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O C TO B E R 2019

Fit for work:

are you looking after your own feet?

Improve feed efficiency

and reduce GHG emissions

Genomic testing is next step for award-winning herd


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Feed2Milk is driven by an accurate understanding of forage quality. This is provided by a unique ForFarmers service known as . Using these two factors in combination will allow you to select the best forage and feed solution for your dairy farming system. Feed2Milk is your nutritional toolbox and ForFarmers is your total feed business partner. To find out more about Feed2Milk and contact ForFarmers.

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5 7 11 15 19 35 41

From the editor Cow talk Value added: making wine Roger Evans Boehringer Ingelheim Health News CRV Avoncroft Breeding Information ForFarmers Nutritional News/ Thompsons Nutritional News 45 NMR Dairy Management News 50 Events and contacts

main article resilience


8 Breeding to improve resilience REPORT

12 Genomic testing for award winning herd FEEDIN G

16 Control diets to maximise performance/ Calf rearing protocols are key to driving performance HEA LTH

20 Mastering Johne’s – a decade of experience 32 Zero-tolerance approach to PIs 48 Producers health: put a spring in your step

8 special milking

series carbon footprint


25 Portable milking and what’s new? SERIES CA RB ON FOOT PRIN T

36 Feed for efficiency and reduce emissions BREEDI N G

42 Wide selection offers something for everyone

OCT OBE R 2019

Fit for work:

are you looking feet? after your own

ciency Improve feed effi

and reduce s GHG emission





Stephen Montgomery:

Richard Brittlebank:

“Genomic testing will improve accuracy when breeding replacements”

“It’s been hard work, but the results are very satisfying”

g Genomic testin is next step for herd award-winning



Home time: walking cows from autumn grazing and back to the milking parlour Picture: Harrie van Leeuwen


20 cowmanagement OCTOBER 2019

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Protecting the environment and a little self care The weather – and UK politics – have taken a turn for the worse as this issues goes to press. The weather? Well, many producers will be welcoming some rain, particularly while temperatures are still relatively warm and grass is still growing. So let’s hope there’s still plenty of sunshine and autumn grazing to come. Politics? Our readers know that we ‘stay close to the cow’, and even Roger Evans has steered clear of the current political mayhem in his column. Instead he’s sharing his tips on organic dock control that, as always, makes for amusing reading. The perfect tonic. Sticking with the positive, the second article in our series on reducing dairying’s carbon footprint takes a closer look at the important role that feed efficiency – or more specifically enteric fermentation – plays in reducing GHG emissions. The good news for producers is that many herds are reducing methane emissions and nitrogen losses because feed efficiency is already good. And these businesses will also be seeing the results of this in their

milk tank and on the balance sheet. Even where there are improvements to be made, changes can be made at relatively little or no cost. And there are financial advantages for the business, health and fertility benefits for herds – and it’s better for the environment. So it’s a win-win situation. We feature an award-winning herd in this issue that is forging ahead and taking breeding to the next level by adopting genomic testing technology. See page 12 to find out more. If that’s not for you, what about investing in parlour matting and footwear? Not least to help safeguard your business’ most important asset – you and/or your staff. As the physiotherapist we speak to says: “it’s a case of ‘no foot, no farmer’.” So, as we head towards the winter and longer periods of standing on cold concrete, why not give your footwear the once-over and make sure that your feet are getting the attention – and support – they deserve? Give your own, as well as your cows’, feet some well-earned TLC.


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Fertiliser policy is key to multi-cut silage success Producers planning to adopt a multi-cut approach to grass silage making should be mindful of their fertiliser application policy in order to maximise the benefits. This was the advice of Germinal GB’s Ben

Wixey, speaking at UK Dairy Day, where feedback from producers and reports from the trade pointed to the ever growing popularity of the earlier and more frequent cutting method. “We’re seeing more producers adopting a multi-cut approach and, with crops being cut at optimum maturity as a result, there is evidence from this season’s silage analyses that the practice is having a positive impact on forage quality. “This is good news for producers, as it will ultimately help to reduce bought-in feed costs, but it is important to manage fertiliser applications appropriately to get the best out of the system.” Mr Wixey adds that applying 2.5kg N/ha

bovens bovens regel o

between cuts should be the aim, with timeliness being a key element. “With a multi-cut system, the cutting interval should be between 28 and 30 days, which would mean applying no more than 75kg N/ha between cuts,” he says. “And this should, ideally, go on as soon as the last trailer has left the field. “Applying too much is likely to result in excessive nitrogen in the crop, which can disrupt the fermentation and lead to butyric silage. “If too little nitrogen is applied, grass plants can become stressed, which usually means they go to seed prematurely. In this case, the digestibility of the silage will be reduced.”

Adsorbent helps minimise mycotoxin risk A mycotoxin adsorbent, developed to be effective against the 11 most commonly occurring mycotoxins in animal feeds, has been launched to market by UFAC-UK. Combining activated clay minerals with glycerine, the company claims that Mycotrap offers mycotoxin control and improved liver function when added to cow rations. Mycotoxins are produced by moulds and fungi that colonise feedstuffs. Even at low levels they will reduce cow performance. “Herds will benefit from including supplements in the diet that bind or adsorb the toxins, rendering them inactive and excretable, and reducing the risk of mycotoxicosis,” says the company’s Mike Chown. Independent tests show that the product

has binding capacity for a broad range of economically damaging and commonly occurring mycotoxins, including aflatoxins, fumonisin, DON and ZEN. The product contains a mineral complex that effectively adsorbs the majority of mycotoxins known to cause reduced productivity and

increased disease risks in all livestock. “It also helps cows to cope with the consequences of mycotoxin poisoning with the inclusion of glycerine,” adds Mr Chown. “This helps boost the animal’s energy supply to fight infections by supporting the recovery of the immune system.”

Soil-health courses launched for autumn A series of one-day training events, that will focus on how producers can improve soil health, are being run this autumn by Independent regenerative farming advisor Niels Corfield. He has been helping producers to deliver sustainable food and farming systems for the past 15 years, using agro-ecological techniques that are low maintenance yet productive. “I am keen to encourage as many producers as possible to stand back and think about how they farm in a way that is beneficial to their soil, their animals and their landscape, without spending a lot of money – or possibly even reducing their costs,” he says.

The courses will focus on examining soils and pasture health, looking at reducing reliance on external inputs and improving animal welfare, while looking at opportunities for extending the grazing season and out-wintering. “We shall also discover ways of monitoring the changes being made,” he adds. The dates for the courses are: October 9, at Chippenham in Wiltshire; November 1, at Gamblesby in Cumbria; and November 29, at Wadhurst in Sussex. Each course begins at 10am and finishes at 3.45pm. For more details and costs for the one-day training meetings, visit: https://www.facebook. com/nielscorfieldland/events

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Breeding to improve c Some cows are better able to adapt to changes in the environment than others – they are more resilient. And the good news is that it’s possible to improve resilience through breeding. TEXT INGE VAN DRIE


very producer will have cows in the herd that, no matter what life throws at them, production remains steady. But there will also be other cows in the herd where production fluctuates much more on a day-to-day basis. One day they achieve an average milk production of, say, 30kg, the next this dips to 25kg. “All cows face difficulties or problems in their lives. But some cows have more resilience than others,” explains Wageningen University PhD student Marieke Poppe. “They can simply cope with day-to-day disturbances better than others.” The university’s professor of breeding and genetics Han Mulder agrees: “For a long time it was thought that producers could prevent these fluctuations with optimum management. But that doesn’t always work and producers can’t control everything.” He lists a number of examples: “A virus can go through the herd, the quality of the grazing or grass silage can

vary, or weather conditions may result in heat stress.” Miss Poppe is looking at whether it is possible to breed for resilience. “We describe resilience as the capacity of the animal to be minimally affected by disturbances or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a disturbance,” says Wageningen University researcher Tom Berghof. “We know that there are differences in resilience between cows, but are they also hereditary? And can we quantify these differences?”

