake of 12kg per day, this is equivalent of an extra eight megajoules of energy.

‘Five for 500 litres’ from forage Plan your grass silage budget

• How many cows/young stock to feed? • What are target intakes? • Are you producing enough?

Assess grass yield and quality in the field

• What percentage of sown species remain? • Is soil nutrition/soil condition right? • Are weed populations excessive?

Improve grass yield and quality in the field

• Which fields to improve? • To renovate or fully reseed? • Are you using top RGCL varieties in a balanced mixture?

Reduce in field losses

• Are you mowing grass at optimum stage? • Are you mowing at the right time of day? • Are you maximising conditions for wilting?

Reduce ensiling losses

• Do you fully avoid soil contamination? • Is clamp compaction adequate? • Are you applying a proven additive?

“We’re also urging producers to calculate accurately just how much weight is needed for effective clamp consolidation,” adds Mr Smith. “It’s easy to underestimate this, but grass at 30% dry matter coming into the clamp – even at a normal 100 tonnes an hour – requires 25 tonnes of machinery rolling it.” Each of the points in the ‘Five for 500 litres’ action plan can contribute to the extra eight megajoules per cow per day. “We recognise that not all the points will apply in many cases, but we are in firm agreement that there will be few units that would not see gains from attention to detail in at least one of the highlighted areas,” adds Mr Smith. l

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Name Ben Spence Herd size 100 cows Adding value mobile milk vending


Milk on the moo-ve Milk vending machines are popping up on dairy yards across the UK, as producers attempt to add value to their milk and build stronger links with consumers. But what do you do if your farm is off the beaten track and there’s nowhere suitable to site a machine? “We decided to take the milk vending machine to the customers,” says North Yorkshire-based producer Ben Spence. He manages a 100-cow British Friesian herd, in partnership with his wife, Sam, his brother, Adam, and parents, David and Susan, at Aysgarth. And Ben says that they’d been looking at how to sell their milk direct to customers for some time: “Not least to try to add some value to the milk, particularly since the farm business has more people to support now.” Doorstep delivery required a huge capital outlay and a massive labour commitment. And the brothers also thought it was risky. “We liked the vending machine concept, but we knew it wouldn’t work because of our location. So we decided to take the machine to the consumers; to four different locations, seven days a week.” They secured a grant to buy the vending machine, as well as the horsebox that it’s housed and towed in. “It paid for itself in just a couple of months, so it was well worth the investment,” explains Ben, adding that sales average 100 litres a day. “Although just a fraction of our production is sold direct at £1 per

litre, the margin is so much bigger that we’re easily covering the cost of transporting and maintaining the vending machine.” It’s parked in four villages: Aysgarth, in the pub car park: Askgrigg, at the farm’s vet practice; Hawes, at the Wensleydale Creamery that buys the rest of the herd’s milk; and at West Burton, on a friend’s driveway. “We park it in Aysgarth and West Burton twice a week and once a week at Askrigg and Hawes. We know that people travel quite a distance to buy our milk and there’s a lot of passing tourist trade in the summer,” says Ben. They also operate a loyalty card system so regular customers can buy milk for a discounted price of 90ppl. Milk is sold in re-useable glass bottles. “Feedback from customers is that they like to buy milk in bottles with cream on top – like they did in the days of doorstep delivery. They also like the fact that the milk is locally produced.” Ben, Sam and Adam are also starting to make their own farmhouse Wensleydale cheese, which will be made from raw milk. Ben says that customers will pay a premium for cheese made from raw milk. “That’s still in the start-up stage, while we perfect the recipe and cheese-making process. Our goal is to process all our milk on farm and sell produce through the vending machine. But we’re taking it one step at a time.”

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Cheese exports put herd

on global dairy map Good breeding and high quality farmhouse cheese are both key ingredients to the success of one Leicestershire-based dairying couple. We spoke to them to find out more. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


t’s more than their impressive Holstein herd – with bloodlines that go back to the 1940s – that has put one dairying couple firmly on the map. Cheese – or more specifically their Sparkenhoe Red Leicester – is also key to success of this dairy business. David and Jo Clarke run their 150-cow herd and the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Company, which is not only renowned in the UK, but also across the pond. Sparkenhoe Red Leicester cheese is going down a storm in the US and Europe, and production and exports,


through Neal’s Yard Dairy, are increasing year on year. Cheese production began at Sparkenhoe Farm, which is based near Market Bosworth, back in 2005. “We started to think about a significant diversification back in 2001,” explains David. “We were running a B&B business at the time, as well dabbling in selling milkshakes at local shows. But we were looking for something ‘bigger’ – something that would offer better returns in the longer term. And we really wanted something that would add value to our milk.”

Gut feeling It all started with a chance conversation in his local pub with a friend. “He was reminiscing about the Red Leicester cheese he ate as a child and how it just didn’t taste the same today – that it wasn’t made the same way,” explains David. “It sparked an idea and I went home and announced that I was going to start making Red Leicester cheese.” He admits that, at the start, many people thought it was a bad idea. “But they were thinking about the anodyne

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COMPANY PROFILE name herd size average yield cheese produced SCC

William, Jo and David Clarke 150 cows, plus 140 followers 8,500 litres at 4.36% butterfat and 3.51% protein 45 tonnes of Red Leicester 120,000 cells/ml

Market Bosworth

and across the UK. Smaller quantities, around a tonne each, of two other cheeses – Bosworth Field (a Caerphilly-type cheese) and Battlefield Blue (a soft, blue Brie-type cheese) – are also made on farm. David and Jo’s son William returned from university to farm in 2017 and that was a factor in extending their range of cheeses. “Plus the fact that we’d just been through another period of low milk prices. It was consistently lower than 18ppl in 2016. So diverting more milk into cheese production was an easy decision to make.”

Flexible arrangement That said, David says that they will always sell some milk. “We’re not aiming to process all our milk. The arrangement with First Milk is flexible and serves our business well. Our buyer picks up as much or as little milk as we need them to, according to our cheese making schedule, and they have been brilliant.”

and bland Red Leicester that’s mass produced and sold throughout the UK. That’s not what I had in mind.” “We wanted to make a cloth-bound, hand-made product with raw milk – using the recipe that the farmhouse cheese makers from my friend’s childhood years would have used. I just had a gut feeling that it would work.” And he was right. Today the business makes 45 tonnes of Red Leicester each year and more than a third is exported to the US. “We’ve been across the pond, a few times, with Neal’s Yard Dairy, to meet the people who buy and sell our cheese and they really like the fact that our Red Leicester is handmade with raw milk in Leicestershire. It’s the only one that’s made this way.” In 2017, they also began making a blue cheese. “We were asked by a regular customer for a Stilton-type cheese. So we thought we’d give it a try. Again, this is made with raw milk, for differentiation, and for this reason it can’t be called Stilton.” The business now makes 20 tonnes of Sparkenhoe Blue, which is currently sold to existing customers in London

Cheese room: produce from the Clarke’s farm is exported to the US

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The cheese-making enterprise takes around two thirds of the milk produced by the herd. The remaining third is bought by First Milk. The herd was founded in the 1940s by David’s grandfather, Ron, and today there are 19 EX, of which nine are multiples, and 52 VG cows in the herd. It currently averages around 8,500 litres at 4.36% butterfat and 3.51% protein, with an average somatic cell count of 120,000 cells/ml. And, pedigrees aside, breeding does play a role in producing good cheese. “If there are certain traits that we think we need in the herd – either in terms of type or milk quality – we can select sires for that. I don’t need to move away from Holsteins. The quality of the cheese that we’re making is testament to the fact that what we’re doing works – why change that?” says David.

Dairy legacy He says that he’s been asked many times why he hasn’t switched to milking a breed that offers higher milk constituents, which are better suited to cheese making. “I just tell them that our cheese is some of the best in the world. So why risk changing that. And, also, three generations of my family have bred the cows that we milk today. And I think it’s important to preserve and continue that legacy.” The unit is also home to 140 head of young stock. “We used to run the heifers with a stock bull, but we now use sexed semen on the top 50% and run the remainder with a Hereford bull,” adds David. Although he’s retired, David’s father Charles still has an interest in the herd and business. And David’s wife,


Jo, and their son, William, are also key to the successful management and day-to-day running of the herd. The all-year-round calving herd is run on a conventional system, with cows grazed during summer. David’s breeding goals remain to prioritise good milk constituents and look for balanced type so cows are suited to having long and productive lives in the herd. Feed management has altered since cheese production began. “We hardly feed any soya in the ration now – protein sources are now predominantly field beans and barley. And it’s all grown within a five-mile radius of the farm. It costs more to produce milk on this ration, but the milk makes better cheese. So it’s worth it.” Pasture management is different too. “We’ve discovered that cows like dandelions. Most of our leys have a mixture of species now, including sorrel. These weeds/ herbs, which are fed all year round either at grazing or through haylage, actually contribute to the flavour of the milk and cheese.” The cows are also grazed as close to the dairy unit as possible, because David is aware that they’re in a TB hot spot. “If we were closed down with the disease, we’d be prevented from making cheese using raw milk. And we’d lose our USP. So it’s important to take every step possible against TB infection.” The business now employs 12 people – full- and part-time – across the dairy herd and cheese making enterprises. David says that his time is split three ways – managing the cows, making cheese and selling it. And Jo takes charge of running the farm’s tea shop and cheese counter. “Life’s certainly busy with plenty of variety. No two days are the same and there’s always too much to do. But we like it that way.” l

Pedigree bloodlines: the family is proud of the herd’s heritage

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Winner goes Dutch Signing up to the Uniform dairy management software on the NMR stand at the South West Dairy show led to Cornish dairy producer Andrew Griffin winning an expenses paid trip for two to Amsterdam. Andrew runs his 160-cow Holstein-Friesian herd, plus 130 followers, with his father NMR’s Cath Smith, Andrew Griffin, and Graham Nowell of Uniform Agri (right)

Raymond at Wheatley Farm, near Launceston. The all-year-round milking herd is fed a TMR with out-of-parlour feeders and he uses the Dairyplan herd management software for his 16:16 abreast parlour, which he links to Uniform. He’s found the Uniform app that’s on his mobile phone easy to use and really appreciates the immediateness of being able to look up individual animals while he’s out and among the cows. “I can see if a cow is on an action list for bulling or PD checking – or she’s coming up for drying off,” he says. “It’s all possible to do ‘on the go’.” And he can be confident that what he’s looking at on his Uniform app as he’s out and about is right up to date, thanks to real-time data. “Having everything linked and in real time saves a lot of work and duplication. I can also make passport applications through the program – everything is in one place.”

bovens bovens regel o

New account manager Bryan Radford is NMR’s new customer account manager in the south and east of England. He is responsible for customer services and for promoting NMR’s portfolio of services. Prior to joining NMR Bryan managed a 1,100-cow dairy business comprising four units and two young-stock units in Bridport, Dorset. He moved up to this role after three years as young-stock manager; a position he was well qualified for having been young-stock manager at Kemble Farms, Cirencester. Here he over saw all aspects of heifer rearing from birth to calving for the 700-head of stock.

Virus attack update At the point of going to press, NMR services are almost back to normal following the virus attack on its systems on Friday September 13. All systems were immediately shut down as a precautionary measure, and customers are assured there has been no breach of data, and that laboratory testing procedures remain robust. However, reporting procedures were affected, which prevented test results and recording data being processed and delivered back to customers and integrated with dairy software programmes, such as Herd Companion. This caused disruption to service provision, although temporary reporting systems were set up wherever possible to ensure key data reached as many customers – producers, and milk buyers – as possible. Acknowledging that NMR has been victim of an attack and following the advice of software security experts not to pay the ransom, NMR managing director Andy Warne has extended his apologies to all NMR customers. “I sincerely apologise for the interruption to our services in recent weeks,” he says. “I would like to thank all our customers for their continued patience as we continue to work on the recovery of our systems and complete the backlog of testing and reporting.” NMR has benefitted from the input of external experts who are reviewing its backup recovery processes and making recommendations for improvements.

Bryan Radford

GeneTracker dates

Andy Warne

“Our investigation into the source of the virus continues with the help of three different expert consultancies, each focussing on different areas relating to the cyber security, and the National Cyber Crime Security Centre. The police are also involved. “We are confident that our systems will now be more robust as a result of changes made in recent weeks. And we will remain focussed on system security and data protection across our business,’’ adds Mr Warne. NMR continues to publish updates on its web site and customers can also contact customer services on 03330 043 043, or the field staff, or by email: Nordic Star: Customer Services: Software Support:

The next genomic sample submission and results dates for NMR GeneTracker are: • November 21, results on January 8, 2020 • December 20, results on February 5, 2020

Diary 2020 The dairy industry’s top herd management diary 2020 edition is for sale at £30 plus VAT, including postage, from NMR field managers or from NMR Customer Services (see below).

For more information on NMR products and services contact customer services: 03330 043 043, email:

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Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans remembers the ‘bad hay’ days and three-year-old heifer calving

We’ve come

a long way, baby The editor said that this issue would shine a spotlight on calf rearing. And this got me thinking – how did two-year-old calving become the norm and, more importantly, how did three-year-old calving become the norm before that? There are probably a lot of reasons, but in my experience the biggest factor was hay. Most producers went into the winter with a mixture of some good hay, some indifferent hay, and some really bad hay. The latter was, traditionally, fed to dry stock or, in many cases, the heifers. I can remember one farmer saying to me, when I congratulated him on making all his hay successfully: “The trouble is, I haven’t got any bad hay to give to the heifers.” I asked: “Why can’t you give them some good hay – you have plenty.” “That would be a waste, you can’t give heifers good hay,” was his reply. So, back then, you couldn’t give heifers good hay, but there was no limit to how bad it could be. I worked for a relief milking agency, mostly based in Wales, for 12 months. Most farms didn’t grow corn so their heifers only had bad hay to eat and there were no cereals to supplement their diet. I particularly remember feeding one group of yearlings and the hay was so mouldy you couldn’t part the wads. If you didn’t know it was hay you would have thought it was tightly packed, mouldy cardboard. The heifers only ate it because they didn’t have anything else. You wouldn’t be allowed to keep heifers like that today. And you wouldn’t want to. I was at an age when I couldn’t care less about anything, but it did cross my mind that I shouldn’t really be breathing in all those spores – and ‘health and safety’ was yet to be invented. My conclusion thus far is that heifers were calved at three years old because their winter diet was so poor that it took that long to get them to a decent size. Silage was the biggest single step forward. It took these animals from a diet that wouldn’t maintain them to one that would allow them to actually grow. We are not supposed to feed silage bales in round feeders outside, because of the mess they make. But the ability to do that was one of the biggest steps forward in terms of welfare that we ever made. We’ve come a long way since then and sometimes you need to remind your self just how far, by remembering where you started from.

“It did cross my mind that I shouldn’t really be breathing in all those spores”

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Forage focus

reaps rewards Developing a simple, lower-cost system is helping one Cumbria-based dairy herd to build a sustainable and efficient business that’s fit for the future – and the next generation. TEXT EMILY BALL

R Crossfell Farm in the Eden Valley


educing cow numbers and producing more milk from high quality home-grown forages are part of Michael and John Metcalf’s long-term succession plan to reduce costs and simplify the system at Crossfell House Farm, Kirby Thore, Cumbria. Michael and Anne Metcalf farm in partnership with their son, John, and his partner Heidi, on their 202-hectare farm, in the Eden Valley. Currently, 180 cows are milked at the unit though two Lely robots, with a small group of freshly calved heifers still going through the parlour. “During the past three years we’ve brought milking numbers down from around 300 cows to 180, with the aim of creating a unit that can be run by two people and only requiring some extra help with calf rearing and relief milking when necessary,” explains Michael.

“This was part of a policy of reducing inputs required for the farm and better utilising what we produced – forage, grain and slurry. We’ve also diversified our business and now sell freshly calved heifers every month, so parlour training them is an advantage.”

Multi-cut silage Michael and John work closely with ForFarmers’ forage technical manager Gary Sanderson, and after some lengthy discussions they decided to adopt a multi-cut silage system in order to improve milk from forage. Although Michael was sceptical to begin with, he soon changed his mind when the benefits of a multi-cut approach became apparent during the dry summer of 2018.

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“We started early with our first cut, on May 10, and then had time to take a decent second cut before conditions got too dry,” he says. “We then took a third cut to feed to dry cows, even when we knew it was going to be poor quality, and then followed that with a high-quality fourth cut. In a year when so many producers struggled with both quantity and quality, we had no issues. “That said, we do have a strict policy of making sure that sheep leave the farm by the December 20. This is to allow enough time for regrowth for first cut and to ensure that no areas are grazed too hard,” he adds.