Fluctuating yields Producers will already be able to indicate, instinctively, which cows are better able to cope with ‘disturbances’. “Producers managing smaller herds will find that easier to do than those with larger units,” says Miss Poppe. “And then there’s the question of sire selection – which bulls will produce daughters that have good resilience?” The team looked at different indicators that could serve



The daily milk production of cows with low resilience fluctuates more when the herd is faced with potential stressors and changes

The daily milk production of high-resilience cows fluctuates less when they are faced with potential stressors and changes











milk production


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e cow resilience as a measurement of resilience. Key was fluctuations in daily milk production. “To measure resilience you need frequent measurements of a characteristic that is affected by a disturbance. Thanks to milking robots, a huge amount of data on daily milk production is available,” says Mr Mulder. So, what does daily milk production say about resilience? “The more fluctuations in daily milk yield, the less resilient cows are. Cows with little variation in milk production per day are more resilient,” says Miss Poppe. The team took milk production data from nearly 200,000 dairy heifers from more than 2,700 dairy farms. They first determined the heritability of fluctuations in daily milk production and this was corrected for age at first calving, lactation length, and farm and season. The heritability was just above 0.2. “This means that about 20% of the differences in animal resilience are influenced by genes. And that’s quite high,” she says. “It is comparable to heritability rates for, for example, milking speed and rear udder height. So, from that, we can conclude that it is possible to breed cows that are better able to cope with disturbances.” She also looked at the relationship between fluctuations in milk production and health characteristics. “We see that cows experiencing fewer fluctuations in daily milk production also have better udder health. And they also have a better lifespan and are less susceptible to

Cows that can easily adapt changes Ration changes, a virus that goes through the herd, poor weather conditions. Some cows can handle all these things better than others. In other words: these cows have more resilience. Researchers define resilience as an animal’s ability to continue to function normally during disruptions or to recover quickly if the performance of the animal is affected.

ketosis,” she says, adding that the work also looked at the relationship between fluctuations in milk production and dry matter intake. Cows with relatively little variation in daily milk production – and therefore more resilience – consumed more feed than cows with experiencing fluctuations in milk production. “Cows that are better able to cope with disturbances and show fewer fluctuations in daily milk production are, in effect, consuming more energy to deal with disturbances.” That does not mean that resilient cows are, by definition, less efficient. “There will be cows and sires that score well on both levels, with resilience and efficiency,” says Mr Mulder. He also looked at the economic importance of breeding for resilience. “If resilience has an impact on farm profit, it should be in the breeding goal,” he explains. He is convinced that resilience has economic value. “Producers with resilient cows receive fewer alerts. And resilient cows need fewer treatments for diseases, such as mastitis and ketosis, and the amount of labour is lower. Resilient cows are those in the herd that, typically, producers don’t have to worry about.”

Breeding goal The team also looked at what happens when resilience is included in the breeding goal. They opted for a simplified breeding goal, which includes milk production (30%), udder health (20%), longevity (30%) and resilience (20%). Although this results in a lower milk production (–6.3%), the improvement in resilience doubles (102.6%). The chance of alerts also decreases by 8.4%. “Breeding for resilience clearly has added value,” says Mr Berghof. “It reduces the labour requirement, fewer treatments are needed, cow lifespan increases, and it improves producers’ job satisfaction. It may result in lower genetic progress in terms of milk production but, on balance, the herd and business efficiency is improving.” l

Breeding for resilience • There’s a trade-off between resilience and efficiency. • Resilience has an economic value, so it is possible to include resilience in the breeding goal. • Breeding for improved resilience can result in lower genetic progress in milk production, but the overall progress at farm level improves. • Work is looking at if resilience can be determined on the basis of activity measurement data, possibly in conjunction with milk-production data.

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WATCH THE VIDEO! Contact NMR today Tel: 03330 043 043

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@NationalMilkRecords @NMRgroup

25-09-19 12:44


Name Rob Corbett Herd size 130 cows Adding value vineyard and wine making

Axminster, Devon

Growing vines and making wine What started as a childhood fascination with hedgerow fruits, and what you could make from them, has seen Rob Corbett make the bold move to establishing a vineyard and making wine on his family’s Devon-based 80-hectare dairy and arable unit. He studied agriculture at Reading University and worked in Australia as an environmental consultant for two years, before coming back to work on the family farm. “In the mid-90s my parents had to buy the farm that they were renting, so we had to look at ways to maximise its use – and return – on all the land,” he says. He was looking to produce a product that was a ‘price maker’ – not a commodity ‘price taker’, like milk. “It had to be non-perishable, so I could store it and sell it when I wanted to sell it.” So a three-hectare block of off-lying and steep land was planted with vines. “The hillside is south facing – essential in the northern hemisphere if they’re to get enough sunshine. This area is comparable to France’s Loire Valley and we have our own little micro climate,” says Rob. Managing vines and making wine makes certain times of the year extremely busy. Installing two robotic milking systems has, however, provided flexibility for Rob to pursue his wine-making passion. Pruning and trellising starts in December and goes through to March. Rob tends to all 5,000 vines himself. Grape

harvest is typically from late September onwards. Then wine making begins and they are fermented in both stainless steel and three-year-old burgundy barrels, before being bottling in the spring and then matured for two years in Castlewood’s old stone barns. Rob makes both sparkling and still white wine – growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Bacchus – to create the desired results. Planting to first harvest was a four-year wait. The first commercial vintage was in 2010 and this then lay in the cellar for two years. So, in 2012, he had his first 1,000 Castlewood bottles to sell. Instead of supplying local farm shops and restaurants, Rob invited everyone into his vineyard for the inaugural Castlewood Wine Festival, he sold his entire vintage in one day! The annual one-day ticketed festival continues. Five hundred tickets go on sale on March 1st and quickly sell out. Rob produces more than 8,000 bottles of wine each year – selling at the festival, to some private customers, and through a few select restaurants. “We use time to clarify the wine – not chemicals or filtration. It’s important that we maintain the integrity of our product, as we can’t increase our wine output. We don’t have any more land that’s suitable for growing vines and the cows still come first – they’re our primary enterprise.”

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Genomic testing

for award-winning herd A decade of development on one dairy unit culminated in two brothers being awarded the NMR Silver Salver and their herd was runner up in the NMR RABDF Gold Cup 2018. But what’s next? TEXT KAREN WRIGHT


Table 1: Range in genomic tests (GeneTracker) compared with parent averages (PA) for 10 heifers (July 2019)


mbitious to keep developing their awardwinning herd, Stephen and Mark Montgomery have set out their plans for the next decade – and this is being helped by adopting the latest technology to determine the true genetic merit of the cows in their herd. In autumn 2008, they bought 100 pedigree Holsteins from a neighbour and walked them half a mile up the road to their new dairy unit – Gortree Farm, near Drumahoe. “These cows came with full production and disease testing records,” says Stephen. “They were a good start and they formed the core of our current milking herd.” The herd remained closed and Stephen and Mark have taken cow numbers up to the current 180 with homebred heifers. Gortree Farm was all but a greenfield site, so Stephen and Mark have faced a hefty but necessary investment to build a set-up suited to a modern dairy unit and one that will stand them in good stead for the foreseeable future. This started with a 126-cow cubicle house with feed passage and underground slurry tank to comply with winter NVZ restrictions. Soon to follow was a calf house and calving pens, and a GEA 50° 20:40 swing-over, fully computerised herringbone parlour and collecting yard. “In 2009 we put in cubicle housing for heifers and since then we have added another silage pit, extended the calf house and built another cubicle house to accommodate 72 cows,” says Stephen, So looking ahead, the pair are consolidating. “No more major investments just for now,” he adds. “We want to fine tune our systems, cut costs and improve our efficiency.” Progress, they believe, will come mainly from improving milk from forage, fine tuning the diets and breeding

more efficient cows. The autumn-calving herd reliably averages more than 10,000kg on twice-a-day milking and the seasonal production suits buyer, Lakeland Dairies, which produces milk powder. Calving starts in mid-October and the brothers aim to calve 80% of the cows by Christmas.