Clear target This year the Metcalfs took their first cut even earlier than the previous year, in the first week of May, and had a clear target of cutting every 30 days. “We worked within a range, from 28 to 35 days, and were able to get all our cutting done in this window this summer. Grass yields were good again and we only needed to take four cuts. We cut 110 hectares for first cut, but took 20 hectares out for dry cows for the second and third cuts, before returning to our original area for the fourth and final cut. “Having a good relationship with our contractor, who knows how to work in a multi-cut system, is crucial,” adds Michael. “We also leave a grass stubble of between 60mm and 70mm for quick regrowth and never wilt the grass for more than 24 hours.” Gary, who is a BASIS and FACTS qualified agronomist, has worked closely with Michael to recommend the best leys to flourish under a multi-cut system and to provide the high-quality silage needed. “All land is in an arable rotation – with grass, wheat and winter barley – and this means that no ley is more than three years old and grass leys are treated as a crop,” says Gary. “We put a grass mix together for the Metcalfs, comprising 40% festulolium, with the rest being made up of late heading hybrids and intermediate perennial ryegrasses. The mix provides grass with high dry matter yields and good digestibility and it copes well with being frequently cut.” Silage analysis has shown consistently good results across the four cuts, with an average ME of 11.5MJ/kg DM, a D value of 76 and an average dry matter of 32%.

“Encouraged by Gary, we’ve worked hard to change our mindset from looking at the amount of silage in the clamp to think about the tonnes of dry matter in the clamp,” says Michael. “After all, that’s what drives good results.”

Improved yields Two years ago yield per cow stood at 8,200 litres and now with the robotic system, which was installed in the summer of 2017, the herd is on target to average 11,000 litres by Christmas, with the aim of reaching 50% from forage. This is an improvement that Michael feels is due in no small part to increased forage quality. The Metcalfs see Gary as part of their team and it was after discussion with him that they began to look at utilising slurry more efficiently and put a nutrient management plan in place. “All soil is tested on a fiveyear rotation and we now test slurry regularly, so that I can work out what we’ll be getting from slurry and where the gaps are,” explains Gary. “This way we can make much better use of what is produced on farm and reduce the amount of bought-in inputs.” He adds that, prior to this, the Metcalfs had been applying between 150kg/ha and 160kg/ha of nitrogen on to silage ground for first cut. In 2018 this fell to around 100kg/ha plus 40kg of sulphur, with relative reductions for subsequent cuts. By preparing a nutrient management plan each year, and balancing phosphorous, potassium and sulphur applications, Gary has been able to reduce purchased fertiliser inputs and substantially increase dry matter yields. This autumn, Michael will take delivery of contract grown maize from Cheshire and, in the 2019/20 season, the plan is to try growing maize. “Next year, if all goes to plan and cows are fed more tonnes of dry matter from grass and maize, the unit should be able to free up about 300 tonnes of wheat to sell. This will be another valuable stream of income for the business. “Our aim is to drive milk production from the high-quality feed we can grow ourselves, by making the best use of our inputs,” says Michael. “We’ve been able to reduce the amount of concentrate we purchase and should soon be in a position to sell some of our cereals off farm.” l

Left: ForFarmers’ Gary Sanderson and Michael Metcalf Right: Grass mix includes 40% festulolium, as well as late heading hybrids and intermediate perennial ryegrasses

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Jacuzzi ancestor produces 10 tonnes of fat and protein Veneriete Sylke, foundation cow of Delta Jacuzzi, has passed the 10,000kg of fat and protein milestone. In September 2019, she reached a lifetime production of 118,262kg of milk, at 4.88% fat and 3.58% protein, in 4,079 days. Veneriete Sylke (O Man x Webster x

Cash) was bred from the Etazon Hyde family of Veneriete Holsteins in Kampen (the Netherlands). She calved for the first time at the Delta test farm in Kollumerpomp. During her first lactation she moved to the farm run by Ad and Mirjam Westeneng in Kockengen. “She has been the boss of the herd up to an old age,” says Ad. Through her daughter Delta Jacoline, Sylke exerted a lot of influence on CRV’s breeding programme. Delta Bonaparte and Delta Antidote, Sylke’s grandsons out of Jacoline, are well-known daughter-proven breeding sires. But a few generations later we also come across famous descendants of Sylke. Sylke’s granddaughter Jarmila (daughter of Delta Jacoline) is the great granddam of Delta

Warm welcome Are you visiting AgriScot on November 20? If so, we’d like to welcome you to the CRV Avoncroft stand. Drop by and grab a cup of coffee. • November 20: AgriScot, Edinburgh

Jacuzzi. Sylke’s performance shows many similarities with Delta Jacuzzi’s breeding values, including a high milk inheritance with an exceptionally high fat content and a good protein content. Delta Jacuzzi is currently the most popular CRV Avoncroft sire.

Feed-intake data collection will gather pace in 2020 CRV will begin measuring the feed intake of individual cows at additional three farms in 2020. Including the existing facilities, the breeding organisation will, from next year, have the capacity to record feed intake data from 1,600 cows per year. The measuring equipment was installed at a 900-cow unit in the northern part of the Netherlands in September. And another two herds will have equipment installed this autumn. In addition to feed troughs, these farms also receive units for measuring water intake and weighing stations for cows. The feed intake project started two years ago at the Alders’ farm, based in Overloon. The

data collected is used, among other things, for the calculation of marker breeding values for feed efficiency. CRV expects the reliability of this breeding value to rise to 60% in the next five years. According to breeding specialist and project leader Pieter van Goor, the CRV project is the only one of its kind in the world. “From the measurements taken from the Alders’ herd, we know that the feed conversion efficiency between cows varies from 1.2 to 1.8kg of milk per kilogramme of dry matter. By improving feed efficiency, we expect to see a cost of production reduction of 1.7ppl of milk.”

Dutch lifetime production soars by 1,200 litres A huge leap forward in the lifetime production achieved by Dutch cows has been revealed in the 2018/2019 financial year. Compared with the previous financial year,

lifetime production rose by 1,210kg of milk and 96kg of combined fat and protein. This is the first time that such a significant difference has been shown in two consecutive financial years. Dutch cows now have an average lifetime production at culling of 31,553kg of milk, at 1,371kg of fat and 1,120kg of protein. A combination of a longer productive life and higher milk production is behind this increase. During the 2018/2019 financial year, Dutch dairy cows produced an average of 9,155kg of milk, with 3.59% protein, resulting in 723kg of fat and protein. This performance continues

the trend of increasing milk production and a higher percentage of protein. And the positive trend for fertility has also continued. The Dutch average calving interval now stands at 407 days, a decrease of two days compared with the previous year.

For more information on products and services of CRV Avoncroft: phone: 01562 861582

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• AgriScot 2016 Product Innovation Winner • Lamma 2017 Product Innovation Runner-up • UK Dairy Day 2017 New Product Special Mention

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With just a few drops of milk you can: • Find non-pregnant cows as early as 28 days post-insemination

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“The test is a very good management tool. It helps veterinarians to concentrate more on herd health and invest their time on the farm in a more efficient way.” Mr and Mrs Phillips, 184 cows

Contact your Milk Recording Organisation or visit


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CALF REARING 24 New-born care Tips to improve calf health and reduce mortality rates.

26 Dam nutrition Choline supplementation offers both cow and calf benefits.

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Maximising calf health and minimising mortality With around 8% of calves either still born or dying within 24 hours of birth, we share some tips and pointers on early care. Giving them the best possible start will maximise calf health and reduce mortality. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT


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any producers would get a shock if they looked at the mortality statistics for calves from birth to 24 months old, according to SRUC vet Colin Mason. Speaking at Cargill’s recent seminar on the ‘myths of calf rearing’, he pointed to statistics that show that nearly 8% of calves are still born, or die shortly after birth, and 3.4% die between a day and a month old. He attributes these mortality rates, and much of the variation in growth rates seen in calves, as a direct effect of a poor start in life and the disease challenge they face. “See what’s happening out there,” he says, referring to work carried out by Bristol Vet School. It shows a range in growth rates for dairy heifers, from birth to two-years old, that range from 0.58kg LW per day to 0.75kg LW per day. “Pneumonia and scours are the main challenge we face,” he adds. “A survey of dairy farms, reported by the Royal Veterinary College, shows that 46.5% of calves were affected by pneumonia and 48% were affected by scour. We should establish what is acceptable here. Pneumonia treatment rates in the top quartile of rearing herds are less than 30%, which might be considered a good target, but I would like to see this a lot lower.” He adds that calves encountering a slow or difficult birth are more prone to disease. “And if they are starved of oxygen then there will be a build up of lactic acid in the new-born calf that will affect vigour, heart and lung function, and its ability to suck and absorb colostrum. “It is essential that calves receive the required immunoglobulins from colostrum within six hours of birth to protect them from disease – what’s known as passive transfer of immunity.”

Adequate protection US data suggests that 20% of calves experience failure of passive transfer of immunity. And 40% of calf mortality is associated with failure of passive immunity. “So teasing out the important factors on farm that contribute to this will allow corrective measures and monitoring to be carried out, to ensure calves have adequate protection in the early stages,” Mr Mason says. Examples of this include the importance of colostrum cleanliness and of ensuring that collection and storage facilities are scrupulously clean. “If the equipment or colostrum itself is contaminated during handling and storage, its quality can be compromised,” he adds. “In a study on Irish dairy units, more than 50% of colostrum had total bacterial counts above the recommended level.” Mr Mason says that calving pen cleanliness is another important area in maintaining calf health. “We encourage producers to make enough space available – 1.25m² per 1,000kg of average milk production is ideal – so cows and their new-born calves have plenty of space. And these should be well bedded and cleaned out every two weeks, depending on the herd’s calving pattern.” The issue of snatch calving is a point of debate, but

Colin Mason: “Deep bedding is important – ensure that the calf’s legs are not visible” it may be required to reduce the risk of disease transmission – certainly where Johne’s disease or Salmonella are an issue. “In fact, a number of trials have shown that snatch calving at six hours or so leads to less vocalisation and looking for the dam or calf, than taking the calf away between one and four days old. “There’s a growing body of evidence of a distinct advantage to calf health by snatching calves earlier and before they form a bond with the dam.” Health challenges can still account for significant losses – around 3.5% – in calves aged between one and 15 months old. “Environmental factors can play a part in young calves.”

Social stresses Clean, dry, draft free and well-ventilated housing is required to keep calves healthy, and it’s also important to avoid cold stress, because the calf will divert energy to maintenance rather than growth. “Small modifications such as keeping pens separated from an outer wall and solid partitions plus deep bedding – enough to ensure that the calf’s legs are not visible – will keep calves warm and comfortable. Calf jackets are becoming increasingly popular for the colder months.” Social stresses can also affect calf health. Stress levels can increase when calves are moved and put into new groups, or the feeding regime is changed. All can make the calf more susceptible to disease. “Although we know that the longer a calf is in isolation, the slower it is to adapt to a feeding system, and that feed intakes are better in groups of calves, this has to be balanced with the disease risk,” says Mr Mason. l

Tips to maximise calf health • Calf health starts before birth • Colostrum quality and timing is crucial • Reduce rumen drink • Maximise colostrum hygiene • Ensure calving environment is clean • Consider the effect on health of calf housing, environment, social stresses

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Choline research

reveals calf health benefits

In addition to improving lactation performance and metabolic issues in dairy cows, supplemental choline can also offer benefits to the unborn calf. We spoke to a nutritionist to find out more about this on-going research. TEXT ROLY MARKS


eeding choline during the transition period is growing in popularity, as producers recognise the significant benefits for early lactation performance and cow health. However, on-going research is also revealing additional benefits for calf rearing that have farreaching implications. Mirroring discoveries within human-nutrition research, the impact that choline has on calf growth and immunity is significant, with

Derek McIlmoyle: “Choline supplementation has multi-generational effects” 26

knock-on benefits for future lactation performance and longevity. “We’re at the start of research that’s looking into the benefits of supplementing cows with choline and we’re likely to see a steady release of more data during the next few years,” explains AB Vista’s Derek McIlmoyle. “A recent set of trial result, for example, show that calves born to choline-supplemented cows were 13kg heavier at 12 months of age, despite starting from a lower birth weight – easier calving being another benefit – while also showing improved immune response.”

Independent research The first part of the trial, carried out at the University of Florida, involved 59 Holstein heifer calves born from dams that had either been fed a standard transition ration, or the same ration supplemented

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with rumen-protected choline (ReaShure). Supplementation started three weeks prior to calving and the results were a significant improvement in both calf growth (see Table 1), and calf immunity, which was based on predicted antibody (IgG) absorption from colostrum (28.1% versus 21.8%). The results from this study are backed up by earlier research that measured colostrum quality. Cows supplemented with rumen-protected choline precalving produced a similar volume of colostrum to those not receiving choline (9.9 vs. 8.5kg per day), but colostrum quality – in terms of IgG concentration – was significantly greater (see Figure 1).

Immune response The impact of this potential improvement in calf immune status was tested in a second trial, using the 38 Holstein bull calves born to the cholinesupplemented and unsupplemented cows. At between 19 and 24 days old, each calf was exposed to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a compound found in the cell walls of pathogenic bacteria like E coli and known to trigger internal immune response. “The trial found that calves born to the cholinesupplemented cows had increased concentrations of key white blood cells,” Dr McIlmoyle explains. “It’s a response you’d expect from a more mature immune system, with a greater capacity to respond to disease threats. “The calves also had a higher glucose status and lower levels of blood ß-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and fatty acids, indicating improved metabolism and fewer nutrients going towards fighting disease and inflammation.” The overall result was an even greater difference in growth rate after the LPS was administered (see Figure 2).


no choline

birth 2 months (weaning) 12 months

40.4 76.7 322

–2.1 +0.7 +13

* Fed as ReaShure at 60g/cow/day for three weeks pre- and post-calving

choline are delivered to the foetus across the placenta, with choline concentration in amniotic fluid ten times that found in maternal blood. “Choline is an essential nutrient that can be synthesised by the cow, but is always in deficit during early lactation – the demand for choline by the liver to convert body fat into available energy is just too great,” says Dr McIlmoyle. “As a result, supplementation with rumen-protected choline through transition is becoming increasingly well recognised as a way to improve peak yield and lactation persistency.” Research at the University of California-Davis has also highlighted the ability of rumen-protected choline to lower the incidence of metabolic issues, such as: clinical ketosis (11.3% to 4.0%); mastitis (22.5% to 14.8%); and displaced abomasums (4.5% to 2.3%).

Lactation performance

Human-research studies have also been highlighting the important role choline plays. It’s both an essential compound in various metabolic processes and a key component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is an important messenger compound in the central nervous system. And studies have found that large amounts of Figure 1: Impact of choline supplementation on colostrum quality (source: University of Florida)

Figure 2: Effect of choline-derived improvement in immune response on Holstein calf growth







80 60

bodyweight (kg)

lgG concentration (g/L)

38.3 77.4 335


Table 1: Positive effect of pre-calving choline supplementation on Holstein calf growth

With clear indications now emerging that cholinesupplementation during the transition period can also positively impact the calf, interest is likely to increase even further, according to Dr McIlmoyle. “Faster growing, more robust calves will also be larger at calving – or reach target weight sooner – with knock-on effects for subsequent lactation performance and longevity in the herd. “Given the immense stress young calves are under, due to both environmental pressures and group housing, it should be no surprise that cholinederived improvements in immune status produce better calf performance. “Choline supplementation has multi-generational effects that we’ve not previously considered, with important implications for overall herd profitability. It’s definitely an area of research that needs to be closely followed.” l

Multi-generational benefits

liveweight (kg) +choline*

40 20 0 control


60 50 40 30

2 wks after LPS

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True value of slurry

French trip to broaden supplement knowledge Ten ForFarmers staff spent three days this autumn at the headquarters of Valorex, the company that makes Lintec, in France, studying the natural potential of oil and vegetable seeds in ruminant feed. Lintec is a linseed feed supplement, high in omega-3 fatty acids, that has been proven to aid fertility in dairy herds, as well as improve cow health and milk production. Using a specific strain of linseed that has been thermoextruded, the supplement provides a unique dairy feed that benefits not only the fertility,

but also the overall performance of dairy herds. The group visited four local dairy units, as well as the INRA goat research centre. They had the opportunity to discuss tools and strategies to improve milk production while, at the same time, supporting health and fertility. The trip concluded with a tour of the company’s production facilities and a presentation on fatty acid nutrition and its benefits to dairy cows. For more information about Lintec contact your local account manager, visit or call 0330 678 0982

Utilising more slurry should be considered, but only if its nutrient value has been measured. Slurry is a good source of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), but any losses during storage need to be considered. If purchasing fertiliser, 50kg of a 5-5-30 fertiliser would be equivalent to 4.5m3 of slurry. The time of year that slurry is applied can affect its nitrogen value. Slurry applied in summer, or in dry and hot conditions, will reduce N value by 1.5kg/4.5m³. But P and K values are not affected. It is important to remember that a slurry might equal 50kg of 5-530 in the spring, but it could be 2-5-30 in the summer. Slurry with a thick consistency, and has not had rainwater or yard washings added, will typically be between 6% and 8% dry matter (solids). If diluted, the P and K will be also be diluted as will the fertiliser value. So, where slurry is between 3% and 4% dry matter (more watery), the value of 4.5m³ will be reduced to be equivalent of 50kg of 5-3-15 in terms of N, P and K. A 30% dry matter silage crop will remove 2.1kg of P and 7.2kg of K per tonne of fresh grass. So targeting slurry on silage ground makes good sense. But slurry is not ideally balanced in terms of P and K for grazing, because typically more K will be applied than is required. Analysing your slurry before utilising it will assess its value, as well as reviewing your total fertiliser requirements. Treating your slurry with a bacteria treatment during storage can also help reduce N losses by up to 50%.