Fertility focus The focus in January and February is fertility and making sure cows get back in calf to maintain a tight calving pattern. Cows are typically inseminated 42 days post calving and all heifers are served with sexed semen. And it’s focusing on improving the genetic merit of the herd, particularly by selecting the highest ranking heifers, where the brothers believe they’ll make significant improvements in herd efficiency during the next 10 years. With cow numbers almost at capacity at the unit, they’ve enough cows producing enough milk. “Our breeding goals are improving milk solids, herd health, and lifespan,” says Stephen, who looks after the breeding programme while Mark takes care of daily cow management and all the machinery. The brothers share the milking routine. “If we produce more solids our milk cheque goes up, and healthier longer lasting cows increase our efficiency. And if our replacement rate goes down and we’re not increasing cow numbers, we will soon be in a position where we can sell surplus heifers.” After an introduction into genomic testing, the Montgomerys can see that the technology has an important role to play in the Gortree herd’s progress. “We breed all the heifers and selected cows to sexed semen, assuming that, by doing so, we’re breeding from the best genetic merit animals.” Genomic testing uses the animal’s own DNA and gives each animal a genotype score for traits. The increased reliability of genomic testing, compared with using parent averages for heifers and young cows, offers a more reliable selection tool for breeding. Ahead of a Gold Cup farm walk at the unit, in August 2019, NMR carried out genomic tests on 10 heifers. All were born in October 2018 and there was no preselection of the heifers. Genomic test results were compared with the parent averages for these 10 animals. “And our ranking based on parent averages was quite different to the ranking based on genomic results,”

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COMPANY PROFILE Name Farm size Herd size Yield

SCC Calving interval

The Montgomery family (clockwise from top left): Grace, Stephen, Mark, Anne, Kathryn, Lynne and Leah

explains Stephen. “But it also showed up the range in the genetic merit of the group of heifers, which was far wider than we’d expected, and much greater than the range shown on the PLI results.” The range in PLI for the 10 heifers was from £429 to £597, compared with the range in genomic PLI (gPLI) from £212 to £610 (see Table 1). Explaining these results, NMR’s genomics manager Richard Miller highlights that the heifers ranked eighth and ninth for parent average PLI, are seventh and sixth, respectively, when ranked for gPLI. And the tenthranked cow for PLI on PA moves to fourth on gPLI. “If you were using sexed semen on the top 70%, none of these three heifers would have been included if you relied on parent averages,” says Richard Miller.

Stephen and Mark Montgomery 145 hectares 180 pedigree Holsteins 10,074kg of milk at 4.20% butterfat and 3.28% protein 136,000 cells/ml 375 days


per cow is 3.3 tonnes per cow – a rate they’d like to see reduce alongside an increase in milk from forage, from the current 2,300kg. “We’re looking to bring first- and second-cut dates earlier for the grass if the weather allows,” says Stephen. “This will boost silage quality. We’re also reseeding with higher sugar grass seed mixtures.” In balancing the TMR, they’re working closely with their nutritionist, Jonathan Knox, and monitoring cow performance alongside their milk recording so the diet can be tweaked in order to keep production on target. Consolidation and maximising the potential on farm will hopefully see the Montgomery brothers progress their herd. And maybe, in a few years, they’ll enter the NMR RABDF Gold Cup again, with a close eye on the top spot. l

Next generation: future milkers for the Holstein herd

Breeding replacements Aware of the higher reliability of genomic tests, which is around 70% depending on trait compared with 30% reliability for parent averages, and the key extra traits that can be determined by genotyping, Stephen intends to genomic test all his heifers. “This will improve our accuracy in identifying and breeding replacements from those heifers and cows that will improve milk solids, health and fertility in the herd,” he adds. “We’ll select sires according to the genomic scores available for each heifer. In the past we may have not used the most ideal sire for each heifer to maximise our progress.” And they will look to exploit this genetic potential and improve efficiency by fine tuning forage quality and utilisation. The herd is housed from October until April and fed a grass and wholecrop rye silage-based TMR. The latter is a crop that they can grow successfully and it provides starch and fibre in the diet. “It’s a substitute for maize,” says Stephen, adding that the climate in their area isn’t suited to growing it. Cows are then fed an 18% protein concentrate in the parlour, according to yield. Average concentrate use

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Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans shares his tip on controlling docks in organic swards.

Keep on cutting Organic farming is a bit like a balance sheet – there are pluses and minuses. On the plus side we like it, and it’s nice to do something you like. None of us know where we will be after Brexit, but there used to be a lot of talk about support for farming if it delivered ‘public good’. I’m not sure how you define ‘public good’, but I feel that being organic is a good place to be. It fits in nicely with sustainability – another word that is much loved by politicians. When we first went organic we reseeded some fields that had been in an arable rotation. We put in clover leys and these took really well and I’m not afraid to show them to anyone. When the clover is in flower you can see the flowers from miles away and they are a source of pride. Then there are the minuses – and these largely consist of weeds. There is no one else close by who is farming organically, but that doesn’t stop the farmers and tractor drivers in the pub giving advice and passing comment. They were particularly taken by the very fine crop of dandelions that we grew in the spring. I particularly remember telling someone three years ago that we were thinking of going organic. And they said that if you are thinking of going organic you should spray every field with Round Up. This hardly seemed in the spirit of things, but I can see what they meant. We’ve got thistles and nettles in the fields we graze, but we always have had. I must have sprayed them dozens of times with a knapsack, but still they come back. I put the topper over them before they become too unsightly and the landlord or the agent passes comment. By far the biggest problem weed that we have is docks. The clover leys are clean, but there are three fields of permanent pasture that have more docks than I would like. To maintain cow numbers we started zero grazing some of our away ground. We would have liked to buy one of those purpose-built zero grazing machines, but we couldn’t afford it. So we bought a secondhand forage wagon and we mow a bit of grass and then we pick it up. We ‘zero graze’ the fields with the most docks in it. This is as near as we can get to giving them a hard time and it’s starting to show. The last thing you want is for the docks to go to seed, so we tend to cut the grass before that happens. And it seems that they don’t like it. If the autumn remains dry enough, they will be cut seven or eight times. They don’t look as vigorous as they did. They will get the same treatment again. They were there when we first took on that land and there could be countless dormant seeds in the soil. But it’s best not to think about that.

“They were particularly taken by the very fine crop of dandelions that we grew in the spring”

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Calf-rearing protocols

key to driving performance Reviewing feeding and weighing regimes in the birth-to-weaning phase of heifer rearing has helped one Dorset-based family to improve calf growth rates and optimise their system. TEXT LAUREN GORINGE


mproving calf growth rates has been the focus on one Dorset-based unit for the past eight months and already Alan and Jane Helfer are reaping the rewards. The couple felt that their previous regime fell short when it came to successfully rearing the best replacement heifers for their Jersey herd. The couple are second-generation producers and run a 70-cow pedigree Jersey herd at Knitson Farm, near Corfe Castle in Dorset. Their daughter and son-in-law, Sarah

and Alan Brookes, work part-time on the farm while also working away from the farm as a relief milker and an agricultural contractor respectively. With 60 cows in milk at any one time, the herd is milked through a Lely robot, which was installed in 2013, and all milk is sold to Craig’s Farm Dairy, based just a few miles down the road. “Our milk constituents are just what our buyer is after, at around 3.9% protein and 5.4% butterfat,” says Jane.

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“We are required to graze our cows during the summer months because that’s what customers demand, and that works fine for us. We have low rainfall compared to the rest of the UK, but we have plenty of forage because we work hard to maximise our production and use of spring grass.” Robotic milking means that the cows are grazed in paddocks close to the unit, which are strip-grazed with a back fence. Cows are free to wander between grazing and the robot as they wish. Cows are fed an 18% protein concentrate to yield through the robot and also have access to a TMR ration in the milking shed. This comprises maize and grass silage, distillers’ grains, molasses, soya hulls, plus minerals. Milk yields average around 7,700 litres per cow and heifers typically calve down and enter the all-yearround-calving herd at 22 months old. “It was my mother’s decision to milk Jerseys because she believed that they were easier to manage compared to other breeds, due to their temperament and their size,” says Alan. “We used New Zealand genetics because they produced quiet animals, but since switching to a robotic milking system we’ve moved towards Danish or American bloodlines with more stature, to produce cows that better suit the robot and have room for the cluster to move freely beneath them.”

Growth rates Jane is in charge of calf rearing from birth through to weaning and, since January this year, has taken a new approach with guidance from ForFarmers’ young-stock specialist Emily Hayes. “Jersey calves are small when they are born, often less than 30kg, but we just didn’t feel that they were growing as well as they should be,” explains Jane. “After attending a ForFarmers event on calf rearing we asked Emily to come and visit. She took a close look at what we were trying to achieve and gave us a complete list of protocols to follow for the entire calf-rearing process. It was exactly what I was hoping for and I haven’t looked back since.” Emily explains the approach: “It is difficult to get large quantities of milk into small calves so, to ensure they are receiving enough protein for good bone development and frame, we decided to increase the milk replacer concentration to 180g per litre.” Calves are now fed one litre of good quality colostrum substitute as soon as possible, which Jane believes gives them the strength to feed effectively from their dam. Anything born in the colder months wears a calf jacket for the first four weeks. After colostrum, calves are fed between 1.5 litres and two litres of VITAMILK HiPro Heifer milk replacer twice a day, moving from two to three litres per feed by

Alan and Jane Helfer

14 days. “Some of the smaller calves can’t manage two litres twice a day, so if they don’t want it in the afternoon and want to sleep instead then I don’t push it,” adds Jane.

Encourage intakes At six weeks old, calves are cut back to two litres twice a day and milk is reduced to one litre once a day during the following fortnight, until they are eating enough concentrate, between1kg and 1.5kg a day, to wean. “We’ve just started feeding VITA Start pellets, which are designed to smell like milk powder in order to encourage intakes. The calves have taken to them better than the feed they were on before,” says Jane. “We’ve also moved from haylage to barley straw in the hay racks and they also seem to prefer this.” Calves are weighed regularly, by Jane, with a weigh band until weaning, and then every 60 days on weigh scales, by Alan, when they move into a larger group. “Weighing young stock allows us to monitor their growth and this tells us whether we can wean them as planned at eight weeks old and if they are ready to be turned out,” explains Jane. “Any heifers that are not progressing as expected are just put back a pen to give them time to catch up. Emily is always on the end of the phone if I need her and that professional support is really appreciated.” “Jane and Alan do a brilliant job with the calves and their attention to detail is outstanding,” adds Emily. “By weighing the calves regularly they can closely monitor young-stock progress and ensure that they enter the herd as strong and healthy heifers,” concludes Emily. l

Robotic system: the herd is milked through a Lely unit

Table 1: Knitson Farm’s milk powder feeding regime: birth-to-weaning phase

age 0-14 days 2-6 weeks 6 weeks 8 weeks

milk/calf/feed (litre)

feeds per day

1.5-2 2-3 2 1

2 2 2 1

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Autumn calf meeting dates AHDB, in conjunction with Boehringer Ingelheim’s #Calfmatters, is running a series of meetings this autumn that will focus on calf rearing and how health has a critical impact on the success of any calf-rearing enterprise. The meetings will look at how managing calves to promote a healthy immune system and limiting calf exposure to infection are both vital to ensure a profitable system. This involves measures to optimise housing and management, while also reducing their susceptibility to infection. All the meetings will have four discussion areas: calf health and disease prevention; key factors that increase the risk of pneumonia; improved calf housing; and a farm walk.

Hill Farm, Upper South Wraxhall, Bradford-on-Avon, BA15 2SD. • October 10 – hosted by the Hall family at Church Farm, Caston, Attleborough, NR17 1DB. • October 22 – hosted by the Sewell family at Southcross Farm, Ellerton, YO42 4PX. To register, visit the AHDB website www. and use calf rearing as the filter or email, or telephone the events office on 01904 771218

Meeting dates • October 7 – hosted by Thomas Williams (Seven Sisters Company), at Cross Farm, Ellesmere, SY12 0LP. • October 9 – hosted by Joanne Pile at Cats

Selective dry cow therapy helps to reduce antibiotic use As producers work to reduce their use of antibiotics, one target area has been dry cow therapy. A group of European experts in bovine mastitis recently undertook a best practice and information sharing exercise and, after much discussion, stated: “We recommend administering an internal teat sealant at drying off, to all cows, on all farms.” The group added that those animals that were likely to be infected also needed to receive antibiotic dry cow therapy (ADCT) in addition to a teat sealant. The meeting was convened by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health and was timed to link to the introduction of its teat sealant, Ubroseal. Studies have shown that using an internal

teat sealant (ITS) reduces the risk of new intramammary infections, as well as the risk of developing clinical mastitis after calving. Analysis of published papers showed a 25% reduced risk of new infections and a 29% reduced risk of clinical mastitis for cows receiving ITS plus ADCT, compared with ADCT alone. Using ITS for all cows could significantly help producers to reach targets to reduce antibiotic use. It is estimated that around 29% of the UK herd is dried off without using an ITS, so there is huge room for improvement. The expert group went on to advise on how to develop a herd plan, classifying herds as ‘low risk’ or ‘high risk’ and having a different approach to each. “For ‘high risk’ herds, the priority should be to improve udder health management during both the lactation and dry period,” says Boehringer Ingelheim vet Kath Aplin. “Any decision to abandon ADCT should be made with care and a full risk assessment. In reality, it may be prudent to continue blanket ADCT use until udder health has improved.” Meanwhile, for the ‘low risk’ herds – typically those with a somatic cell count of less than 250,000 cells/ml in four out of the past six months – the group agreed that they should actively strive towards adopting selective ADCT, supported by ITS, for all cows.

bovens bovens regel o

Tackle worms at housing Housing provides an opportunity for producers to remove worm burdens acquired during the grazing season, reducing the risk of clinical and subclinical parasitic disease in heifers. “Once cattle are removed from pasture they will not be exposed to further parasite challenge, so treatment at housing can offer a number of benefits,” says Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s Sioned Timothy. “It is, however, important that any treatment is administered on the basis of a risk assessment, which takes into account factors such as age, grazing history, treatments administered at grass and the presence of clinical parasitic disease. Diagnostic test results may also be of use.” Growing heifers that are housed after their first or second grazing season can be treated with products containing either: a Group 3-ML, such as Eprinex Pour-On or Ivomec Classic Injection or Pour-On; or Group 1-BZ anthelmintic. These products are effective against larval stages that become protected by a cyst, and which are acquired during the latter stages of the grazing season. Left untreated, heavy larval burdens can emerge from their cysts in late winter or early spring. This can cause type 2 ostertagiosis and result in severe scouring, rapid weight loss and, in severe cases, death. Housing also sees an increased risk of external parasite infestations, due to the closer proximity of animals to each other and warm conditions. Group 3-ML pour-on preparations, such as those containing eprinomectin and ivermectin, are effective against both sucking and chewing lice, and mange mites.

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

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Mastering Johne’s – a decade of experience One Staffordshire-based producer shares his Johne’s disease control experiences during the past 10 years and encourages others, that if they haven’t already, to ‘get cracking’ and control the disease on their units. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT


t was a producer meeting, hosted by Tescos in late 2009, with a dairy vet speaking about Johne’s, that got Richard Brittlebank thinking. “It was a bit of a wakeup call,” says the Staffordshire-based producer, who runs the 180-cow Bryley Holstein herd at Tean Leys Farm in Leigh, near Uttoxeter. “The Johne’s symptoms being described by the vet were hitting home. We were experiencing health issues that shouldn’t have been happening, such as repeat mastitis cases, high cell counts and fertility issues. And this was despite doing everything by the book. We had a 40% replacement rate with only a few voluntary culls – this was far too high.” The vet’s presentation was so compelling that Richard signed up to screening his cows for Johne’s, using his routine NMR milk samples. “And what came back after a few tests didn’t make for good reading,” adds Richard.


“There were pages of ‘red’ cows – these were cows where Johne’s antibodies were detected. And, as I now knew what I was looking for, I started to spot the signs of infection in cows.”

Problem cows Culling all infected cows wasn’t an option – there were too many – but the culling rate was increased to take out the more problematic cows. Richard worked with his vet Gill Whitehurst, from Glenthorne Vets (part of the IVC Evidensia Group) at Uttoxeter, to draw up and implement a control strategy. “We had to pick our battles,” says Gill. “We couldn’t implement all the control strategies at once – few herds can – but we focused on the key areas here, which were the calving area and colostrum management.”