‘Drivers for margin’ road show With AHDB figures showing that the UK’s top dairy herds are achieving 12ppl more margin than those at the bottom, ForFarmers is inviting producers from across the country to attend one of a series of ‘Drivers for Margin’ meetings. The meetings will examine what the key drivers for success are and how they can affect a dairy business. Speakers, including James Hague from ForFarmers, and Richard

Miller from NMR, will discuss feeding for margins, driving a herd’s genetic potential, and maximising milk production from homegrown forage. Complimentary refreshments will be provided. For information about dates and venues in your area visit events/roadshow, contact your local account manager, or call 0330 678 0982

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Meet two herds, vying for

Gold Cup glory

The Firm of A Harvey, Drum Farm, Beeswing, Dumfries HERD FACTS System Farm size Herd size Calving interval Feed regime Average yield SCC Milking Milk buyer

all-year-round calving 240 hectares 350 Holstein Friesians (310 in milk), plus 225 young stock 400 days TMR and topped up in parlour 13,643kg of milk at 3.80% fat and 3.13% protein 72,000 cells/ml three times a day Lactalis Stuart, Margaret and John Harvey

Testament to the dedication of the Harvey family to their pedigree Killywhan Holstein herd, which is based at Drum Farm in Beeswing near Dumfries, is their place in the Gold Cup for the fourth time. The focus for brothers John and Stuart, and their mother Margaret, has always been on healthy, high-production cows, optimising cow comfort, nutrition, health and welfare. The herd has taken the top position in the NMR Holstein ranking for milk solids production for four out of the past five years. The herd is permanently housed except for one group of around 100 mid-lactation cows, which is turned out to graze at the end of May, if conditions are suitable. The unit’s 225 head of young stock also graze during the summer.

Field beans

A TMR, fed to the milking herd, provides maintenance plus 36 litres, and is silage based with wholecrop wheat also included to provide the NDF the cows require. They now grow field beans as an alternative protein to reduce their reliance on imported soya meal through the winter. This has the added advantage of providing a good break crop for the wheat. A more recent focus has been on mastitis management and they have used a vaccine to prevent E coli mastitis for the

past three years. This has reduced the number and severity of mastitis cases, as well as the percentage of cows with a somatic cell count greater than 200,000 cells/ml. Mastitic cows are now rare on this unit. Working closely with their vet, Roddy Dunse of Dunmuir Vet Group, selective dry cow therapy has been also adopted for the past 18 months. Only 30% of the herd now receive antibiotics at drying off. They’ve seen a clear advantage to udder health in the subsequent lactation when a cow receives only sealant. The herd at Drum Farm has been closed for 30 years. They stopped using conventional black-and-white semen on the cows three years ago and switched to Aberdeen Angus for the majority, with only the top 10% of the cows and 90% of the maiden heifers being served with sexed black-andwhite semen. They look to breed a well-balanced, long-lasting cow that’s not too tall or extreme. Beef calves go to a rearer at around three weeks old and there are no corners cut when it comes to heifer rearing, to make sure they achieve 24-month calving. “It’s an integral part of the business,” says John. “These animals are the future of our business. The quality of our stock is well recognised locally, with surplus animals selling readily – and often to repeat buyers.”

What the judges say “The Harveys show a real understanding of managing cows for overall performance with a special emphasis on cow health. They really grasp the importance of reducing antibiotic usage and they have a clear strategy for the future; looking at possible investments in renewable energy and staff accommodation.”


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We profile two of this year’s six NMR RABDF Gold Cup finalists from Scotland, who are hoping their name will be in the frame when the 2019 winner is announced at Dairy-Tech on February 5, at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Judges are RABDF chairman Peter Alvis, NMR chairman Trevor Lloyd and 2016 Gold Cup winner Simon Bugler.

Robert Sloan, Firm of Bryce Sloan, Auchinleck, Ayrshire HERD FACTS

Robert and Bryce Sloan

Robert Sloan has worked closely with his father in some major business developments during the past two decades. He now runs the Townlaw Holstein herd with his parents Bryce and Anne. His wife Emma is responsible for the farm’s accountancy software. In 2011 they switched to robotic milking, in a new purposebuilt shed on a greenfield site, on the farm. This enabled cows to be milked more frequently and eased the pressure on labour. Now, a team of three, along with the family, run the unit. Staff work up to 50 hours a week – but rarely more than four and a half days a week – giving them time to pursue their own interests and have time off. Another major change took place in 2016 when they took the opportunity to fulfil a specialist Jersey milk contract from milk buyer Graham’s Dairy and established Darnlaw Jerseys. These 60 cows are run as a separate herd and milked twice a day through the original parlour. To accommodate the Jerseys, Holstein numbers were dropped from 220 to 180. In 2018, the Holstein herd had eight 100-tonne cows, a replacement rate of 19% and an average lifetime yield of 46,000kg. It was placed first on combined production and inspection in the Scottish herds competition. Cow cleanliness is a top priority. A Clusterflush system

System Farm size Feed regime Milk buyer:

all-year-round calving 205 hectares TMR and topped with concentrate via the robots Graham’s Dairy

Herd size Average yield SCC Calving interval

Holsteins 180 cows 11,980kg, 3.99% F and 3.13% P 116,000/ml 427 days

Jerseys 60 cows 7,115kg at 6.02% F, 4.01% P 79,000/ml 394 days

operates in the parlour with Pura steam on the robots to prevent cross contamination. As part of their herd health programme, and with E coli being a threat, cows are vaccinated for mastitis. Both herds are fed a silage-based TMR and topped up to yield during milking. First-cut grass silage – 134 hectares in total – provides enough to feed all the cows all year.

Extended lactations

When selecting sires, priority is given to positive components, fertility indexes and high sire conception rate figures, due to the increased use of sexed semen across both herds. “The robotic system allows us to run extended lactations on certain Holstein cows,” says Robert. “Long, level lactation curves are a key component to cow longevity, and our breeding decisions and rations are formulated to encourage this.” Providing a regular income stream are pedigree cattle sales, both Holstein and Jersey, which account for 15% of income and in 2018 were equivalent to more than 6ppl. The Jerseys are usually sold as in-calf heifers, served to a polled Black Limousin bull. Holstein heifers are sold freshly calved and there is an increasing demand for robot-trained cattle.

What the judges say “The Sloans have developed a forward-thinking dairy business with a flexible approach to staffing. They also understand the importance of a good working relationship with their milk buyer. And they’ve invested well in technology and systems to meet new challenges.”

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Here, in the third of a series of five articles, we take a look at how producers can manage soil and grassland to reduce GHG emissions and what this means for dairy businesses and the environment.

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

Manage soils to sequester carbon

and cut emissions

The importance of reseeding leys has been drilled into producers for the past few years. But as producers come under increasing pressure to reduce GHG emissions, that advice requires a more considered approach. We spoke to two leading dairy scientists to find out more. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


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eseeding exposes the top soil to the atmosphere and carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, will be released into the atmosphere. However, reseeding is essential to maintain grassland quality and productivity. The environmental impact could be reduced, though, if we can take advantage of grass varieties and ley mixtures that can reduce GHG emissions, or more specifically methane, from the rumen. This can help to reduce dairying’s carbon footprint (CFP). So how are producers meant to interpret these conflicting messages on farm? “Well, for a start, producers should focus, first and foremost, on managing the soil. And that will, of course, be beneficial to grassland productivity – be it for grazing or silage,” says Promar’s Tom Gill. He’s urging producers to go a step beyond the standard pH and soil nutrient testing that agronomists have been advocating for decades. “That’s vital for healthy soils and crops. But think of it as a sink for carbon.”

Lock away Grassland has the capacity to store or sequester as much carbon as woodland, hedgerows and other natural green spaces. Organic farms sequester (or lock away) around 560kg of carbon per hectare per year. And all dairy units have the potential to improve the soil carbon indices of their soil year on year. To do this, the carbon needs to stay in the soil – this minimises emissions. “Conventional tillage, or ploughing, releases GHG from the soil, so zero or minimal tillage is the

Tom Gill: “Think of the soil as a sponge and how you can make it more absorbent” key here – or overseeding where possible,” says Mr Gill. Using minimal cultivations – or min-till – it yet to be adopted by much of the arable sector. Estimates are that just 30% of arable producers operate a min-till policy. “We encourage dairy producers to consider grass as a crop and adopt a more ‘arable’ approach and now we want them to go further and think about the soil in more depth. “But if producers want to reduce their GHG emissions then the soil is good place to start. But, soil management is only part of the picture. “What’s grown on that soil, how it’s grazed or cut, how it’s fertilised and how the manure that’s spread on the land is stored and applied all has an impact on the overall business’ CFP. That’s why every unit is unique and that’s why there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to reduce GHG emissions. The soil, can indeed, sequester significant amounts of carbon. “Think of it as a sponge and think about how you can make it more absorbent and able to hold on to not only the carbon but also other nutrients that are essential to grass growth.”