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Until this point Richard had been pooling colostrum; unaware that he was mixing colostrum from Johne’s cows with that from clean cows and, therefore, increasing the chances of spreading the risk of infection to all newborn calves. “Our first step was to test and freeze colostrum from known ‘green’ cows,” he says “At the time, having enough to go around was a challenge.” Another issue was finding the room to keep infected cows separate at calving. “There wasn’t room to calve high risk cows individually. It was a logistical challenge, but we divided the transition yard and grouped cows according to their Johne’s status as they approached calving. “Calves from infected cows were snatched and fed the frozen colostrum and we also paid much more attention to hygiene in the dry and calving yards.”

Johne’s facts NMR’s Herdwise Johne’s screening service tests milk samples for antibodies to Johne’s disease. While clinical symptoms may not be seen in a cow until the disease is in its late stages, it leaves a trail of destruction. MAP (Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis) is shed in large numbers in faeces and can be found in colostrum and milk. Animals are infected by ingesting MAP and, consequently, new-born calves are particularly susceptible if they are left to suckle infected dams. Herds typically become infected where stock, including bulls, are introduced the herd.

New research For Gill, Richard’s herd was one of the first to get involved in a Johne’s control programme. “We’ve learned a great deal about managing Johne’s during the past 10 years,” she adds. “We didn’t have a perfect plan at first but, over time, we’ve managed to reduce the prevalence of Johne’s cows in the herd from 20% to 1%.” Gill admits that it’s not always possible to put in a belt-and-braces control plan at first, but screening and accessing the disease status, and then tackling the key issues, is the starting point. “From there, you can tighten up control in other areas. The process has also taught me the importance of the regular risk assessments, and keeping up to date with new Johne’s research and adapting my advice accordingly.” Richard’s commitment to regular screening of individual cow milk samples through HerdWise means that he and his vet always know the current Johne’s status of the herd. HerdWise screens milk for antibodies that are produced

Richard Brittlebank with vet Gill Whitehurst

in response to Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) infection. MAP is the Johne’scausing bacterium. The quarterly screening results classify a cow as red if she has had two or more positive tests in the past four, or amber if she has had one positive test in the previous three tests. This indicates those cows most likely to be infectious. Green cows have had at least

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Routine Johne’s control at Tean Leys Farm

red J5

amber J2, J3, J4

green JO, J1



80 population (%)

• All cows routinely screened using HerdWise • Colostrum from Johne’s ‘green’ cows tested and frozen • ‘Red’ and ‘amber’ cows identified and kept in individual pens at calving • ‘Red’ cows not bred and culled within three months of diagnosis • Amber’ cows are either not bred and culled at the end of lactation, or bred to beef • No waste milk is fed to calves

60 40 20 0 07/11/’11








Projected rates




Ignoring Johne’s was not an option for Richard. “The projection of infection rates, had we not started testing for and controlling the disease, was frightening,” he says. He believes that buying in 40 heifers to take his herd from 140 to 180 cows either introduced the Johne’s causing bacterium MAP into the herd or significantly increased its prevalence. “We’d never tested for Johne’s so we couldn’t be 100% confident we were Johne’s free, but things certainly got worse a few years after we bought the batch of heifers.” Glad to be reporting his success story 10 years on, Richard

Colostrum from Johne’s ‘green’ cows is tested and frozen


Figure 1: HerdWise Johne’s screening results 2011 to 2019: historical data percentage

red J5


population (%)

two tests and the results have shown no sign of infection. HerdWise results for Tean Leys Farm are shown in Figure 1 and 2. “As consecutive test results came back in the first year or so, levels of affected cows were increasing,” says Gill. amber green red “This was because theJ2, control implemented only J3, J4measures JO, J1 J5 protect calves born from then on, and there are still animals 100 in the system that have already been infected before the control measures were put in place that are giving positive 80 tests. “As the 60worst offending cows were culled and our control protocols took effect, then the number of affected cows 40to fall. This can be seen in many herds and may be a started bit unnerving,” she says. “You 20 have to have realistic expectations on the time frame to controlling Johne’s. But the progress does become 0 obvious within three or four years.”

amber J2, J3, J4

green JO, J1

220 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0






date Figure 2: HerdWise Johne’s screening results 2011 to 2019: historical data value

now has only one red and four amber cows as of the latest HerdWise results. And he has the facilities and the protocols in place to manage these cows and avoid any risk of cross infection. The replacement rate in this herd, which averages 9,000kg of milk, has almost halved to between 20% and 25%. “We’re now able to select our culls on factors like conformation and yield,” says Richard. “We’ve far fewer health issues and our vet bills have fallen.” Replacement heifers are now all home bred and the herd is strictly closed. He says that if he did have to buy in stock then they would have to be accompanied by reliable records and a history of ‘negative’ results – and not a one-off test. Richard admits that he’s pleased he bit the bullet. “It’s been hard work, but the results are very satisfying. The herd is now far more trouble-free. This is exactly the detail I can offer producers buying my heifers. It’s now typical to be asked about Johne’s disease and I am able to give them the answer with a high degree of confidence and the accompanying paperwork.” Richard still maintains the strictest controls and screens cows quarterly through HerdWise. His business meets the new Red Tractor protocols required by Tesco (and most other buyers), that states suppliers must engage with the National Johne’s Management Plan (NJMP) and have a declaration signed by a BCVA-accredited Johne’s vet. l

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DP Agri Stainless Steel Drinkers • Steel Rapid Exit Easy Clean Drinking Troughs • Common placed across Europe, the large exit bung replaces the more typical rollover trough that so frequently leaks and sprays water into adjacent cubicles. • Our troughs are fully stainless and designed to be wall mounted

• Even the water fittings are zinc plated to defend against borehole water. • Free standing legs are an optional extra • Typical trough sizes are: • 1.4mtrs • 1.9mtrs • 2.3mtrs

Cowcall Calving Detectors • Small, compact, light and temperature sensitive device is placed in the vagina of the cow up to 14 days prior to calving. The insertion process takes seconds • Once inserted, you simply press a button on the Cow Call unit and walk away • The unit is connected to a base station installed in a key location on your farm • When the cow’s waters break, the device is pushed out • Once outdoor light is detected, a message is immediately sent to the base station. Here the information is analysed

Alverdiscott Road, Bideford, Devon EX39 4FG • Tel/fax: (0044) 01237 425000 • • A SMS & phone call is sent to the farmer to alert him/ her that calving has commenced • The device will shut down after 20 seconds of been passed out • Detection of the breaking of waters will allow the farmer to assess the situation, allow nature to take its course or intervene if he/she proves necessary • Cow Call will alert you, and up to four others, immediately once the calving process begins • Can monitor up to 60 cows at any one time No false alarms • More living calves • Inserts can be washed, sterilized and reused for up to two years • Very safe with 12 Volt control testregistration is a very • No more sleepless nights!!! And NO“The annual good management charges


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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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MILKING EQUIPMENT 26 Portable milkers Gain significant herd health and welfare benefits from a modest investment.

28 What’s new?

We look at the latest parlour cleaning research and equipment.

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Milking – and colostrum feeding – made easy Ensuring that new-born calves are fed adequate colostrum is all the more difficult when they’re born overnight. And the same can be said for milking sick cows that are unsteady on their feet. So isn’t it about time you invested in a portable milking machine? We spoke to a vet to find out more. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


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t’s not always easy to milk freshly calved or sick cows – or feed new-born calves quality colostrum in a timely fashion. Time of day, proximity to the milking parlour and, indeed, the condition of the cow are all factors that can delay, if not prevent, milking. But investing in a portable milking machine could see all that change, as well as improving cow and calf health and welfare. “Ensuring that the new-born calf is fed plenty of good quality colostrum within six hours of birth is vital to protecting it from disease,” says Melton Mowbray-based vet Max Hardy, from Farm Veterinary Solutions. “Producers know this – it’s been impressed on them and their vets for decades – yet still it’s not always done correctly. At least 10% of bodyweight in litres of good-quality colostrum must be fed to new-born calves within six hours,” he stresses. One ‘obstacle’ to this actually happening can be time of birth. “Calves born at 2am may not, realistically, receive their first colostrum feed until much later that morning and certainly not within six hours.”