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Useful links • • • • Grassland-and-carbon-sequestration.pdf

are rich in polyphenol oxidase, which works in a similar way and reduces nitrogen losses from the rumen through methane (belching). “But it’s the method of reseeding that needs consideration and also, possibly, the frequency.” AHDB Dairy’s dairy scientist Siwan Howatson agrees and says that producers should calculate how much grass they need and how much they are producing before deciding to reseed. During the past 40 years, breeding programmes in the UK have improved both yields and the quality of grass varieties. Yields have improved by 0.37% per year and grass digestibility has also increased by 10g/kg DM. “So a 10-year-old ley will be more productive when it’s reseeded due to seed genetics. But that, alone, is not a reason to reseed a sward.” When land is ploughed – either for reseeding or growing arable crops – that sponge is broken up and carbon is lost to the atmosphere. “The message for the past decade or so – and particularly during the past five years as the impetus has been on producers to produce more milk from forage – is to reseed leys regularly to ensure that they’re productive. “Reseeding is good – particularly if it’s with high sugar grass variety and/or red clover mixtures that allow the grazing cow to convert more nitrogen to milk, rather than excreting it as methane or nitrate,” adds Mr Gill. High-sugar grasses supply the rumen bugs with more sugars that then allow them to convert/divert more of the nitrogen in the grass to milk/milk protein production, And red clovers

Siwan Howatson: “Multispecies leys are better at locking away carbon”

Minimal cultivations “Producers must also weigh up their options, in terms of method and mixture, when it comes to reseeding.” She says that using minimal cultivations – min-till – is one such option, but it may require a herbicide application if weeds are a problem. And overseeding is another possibility. The good news is that both options cost less– around £636 per hectare for min-till and £430 for over seeding – compared to £689 per hectare for a conventional reseed. “And research, in Ireland, also shows that there’s very little difference in productivity between the reseeding methods, providing they’re done properly and in optimal conditions.” But, she stresses, the key is to look carefully at the pros and cons of reseeding techniques. The cost has to be outweighed by production benefits and it should be carried out with a longer term view and with environmental benefits in mind. “Multi-species leys are better at locking away carbon and could also help to lengthen the productive life of the ley. They’re also better for soil health, particularly if there are species with longer root systems that will help soil structure. And if they also include species that reduce emissions from the cows that graze them, then all the better.” l

Dairy carbon footprint facts • Dairying’s key GHG emissions comprise: CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide). • The latter persists in the atmosphere for decades and has the highest global warming potential (GWP) of the three. All three are produced and emitted by the


cow through belching, urine and faeces. Other emissions from dairy, that are also the focus of reduction plans, include nitrate and ammonia. Both are produced from nitrogen excreted in faeces and urine. • Methane emissions from dairy cows are the result of belching (enteric fermentation).

Improved rumen function will reduce CH4 emissions and improve feed conversion efficiency (FCE). • Methane emissions from enteric fermentation in cattle has decreased from 22 million tonnes in 1990 to 19 million tonnes in 2015. It is still falling.

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Cow kennels • Perfect shelter • Designed for animal health • Excellent ventilation • Shelter from wind & rain • Shade from the sun • Plenty of fresh air • Ample space • Minimum draught




Tel: 01772-785252

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Vaccination key to

protecting calf health Vaccinating against bovine respiratory disease should be, for many producers, the next step in a robust calf disease prevention plan – not to mention insurance against veterinary, medicine and labour costs, as well as lost heifer performance. It will also help to reduce antibiotic use on many dairy units. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


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alf health is a ‘hot spot’ for disease in dairy herds and an obvious target for changing practices and protocols to prevent illness and reduce antibiotic use. RUMA has certainly identified it as such and wants to see an increase in the use of vaccination to help prevent pneumonia – bovine respiratory disease (BRD) – in calves. The latest #Calfmatters survey, carried out by Boehringer Ingelheim and involving 400 respondents, shows that producers are aware of the importance of colostrum feeding and the need to do it correctly – checking quality, measuring volumes and feeding enough to meet the recommended guide line (between 10% and 15% of the calf’s birth weight) within six hours of birth. “We asked a specific question in the survey, aimed at finding out to what extent colostrum quality is being measured,” says Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s vet Ailsa Milnes. She explains that there are several ways to measure immunoglobulin levels in colostrum, with a Brix refractometer or a colostrometer most frequently used. “Colostrum can vary significantly in terms of quality, so many vets now recommend it is regularly checked.” Dr Milnes adds that while more than 75% of respondents said that they ensure that they feed adequate colostrum, just 30% measured colostrum quality. “And this is something that we will hopefully see improve year-onyear, as the testing becomes more widely used.”

Robust protocols Despite increased awareness, many producers have yet to put robust protocols in place to ensure that new-born calves are fed enough good quality colostrum in the first six hours of life. If protocols are in place, then producers should also check that their colostrum feeding protocols are working. “And that can mean blood testing either individual calves or batches at between two and seven days old,” says Dr Milnes. “There are simple tests available to check the protein levels in the blood, which tells us if sufficient good quality colostrum has been fed in those first vital hours. Testing provides assurance that the colostrum feeding regime is up to scratch and actually doing what it sets out to do. It is worth having a chat with your vet. “And, if it’s not, producers can act quickly to identify any ‘pinch points’ in the system and get colostrum feeding management back on track.” With the importance of ensuring that the calf has a good start and good immunity to help fight off disease, Dr Milnes also encourages producers to check hygiene protocols. “These are other typical pinch points, but good hygiene is essential, as well as providing calves with clean and dry bedding and well-ventilated housing – with no drafts,” she says. “Nutritional management is also vital, to avoid putting the calf under nutritional stress, which will render her more susceptible to disease.” Even when all aspects of calf rearing management are in place and running well, respiratory disease can still rear its ugly head – often for no apparent reason. We know that the two main viruses that cause bovine respiratory disease (BRD) – RSV and PI3 – are commonly there circulating in the calf environment. Serology has shown that about three quarters of coughing calves have been exposed to RSV and even more have been exposed to PI3. These viruses circulate

Ailsa Milnes: “Producers should view vaccination as insurance – as a way to protect their investment” on most farms, so calves are likely to be exposed. “So there’s a subclinical issue too. The calves may not be showing significant outward signs of BRD, like coughing, but it will have an impact on intakes and growth rates. “Remember, any check in growth can result in the heifer missing her targeted calving age – typically 24 months old, or below. Even subclinical disease can reduce growth and infection can shave 200g off her daily liveweight gain. If the target is 1kg per day, that’s around 25%.” With this in mind, vaccination seems like the next logical step in protecting young calves from BRD – and keeping growth rates on track. “It does require a change in mindset, which we’ve seen among producers in terms of colostrum feeding and ensuring that calf housing, hygiene and feeding all meet the gold standard when it comes to protecting health and maximising growth. “It’s relatively simple and cost effective to implement a vaccination programme to protect calves against BRD and the negative impact that it can have in terms of clinical disease and growth rates.”

Intranasal vaccine A vaccination programme, used as part of an effective disease control plan, can be devised in conjunction with the herd’s vet, according to the needs of each individual farm. “Where protection is required early on, Bovalto Respi Intranasal can be used from 10 days of age,” says Dr Milnes. “This is an intranasal vaccine that protects against the two main respiratory viruses – RSV and PI3. Updated strains of the viruses were used in the vaccine’s development.” She adds that it’s delivered as a single dose and provides protection for 12 weeks, from 10 days after vaccination. Where there is not such a need for early protection, or where cattle are older and ready for housing, then Bovalto Respi 3 or Bovalto Respi 4 can provide six months of protection from three weeks after the initial course of two injections. In addition to providing protection against PI3 and RSV, both also protect against Mannheimia haemolytica, a common bacterial cause of pneumonia. Bovalto Respi 4 also protects against BVD, which can be very useful for farms buying in young stock of unknown BVD status. “When you consider the hidden costs and losses caused by BRD and the total cost of rearing heifers to calve at 24-months-old, the additional investment in a vaccination programme against BRD is incredibly small. “Producers should view it as insurance – as a way to protect their investment. Young stock are the future milkers and potentially genetically superior to those already in the herd,” adds Dr Milnes. “It makes sense – economically and in terms of reducing antibiotic use – to protect them from disease, rear them efficiently, and give them every chance of realising their full potential.” l

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Mapping the medicine-

reduction route

Reduce, refine, replace – that’s what it comes down to in the drive to reduce antibiotic use on dairy units. To meet targets, producers need to know where they’re starting from and the best route to pursue. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT


ou can’t take antibiotics out without putting something else in place, is the message from Dorset-based vet Jenny Bellini, from Friars Moor Vets. “And, most importantly, we need to know where we’re starting from on each farm, and the best way to make improvements and reduce the reliance on antibiotics. “It’s a two-way process – you can’t just cut medicine use,” says Jenny, who adds that the process of reducing antibiotic use in a controlled and effective way is being significantly improved now that three quarters of the practice’s 110 dairy clients are signed up to FarmAssist. Developed by National Milk Laboratories (NML), FarmAssist is an antibiotic monitoring and analysis scheme that records medicine purchases, as supplied directly from the vet, with NML testing data. Vets have access to quarterly FarmAssist reports for their

Jenny Bellini: “Reducing antibiotics is a two-way process”


participating producers, detailing the rolling 12-month antibiotic use and the use by purpose, such as dry cow tubes, lactating cow tubes and medicines for young stock.

Medicine picture Friars Moor was one of the first practices to use the scheme and currently has the largest number of users among practices in the UK. “We signed up the first clients early in 2019 and back dated their records for 12 months so we have nearly 18 months of data for these herds,” adds Jenny. “Once you have a picture of medicine use on the unit for a 12-month period, you can see what medicines are being used and when, and where the best areas might be to tackle first in reducing their use and implementing better control strategies.” Realising the real benefit of FarmAssist, Friars Moor had a drive to get more of its dairy clients to sign up in spring 2019, and now 75% are taking advantage of the scheme. “It’s a useful and important tool in the practice’s drive to reduce antibiotic use. We’re hoping to have all our dairy units signed up by the end of the year,” she says. This is a target that Jenny hopes is realistic, bearing in mind that there’s no input, extra work or cost for the producer – the cost is supported by participating milk buyers.

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NML FarmAssist • Provides industry standardised antibiotic reporting • Supports farm assurance scheme requirements including Red Tractor • Supports vet-led review of antibiotic use on farm • Supports responsible medicine use on farm • Drives change

used and the mid points for the medicine groups across the board. “The benchmarks help us put medicine use on each unit into context, and we can see which areas to focus on and where progress might be made by adopting preventative medicine, improving protocols and overall, saving money.” Jenny is finding that the scheme’s reports are opening the door to more focussed discussions on farm. “Producers can see the on-going medicine use and start taking more interest. Without a transparent report they may not perceive a problem and losses can be hard to visualise,” she adds.

Detailed investigation “Producers agree to be signed up and allow their medicine use to be monitored on a standardised system; it’s an approach encouraged by many milk buyers.” Aside of the ease of use of the scheme, the data is allowing vets to be more targeted in their advice on farm when it comes to reducing medicine use. Being able to see the breakdown of antibiotic types used for cows, and those used for treating young stock in a 12-month period can spring some surprises: “For us, and for producers,” says Jenny. “But what it really provides is a valuable starting point and shows up usage of medicines in key areas. Producers find it easier to visualise and when we go on farm we’ve got valuable discussion points as to how we can reduce usage in certain areas and make changes.” And these on-farm reviews are even more valuable where the unit’s performance can be gauged against benchmarks. “We get a practice FarmAssist report for all our participating farms, so we can see the range being Example FarmAssist herd report

Antibiotics are commonly used on dairy units for transition and fresh cows, young stock, mastitis and dry cow treatments. “We can look at each area, and for example, if we see a lot of antibiotics being used in young stock treatment for pneumonia, a discussion on ventilation and calf housing might lead to a few improvements.” Among Friars Moor’s Arla producers, they have seen the use of antibiotics to treat calf pneumonia fall by 78% in 16 months, since the scheme was introduced. “Surprisingly high mastitis treatments will also warrant investigation, to make sure the producer is following the prescribed dosage and not over-treating a cow.” Another focus is dry cow therapy. Friars Moor has seen a reduction of 11% of cows across its practice receiving dry cow therapy tubes since 2016. “I would anticipate this rate of progress speeding up now most of our producers are using FarmAssist,” adds Jenny. “It’s certainly helped so far, and it’s a key area where real gains can be made in meeting the industry’s reduced antibiotic use targets.” Overall, the practice has found that producers who signed up for the scheme and have adopted agreed preventative protocols have seen their antibiotic use reduce without any dip in cow health or performance. “And it’s also generating more interest from producers in overall medicine use on farm. We’re seeing a greater uptake in our MilkSure courses that promote responsible medicine use.” Jenny – and particularly the vet’s farm office staff – also appreciate the use of a single medicine monitoring scheme across their dairy clients. “Instead of having to meet the requirements of four or five different schemes used by milk buyers, it is far timelier and more costeffective to use one. There’s less risk of errors and the standardised data is of much greater value on farm.” l

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CRV Avoncroft, based in Kidderminster, is part of the global organisation CRV. This is the fourth in a series of articles about CRV. Here we take a look at the mating program SireMatch.

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

Investing in

tomorrow’s milkers Looking for the perfect match: a computerised breeding tool takes the guesswork and hassle out of matching cows and heifers to the best sires. And to make it even more easy: it can be integrated with a cow behaviour system. CowManagement finds out how. TEXT INGE VAN DRIE


tudying the latest proof-run ranking for hours? Or browsing the internet for suitable bulls? That time is long gone. Thanks to computerised mating programs, producers can select the most suitable sire for individual cows and heifers in no time. Matched to every producers own breeding goals, the program also ensures that there’s no inbreeding and this helps to maximise genetic progress. CRV Avoncroft’s SireMatch – developed almost 20 years ago – is such a program. It is in use in 35 countries, with more than 4,000 customers and 2.4 million matings each year. But SireMatch is more than just a mating

program, explains SireMatch specialist Sanne van den Brink. “SireMatch offers objective and unbiased mating advice,” she says. “It slots together all the pieces in each herd’s breeding puzzle, guaranteeing producers maximum genetic progress and improvement of their herds with a minimum of effort.”

Integration The integration of SireMatch within the heat detection and health monitoring system Ovalert is also an advantage, according to Miss van den Brink. “Ovalert’s high-tech sensors detect cow behaviour. So not only do

Frank Wilborts: “Production has increased from 8,500kg to 11,000kg since we began using SireMatch” Dutch dairy producer Frank Wilborts has been using SireMatch for many years. Based in Casteren, in the southern part of the Netherlands, he milks 140 cows and has 80 followers. Mr Wilborts describes SireMatch as a convenient mating program that selects sires that are best able to meet his breeding goal. And he is pleased with the results. “Since we started using SireMatch more intensively in our breeding strategy, production has increased significantly, from an average of 8,500kg to 11,000kg of milk per cow, with 4.55% fat and 3.55% protein.


The program takes everything into account, from inbreeding to individual improvement traits for each cow.” He discusses the new bulls and the breeding strategy with his SireMatch advisor several times a year. With SireMatch, he can also check the genetic improvements. “Carefully fine-tuning the program helps me to breed replacements to milk my ideal herd. My view is that without SireMatch I’d find it much more difficult to make a good match between sires and individual cows and heifers.”

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How SireMatch works Personal breeding goal Your personal breeding goal is the central factor for advice provided by SireMatch. Various standard breeding goals are available. Creating a customised breeding goal is also possible. Cow SireMatch works based on pedigree, conformation and performance of the animals in the herd. Sires SireMatch helps producers to select the bulls that best fit with their breeding goal/goals. Based on these breeding goals, the program generates advice to recommend the most suitable sire to match to each cow or heifer.



Future herd SireMatch predicts and shows the genetic progress using each herd’s animal data, breeding goals, and other parameters. Advice SireMatch offers easy-to-read overviews, such as a mating advice per animal (ranked as first, and second choice) and a list of recommended bulls.



Ovalert (optional) Ovalert with activity measurement offers a complete detection package that monitors the health and fertility of the herd. Via a link to SireMatch, producers have immediate access to the recommended sire choice.

producers receive health signals, but also heat alerts from the program. Via a link to SireMatch, producers have immediate access to the recommended bull choice.” The mating program, which is completely web-based, can be customised to suit a producer’s own requirements and breeding goals. “Producers can set lower limits for certain traits, weight the importance of other traits that need extra attention in their herd, and indicate the maximum acceptance level of inbreeding,” says Miss van den Brink. “They can also choose different breeding strategies for multiple groups of animals. The program supports all breeds and can also be used by producers who are cross breeding.”