Colostrum feeding “The producer isn’t going to fire-up the milking parlour for one cow. She’ll be milked with the others, during the morning milking, and only then will the calf receive colostrum from its dam. Some producers may thaw and warm frozen colostrum and feed this in the early hours. But careful thawing is time consuming and strict Johne’s testing must be in place,” Mr Hardy says. “And this is where a portable milker – for one or two cows – can benefit both the cow and the calf.” The cow can remain in the maternity wing and avoid the stress of being milked through the parlour so soon after calving. And by milking her she’ll be more comfortable and her udder will be relieved of immunoglobulin-rich colostrum. Also, the calf benefits from having colostrum from its own dam, again without huge upheaval, and almost immediately after birth. There’s no waiting around. So, if producers can see the benefits to investing upwards of £950 in a portable milker, what should they look for? Something that’s easy to transport and clean and, of course, to operate. And it also has to be reliable. But what else? “Portable milkers tend to be used when an animal is in a stressful situation so the key is to keep further stress to a minimum by ‘mimicking’ the liners and pulsation to what the animal is used to in the milking parlour,” says Dairy Spares’ Tim Evanson. He adds that his company can customise its portable milkers so they ‘match’ the parlour system on each farm. Producers can opt for a portable milker with single or twin clusters and single and twin 30 or 40-litre buckets. Prices range from £950 for a single milker to £,1450 for a twin-bucket system. Mr Evanson says that a machine that’s built to last is also key for many of their customers. “Once they’ve invested, producers will keep their portable milkers for a long time. So longevity is key. His company’s portable milkers have hot-dip

Tim Evanson: “It’s vital that the milker is cleaned thoroughly after use” galvanised frames to help maximise their durability. Two types of machine are available – oil and dry run. Oil-run machines use oil to lubricate the vacuum pump. Dry run ones use graphite vanes to coat the barrel of the pump. Many producers will already have pump oil, so they will probably go for oil-run. “It’s important to keep this topped up and milkers should also be run at least every other day, particularly dry run machines,” says Mr Evanson. “So get into a routine. Or have a timer switch installed to turn it on automatically for a minute, when it is safe and someone is around.” Portable milkers come with electric, petrol or dieselpowered motors. “Ours all come with electric, as they’re much quieter and less disturbing for the cow and calf. If there is no mains socket nearby to run the machine, investing in a small portable quiet-run electric generator is one solution and this will also have other on-farm uses.” He supplies machines that are ready assembled and tested prior to dispatch: “So producers can just ‘plug and play’. It’s vital that the milker is cleaned thoroughly and stored in a dry environment after every use,” he adds. The liners also need to be changed at least once a year, depending on frequency of use. “And when the engineer comes to service the milking parlour, get them to service the portable milker too. Look after it and it will look after you – and your herd.”

Regular maintenance Mr Hardy also stresses that, like any gadget used to ‘solve’ a problem, it’s not a silver bullet. “Portable milkers are great – I’d like to see more of my dairy producer clients invest in one. But I’d also impress on them the importance of following strict calving and calf-rearing protocols and part of this will be to keep the portable milker scrupulously clean. “It must be cleaned thoroughly and carefully immediately after use. The time saving element will soon be lost if it has to be washed and sterilised at, say, 2am after a long and difficult calving. “If it’s not clean then it could actually pose a risk to the calf and put the cow at greater risk of picking up mastitis post calving. With a cleaning and maintenance protocol in place, portable milkers really can be a boon to cow and calf health and welfare.” l

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Save time and money A unique cluster was launched at UK Dairy Day and some revealing data highlighted that there could be efficiencies to be gained – and costs to be saved – by reviewing parlour cleaning routines. 1 Cluster speeds up milking times

2 Review cleaning routine and save money

The first milking cluster in the world to utilise a cartridge, instead of a liner, has been launched by DeLaval. The Evanza cluster and cartridge comprises a claw with an easy, quick-connection between claw and teat-cup. And the company says that it will offer significant benefits in terms of improvements in performance, cow welfare, service, ergonomics and reliability. Units where the milking cluster and cartridge have been tested saw an increase in milk flow of up to 9.3% and a 7% reduction in milking time, compared to conventional clusters with liners. Teat condition scores also improved in the trial herds and parlour service times were reduced by 50%. Cartridge change times are three times quicker than a conventional liner change, according to the company. The cluster will officially go on sale in the UK in October.

Data has revealed that inefficient parlour wash routines could be costing the industry up to £3 million per year. Analysing figures from a Deosan-designed app, which has been used to study cleaning efficiencies on a representational range of dairy unit throughout the UK, there were two significant findings: • Water heating, on average, accounted for £ 3,250 of expenditure per year yet, due to inefficient release and uptake into the parlour, 20% of the expenditure was never realised due to temperature drop. • Chemical consumption was 10% above the required levels for circulation cleaning. This equates to around £300 in additional cost per unit each year. “The overuse of chemicals and inefficient water temperatures aside, there is also the cost of accelerated deterioration to equipment and milk liners,” says Deosan’s David Horton. “Clearly some major improvements can be made, and the good news is that they can be made quickly and simply,” he adds. An effective wash cycle can be split into four equal areas – all of which work in harmony for a successful clean. These factors, which should be given equal


attention to ensure hygiene investment is cost effective, are: temperature, contact time of the chemical to clean, correct chemical dosage, and mechanical action. “An efficient parlour wash is essential to ensure milk soil and bacteria are removed,” stressed Mr Horton. “Aiming for water leaving the boiler at between 77ºC and 82ºC should deliver a good temperature profile across the whole wash cycle. The data showed that, on average, 18ºC was lost between extraction of the hot water from the heater to the start of the wash. “Some simple modifications to the water heater outlet, or the parlour intake arrangement, can be made at minimal cost. If maintaining higher temperatures is difficult, look for chemical options that work at lower temperatures.” Mr Horton adds that it is important to be careful with chemical dosage: “The data shows that 54% of units introduced a chemical to the final rinse at a higher rate than required. “So routinely check how much chemical is used to ensure over-dosing is avoided. This can lead to milk fat and scale deposition, biofilm formation, bacterial growth, equipment deterioration, teat damage and, ultimately, income loss.”



cowmanagement OCTOBER 2019

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Zero-tolerance approach to PIs

Removing persistently-infected (PI) animals from the herd, as soon as they’re identified, is key to the success of the UK’s BVD eradication schemes. So why are some producers slow to react and, in far too many instances, retaining PIs? TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


nitial herd testing for BVD is about confirming the presence of the disease in a herd. But it’s also about ‘outing and ousting’ persistently infected (PI) cows and calves. And there needs to be a renewed focus on tackling PIs. Identifying them and also removing them from the herd should go hand-in-hand and the dual-action should be a priority across all UK herds. “It doesn’t always happen that way,” says Boehringer Ingelheim’s Matt Yarnall, citing evidence and progress from regional eradication schemes, which are up and running across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Information shared during the 2019 BVDzero Congress served to highlight the importance of removing PIs from the herd, as a key part of a successful control and eradication plan.

Matt Yarnall: “More than 90% said they wouldn’t retain PIs again”

Red Tractor Farm Assurance Red Tractor Farm Assurance standard have recently been updated and now require dairy and beef producers to engage with a BVD control programme. The standards now stipulate that, in order for herds to be compliant, BVD must be managed through an eradication programme designed in conjunction with the farm vet. The eradication programme may include: participation in national scheme (BVDFree England, the Scottish BVD Eradication Scheme, the Welsh BVD Eradication Programme, or Northern Ireland BVD Eradication Programme); or membership of CHeCS accredited scheme.


Co-ordinated by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, this one-day meeting brought together stakeholders from across the UK and Ireland at a time when, according to the company’s Matt Yarnall, a collaborative approach to disease eradication has never been more important. “The information shared on the day served to highlight just how important it is for producers to cull PIs – remove them from the herd – once they’ve been identified,” he says.

Serious threat “There was evidence from all four schemes operating across the UK and also the scheme in Ireland to show that this is an area where producers struggle to tackle the disease. Sadly, they then see the damage that hanging on to a PI can do, and they end up learning the hard way. So it’s vital to eliminate PIs from the herd – even if she is ‘your best cow’ or she looks ‘OK’,” Mr Yarnall says. “If the test has shown that she’s positive, then she’s clearly not OK and, in fact, she poses a serious threat to the health of the rest of your herd.” The presentation made by Northern Ireland’s Sam Strain, from Animal Health & Welfare NI, focused on the importance of engaging with meat processors in BVD eradication. The BVD eradication scheme has been running in Northern Ireland since 2016 and, to date, 1.8 million animals have been tested – that’s 95.8% of all cattle. And, as a result, the country has seen a substantial reduction in BVD. But top of his list of continuing ‘issues’ was PI retention: “Too many producers are keeping PIs and those who do cull them are not doing so quickly enough,” Dr Strain told delegates. He said that the challenge facing all schemes was reducing PI retention and its threat to undermine the efficacy of BVD eradication schemes. “Too many are rearing them to slaughter weights and then culling, to try and maximise their value. But this is posing a significant disease risk on farm.”

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There’s no legislative requirement to slaughter PI animals. “And producers do find it difficult to euthanise an ‘apparently’ healthy animal,” he says, adding that they have tried some non-legislative approaches. Improved communication has helped to emphasise the importance of removing PIs. And we’ve removed one key driver for PI retention – the slaughter market.” An agreement reached across the NI industry meant that, as of May 1, 2018, all PI animals born since March 1, 2016, that enter the abattoir are slaughtered and disposed of. “So there’s no slaughter market for PI animals that have been finished.” The Northern Ireland initiative certainly achieved what it set out to do. “It also sent out a strong signal of industry’s appetite to address BVD,” says Mr Strain. “Government also got a clear message of industry’s willingness to lead. But, most importantly, overall PI disposal rates increased from around 60% to around 70%.”

Compelling response Particularly compelling was the response of producers in the National BVD Survey who’d retained PIs who, when asked if they’d do so again, said ‘no’. “More than 90% said they wouldn’t retain PIs again – they’d clearly learned a tough lesson about the risk that these animals pose to the rest of the herd. There’s no doubt that this initiative will be playing a key role in reducing the prevalence of BVD in Northern Ireland ,” adds Mr Yarnall. “But retention of PIs remains an impediment.” He says that there’s a still a lack of awareness and knowledge, despite extensive communication, of the risk that PIs pose to the rest of the herd – and the damage that they can do. “There’s also possibly an unwillingness to believe test results or for some producers not to take notice of the results and to carry on regardless.”

BVD control pointers • Testing: both at herd and then individual level (cows and calves) for persistently infected (PI) animals • Removal of PIs • Biosecurity measures, to prevent disease from entering the herd • Vaccination, to prevent new PIs from being produced

Sam Strain: “Too many producers are keeping PIs or not culling them quickly enough” Mr Yarnall believe that additional measures to ensure that producers remove PIs promptly may be necessary. “The Northern Ireland experience is food for thought for schemes across the UK.” That said, he adds that no other country has achieved BVD-free status without government legislation and regulations being put in place. “But these steps will only be taken if there’s a willingness from the industry to take steps to tackle the disease at farm level. Only then will government bodies step in to offer the final push or incentive to make sure such schemes work.” And it’s producers who will, ultimately, benefit from the improved health, fertility and productivity of a BVD free herd. So it’s up to them to recognise the threat that this disease poses to their businesses. “A key part of that is removing PIs from the herd.” l

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Catalogue debut for Delta Maiko The previous proof run introduced Delta Maiko as the most prominent daughterproven newcomer. Delta Maiko (Perfect Aiko x Camion) has a proof based on 496 daughters. A plus for milk and components (+0.17% fat and +0.14% protein) and all-round conformation make him a universal bull to use. With high daughter fertility (103) and positive health traits, Delta Maiko also breeds easy-to-manage cows with great efficiency (+13%). Another addition to the sire list is Delta Yeti RF (Endurance x Silver). This red carrier young bull transmits a lot of milk (+664kg) with high components (0.13% fat and 0.10% protein) and he is a solid type transmitter, with excellent udders and great feet and legs. For producers looking for polled genetics, Delta Dubai PP red (Jim x Brasil) is a good choice. Dubai is a homozygous polled bull, which means his offspring are 100% horn free. Dubai daughters are easily born and will

bovens bovens regel o

On stage Are you visiting one of the regional dairy shows this autumn? If so, we’d like to welcome you to the CRV Avoncroft stand. Drop by and grab a cup of coffee. We’ll be at the event listed below. • October 2: Dairy Show South West • October 29: Welsh Dairy Show.

Sexed semen MRY Are you looking to improve your herd? CRV now has sexed semen available from the new MRY bull Constant (Albert x Baltimore). Strong udders and all-round conformation are the main characteristics for this daughterproven sire, who now has 115 daughters in 69 herds.

Delta Yeti RF Delta Maiko daughter Erie 54

develop into cows with good milk production (+541kg) and above average scores for hoof health (105) and ketosis (104). The fourth debutant in CRV’s dairy catalogue is Delta Fisherman (Accord x Missouri). This calving-ease sire excels in health characteristics, scoring 108 udder health, 105 hoof health and 654 days longevity. Both conventional and SiryX semen from all four sires is available.

Velder Starmaker in PLI top ten With a PLI of £859, CRV’s Velder Starmaker jumped into the top 10 in August’s genomic ranking. The inheritance pattern of the young bull could apply as a blueprint for the breeding policy of producers who focus on Velder Starmaker

economy. Starmaker guarantees a high milk cheque thanks to good milk production (+615kg) and high components (0.08% fat and 0.08% protein). His daughters are trouble-free and low-cost milkers. Starmaker daughters are functional cows with strongly attached and shallow udders and parallel placed rear legs. A combination of indexes – 109 for ketosis, –35 SCC, and +12.1 daughter fertility – makes him unique in his range. CRV’s Henk Verheij emphasises that the excellent Starmaker figures are to be expected. “Not only is he from a strong cow family, but he also has an impressive bull line in his pedigree. When making the mating, the ingredients were all there, at a high level, for an all-round inheritance pattern.”

Ducati: number one in the UK The Fleckvieh ranking has a new number-one sire: Ducati. The German CRV bull is the highest ranking available Fleckvieh bull in the UK at the moment. Ducati (Dell x Wille) makes his mark thanks to his good udder score (128). He is also solid for milk (+587kg) and components (+0.05% fat and +0.09% protein). Fleckvieh bull Ducati

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

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Here, in the second of a series of five articles, we take a look at how producers can improve feed efficiency to reduce GHG emissions and what this means for dairy businesses and the environment.

Part 1 Assessing your herd’s carbon footprint Part 2 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

Feed for efficiency

and reduce emissions The environmental impact of dairy production and the industry’s carbon footprint is under the spotlight. In the second in a series of articles, we look at how improving feed efficiency can reduce GHG emissions and, potentially, increase milk output and profitability. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


ocusing on feed efficiency has a key role to play in improving herd productivity and profitability. But it’s also a relatively quick ‘win’ when it comes to reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) and carbon footprint of UK dairy herds. The all-important ‘polluters’ here are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). As producers know, methane is mostly belched out of the front end of the cow – not the back end. Pointing the finger of global warming blame at ‘farting cows’ is incorrect on two levels. Nitrous oxide comes from the soil from fertilisers and after deposits of nitrogen from the back end of grazing animals. The facts are, despite being blamed for more, agriculture is responsible for just 10% of the UK’s GHG emissions, with livestock production responsible for half of this. This compares to 24% for the energy sector and 27% for transport. Sweeping statements aside, reducing methane and nitrate missions is a challenge. But researcher Jon Moorby from

On-line tools to measure CF Systems have been developed to make it simple and straightforward and, above all, understandable when it comes to measuring methane and nitrate emissions. Promar, Alltech E-CO2, AB Sustain and Farm Carbon Footprint (based in the south west), all offer services to help producers carry out a CF ‘lifecycle assessment’. Producers can also go on line and use the free Cool Farm tool, which is a GHG, water, and biodiversity calculator.