Breeding goals A producer’s breeding goal is the central factor advice in SireMatch. Four standard breeding goals are available, for components, efficiency, health and milk production. “But creating a customised breeding goal is also possible,” says Miss van den Brink. Producers who want to increase components can select for cows that achieve outstanding fat and protein production, in kilogrammes. They can realise this because

of enough milk with high components. With the efficiency breeding goal, the aim is to breed cows that efficiently convert feed into milk. Cows can achieve this due to their high lifetime production, characterised by high production of protein, in kilogrammes, and excellent longevity. The health breeding goal is for producers who would like to breed extremely easy to manage cows. The cows’ excellent health and fertility means that they will be able to effortlessly produce milk with high component contents, in kilogrammes.

Robot suitability Producers who opt for milk production will breed cows with excellent milk production in kilogrammes. Robot suitability is also taken into account for all of the four standard breeding goals. SireMatch can objectively select animals that make the best match with a producer’s own breeding strategy. “Producers can decide to apply a targeted strategy and mate the best animals using SiryX sexed semen, and maybe exclude lower ranked animals from the breeding program by inseminating them with semen from a beef bull,” adds Miss van den Brink. l

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Predicted gain.


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+£193 GENETIC VALUE PER LACTATION IN 5 YEARS. Utilising Cogent’s Ultimate Breeding Strategy has led to significant financial gains for farmers like Tim Lock. By using this strategy, and supported by our world renowned genetics, our industry leading SexedULTRA 4M, coupled with our Precision DNA and Beef IMPACT, we believe that you can unlock the full profitability of your herd.




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Reducing discomfort at disbudding Many conditions not previously associated with pain are now routinely managed with anti-inflammatory medicines, as we better understand the impact of routine procedures and associated discomfort. “Cattle are naturally stoic animals, meaning they rarely show signs of pain as it is a sign of vulnerability,” says Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health vet Kath Aplin. “However, we know from measuring certain hormones associated with the stress of pain that procedures, such as disbudding, can have a negative impact for up to 10 days.” Compared with calves given local anaesthetic alone, those that also receive a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment, such as Metacam, have been shown to have significantly lower stress hormone levels and lower heart and respiratory rates for the 24-hour period post dehorning. Trials also reveal that using a NSAID resulted in less horn bud pain sensitivity – the level was almost twice as high in control calves compared to those treated with Metacam. And the calves given a NSAID also displayed significantly less pain behaviour, indicated by less ear flicking and less head shaking. In another study, Metacam-treated calves also

gained significantly more weight during the 10 days post dehorning in another study. “The majority of calves undergoing dehorning will receive more effective pain relief than they did 10 years ago,” says Ms Aplin. The British Veterinary Association has stated that both a local anaesthetic and a NSAID should be used when disbudding calves. In addition, the updated Red Tractor dairy standards now require the herd health plan to include a written policy detailing when pain relief should be provided, the person responsible for administering it, and the products used for procedures such as disbudding. “Managing cattle to minimise pain and discomfort has been shown to deliver performance and welfare benefits,” adds Ms Aplin. “Producers should discuss disbudding procedures with their vet and develop a protocol for treating any potentially painful conditions.” Some of the other common situations when Metacam is commonly used include: calf scour (alongside rehydration therapy), respiratory disease, and mastitis (both alongside appropriate antibiotic therapy).

Calf-health focus for WiD meetings In 2018, building on previous collaborations, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health agreed a two-year active sponsorship of Women in Dairy. “To date, most activity has concentrated on the topic of calf and young-stock health,” says Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ailsa Milnes, who leads the Women in Dairy (WiD) project for the company. “Calf rearing is often the responsibility of female members of the farm team.” ‘Calf health – reduce disease, reduce antibiotics and improve your efficiency’ was the subject of Dr Milnes’ presentation at this year’s WiD conference. The talk examined the

two key areas of calf health and looked at how rearers can take steps towards reducing the use of antibiotics. “With antibiotic use in this phase of the animal’s life under scrutiny from the RUMA taskforce and other organisations, it is well worth spending time looking at preventative healthcare,” explains Dr Milnes. The calf sector continues to work towards reducing antibiotic use, to help prevent antimicrobial resistance. Calves that are vaccinated against bovine respiratory disease, receive enough good quality colostrum in the first few hours, and are housed in clean and well-ventilated conditions, are more robust and resilient. They will be less susceptible to disease and require fewer antibiotic treatments. The #Calfmatters 2019 survey, carried out by Boehringer Ingelheim, provided information on producer attitudes and behaviours when tackling with calf-health issues. Survey results will be shared by the Boehringer Ingelheim vet team at WiD meetings throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020. Copies of the #Calfmatters Blueprint, which is ideal for displaying in calf housing or for use as a discussion piece, will be available from the Calfmatters website:

bovens bovens regel o

#VaccinesWork The National Office of Animal Health is taking charge of the #VaccinesWork campaign this autumn. This aims to raise the profile of the role of vaccination in preventing diseases. “It will highlight how and why vaccines work, and the range of diseases they protect against, as well as looking at how vaccines should be stored,” says the organisation’s Alison Glennon. Research has shown that just 53% of producers know the correct temperature for vaccine storage and that 73% do not have separate thermometer or data logger. “Appropriate vaccine handling and storage is an important issue,” says Ms Glennon. “We know that if producers make the decision to invest in a vaccination programme, but store the product poorly or give the wrong dose at the incorrect time, then money is being wasted and stock will go unprotected.” Boehringer Ingelheim is supporting the campaign through its #Calfmatters program. “We know from the 2019 #Calfmatters survey that although vaccination rates for pneumonia (BRD) in calves are increasing, rates are still low,” says Boehringer Ingelheim’s Matt Yarnall. “The percentage of calves under three months of age being vaccinated has jumped from 20% to 29% during the past 12 months – possibly as a result of new intranasal vaccines being launched. But, overall, BRD vaccination rates are still low, given the range of products available and proven positive health benefits.”

For more information about Boehringer Ingelheim’s products: Telephone: 01344 74 69 60 Email address: ukcustomersupport

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ADVERTISERS’ INDEX Alta Boehringer Ingelheim Concept Cowhouse Ltd. Cogent Breeding Ltd. CRV Avoncroft/CRV Dairy Spares Farmplus ForFarmers/Thompsons Heuven Livestock Idexx Intershape NMR NWF Quill

16 48 30 44 4, 28, 29 22, 30 37 47 37 22 30 2, 20 10 10


November 6 British Mastitis Conference, Sixways Stadium, Warriors Way, Worcester November 20 AgriScot, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, Scotland December 12 Royal Ulster Winter Fair, Eikon Exhibition Centre, Balmoral Park, Lisburn (NI)


January 7-9 January 20-22 February 5 May 13-16 May 28-30

The Oxford Farming Conference, Examinations Hall, Oxford British Cattle Conference, Telford Hotel and Golf Resort, Telford, Shropshire Dairy-Tech, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry Balmoral Show, Balmoral Park, Lisburn (NI) Royal Bath & West Show, Shepton Mallet, Somerset


DECEMBER COW HEALTH December 6: Our final issue of the year will take a closer look at cow health and we’ll also have the fourth article in our series on reducing dairying’s carbon footprint.

CONTACTS CowManagement is published eight times per year by CRV BV, Publishing Department Editorial team Chief Editor Jaap van der Knaap Editor Rachael Porter Phone: 01394 270587 E-mail: Editing, design and production CRV Publishing Contributing writers Emily Ball, Roger Evans, Roly Marks, Allison Matthews, Inge van Drie, and Karen Wright Publisher Rochus Kingmans Chief editor’s address P.O. Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem, The Netherlands Phone: 0031 26 38 98 821 E-mail: CowManagement online Facebook: Twitter: @cowmanagement Website:


Subscriptions CowManagement is available free of charge to: NMR, CRV Avoncroft, Thompsons, ForFarmers, and Boehringer Ingelheim customers. If you think you are eligible, or if you wish to no longer receive CowManagement, then please contact: National Milk Records plc, Fox Talbot House, Greenways Business Park, Bellinger Close, Chippenham SN15 1BN Phone 03330 043043 E-mail: Advertisements Nicci Chamberlin, NMR. Phone 07970 009136 E-mail: Jannet Fokkert, Froukje Visser, Hilda van der Wal P.O. Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem, The Netherlands, E-mail:

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. While 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

Illustrations/pictures Photographs by Veeteelt Photography, Harrie van Leeuwen (cover), Ruth Downing (8-9), Sam Spence (11), Els Korsten (36, 38) and Mark Pasveer (42).

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ForFarmers, the total feed business ForFarmers supplies a full range of: • Compound feeds • Blended feeds • Straights • Co-products • Minerals & buckets • Rumen Protected Fats • Calf milk replacers • Seeds, Fertiliser and Silage Additives Products, advice and services available nationwide For more information: 0330 678 0982 @ForFarmersUK

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Profile for CRV Uitgeverij/CRV Publishers

Cowmanegement November 2019  

Cowmanegement November 2019