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the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, says that producers can tackle it at the farm level. Feed more precisely – at grazing and housing. That was his take home message for delegates at a recent Sustainable Dairy Conference, organised by Germinal. “It’s something that can be done relatively easily and with little, if any cost. And the benefits are two fold – reduced emissions and improved feed efficiency.” He says it’s all about feeding the rumen – or more specifically the rumen bugs – so they are better able to convert protein in the ration that’s then directed to maintenance, growth and milk production. “Efficient enteric fermentation is the aim – a good balance of protein and energy in the rumen that means that methane production and nitrogen excretion are kept to a minimum.”

Decreasing emissions Methane emissions for the UK dairy herd are decreasing, as producers focus on improving feed efficiency. Levels are down from 22 millions tonnes per year to 20 million tonnes. “But this isn’t happening quickly enough and there are several reasons why this is the case,” says Professor Moorby. Methane production is linked to dry matter intakes – higher DMI typically means greater CH4 emissions. “But high DMIs are essential to improved productivity. So our work, at Aberystwyth, has been focusing on how to maintain strong DMIs while, at the same time, reduce and minimise GHG emissions. Key here is to manipulate – or optimise – the rumen environment so that more of the protein fed and produced

Jon Moorby: “Efficient enteric fermentation will minimise GHG emissions” by the rumen microbes is utilised by the cow and less is excreted – either through belching (CH4) or faeces and urine (N2O). Typically around 75% of feed protein nitrogen is wasted by the cow – just 25% actually becomes milk protein. “So the challenge is to alter those percentages and help the cow to convert more nitrogen into milk,” says Prof Moorby. The good news is that cows managed on more intensive systems, where forages are more easily supplemented or balanced with ready fermentable carbohydrates, can have slightly lower methane emissions – and they are, typically, also producing more milk.

Efficient systems “They have better feed efficiency, on the whole. And they also tend to be higher yielding. Again, milking higher yielding cows will help to reduce GHG emissions, particularly in terms of grams of CO2 equivalents emitted per kilogramme of milk produced.” He explains that this is why, as the number of cows in the UK herd has fallen and milk production per cow has risen, there’s also been a reduction in GHG emission from

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dairying. “A reduction in nitrogen excretion is better for the environment, and it also results in more efficient milk production.” According to Prof Moorby, the environmental footprint of dairying systems can be reduced by 40%. And forages have a key role here. He referred to a report, written in conjunction with Bangor University’s David Styles, that outlined that best pasture and manure management practices can reduce the environmental impact of dairying while increasing milk production efficiency.

More milk Data from meta-analysis and simulation were combined to model a pasture-based dairy unit under a conventional perennial ryegrass-based scenario and a high sugar grass-based scenario. High sugar grasses, marketed globally as Aber HSG, have been bred to express elevated concentrations of water soluble carbohydrates (WSCs). “The increased levels of water soluble carbohydrates in HSG help rumen microbes use nitrogen released from forage eaten by cows, reducing the proportion of ingested nitrogen that is lost in urine by up to 12%,” says Prof Moorby. “In return, this can reduce the amount of nitrogen potentially leached into water courses as nitrate and released as the potent greenhouse gas N2O from soils. Cows fed Aber HSG have also been found to produce more milk than cows fed conventional ryegrasses, allowing for both production and environmental advantages.” He explains that high-sugar grasses will result in an increased proportion of nitrogen that passes through the

rumen being converted to milk. “And HSGs can be fed alone or with clover. Both instances can see more milk and a reduction in nitrogen and methane losses.” He adds that some legumes have a nitrogen content that’s ‘almost too high’ and certainly need ‘balancing’ with water-soluble carbohydrates, such as those available in high-sugar grass varieties. Red clover works well here. It slows down the process of nitrogen release in the rumen. “As you increase the proportion of water soluble carbohydrates in the diet, nitrogen emissions, through the cows’ urine, should fall. “It’s the balance of energy and protein that’s important. And grass and forage have a key role to play here. And this is great news for producers because grazed grass is the lowest cost feed available. Fresh pasture can improve milk yields and reduce nitrogen emissions.” He says that adding fats and oils to the ration can also help to reduce CH4 production (and emissions). “But great care must be taken here to avoid overwhelming the rumen bugs. Between 5% and 7% of the diet as free oil or fat is as high as producers and nutritionists should go.” And the next thing on the horizon, which producers should look out for, are high lipid grasses. “These offer twice the energy of typical high-sugar grasses. And, again, the lipid content will help to minimise methane production in the rumen and improve feed efficiency.” Breeding also has a role to play – some cattle, even within the same breed and herd – are just better at converting protein into milk and less is wasted as methane and excreted nitrogen. 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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Mill reinvestment project completed The importance of phosphate

ForFarmers has drawn on best practise and expertise from the whole ForFarmers group to complete a £10-million rebuild of Exeter Mill, increasing capacity from 140,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes per year. The new facility is 15 metres taller than the previous plant to accommodate the installation of the planned ‘energy efficient’ vertical conveyor transport system. The old plant was more than 40 years old and this development is set to deliver improvements in energy efficiency of more than 20%. “The investments that we have made at Exeter have been geared around not only improving the quality and efficiency of how ForFarmers’ Steven Read

we produce feed on site, but also delivery to our customers,” says ForFarmers’ chief operating officer Steven Read. “Our aim has been to optimise the environmental footprint of the mill and reduce energy use, while providing customers with the highest quality and service.” Producers who attended an open day and the official opening of the mill, in September, heard how the restructuring programme included the relocation of the separate Exeter-based blends plant on to the same site. Manufacturing and logistics efficiencies were central to the project, which has essentially involved constructing a new mill at the existing ForFarmers site. The mill now incorporates an out-loading facility similar to that in use at ForFarmers’ headquarters mill, based at Lochem in The Netherlands. Here feed is preloaded into overhead bins that discharge into delivery vehicles in just 90 seconds. This is a significant improvement compared to the previous 90-minute delivery vehicle filling time at Exeter and will help to reduce lorry waiting times and engine idling times – lowering vehicle emissions. ForFarmers is also increasing its use of tanker delivery vehicles in the UK. Not only are these safer to use on-farm, but the compartmental design means that more than one bulk product can be carried at one time. Deliveries are not restricted to the order of loading, as was the case with tippers. With the blends plant now on the same site at Exeter, compounds and blends can be carried on the same vehicle, saving time and money.

Correct soil nutrition will not only vastly increase grassland yield but also influence the quality of the forage, ultimately being key to profitability. That’s the message from ForFarmers’ forage product manager Mel Digger. “Getting grass off to an early start in the spring is vital for grass-based systems. It allows for earlier grazing, as well as reducing reliance on housing and silages,” she says. So what are the limiting factors? “Phosphate is essential for kick starting root and shoot development in the spring. But due to the cold temperatures, often less than 1% of the soil’s total phosphate is in a plantavailable form. “Applying a small amount of watersoluble phosphate can make a huge difference to the swards potential for the rest of the year,” she adds. Trials have shown that a 20kg/ha application of phosphate in the spring can increase dry matter yield by 1.02t/ha. “This application is best made alongside the nitrogen application, as the two will have a symbiotic relationship in encouraging early spring growth. “And the demand for phosphate in the spring will rise with soil temperature and peak during April and May, so ensure that any phosphate has been applied by then to match demand.” As with all nutrient inputs, it is essential to measure soil levels to be better able to manage it. ForFarmers recommends carrying out soil analysis to give a detailed understanding of the soil’s requirements.

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The CRV Avoncroft, based in Kidderminster, is part of the globally operating organisation CRV. This is the third in a series of articles about CRV. We take a look at the breeding programmes worldwide.

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

Varied selection has something for everyone Holstein, MRI, Jersey, Fleckvieh – CRV has breeding programmes for many different dairy and dual-purpose breeds in countries across the world. But all the studs share one ethos – health and efficiency. TEXT INGE VAN DRIE


he excels in lifetime production, delivers milk with high components and is the brood dam of an extremely successful cow family. Veneriete Sylke illustrates the power of CRV’s Holstein breeding programme like no other cow, according to the company’s Jaap Veldhuisen. The O Man daughter herself is still alive and kicking. She just passed the 10,000kg of fat and protein milestone and, in around 4,000 days, she produced 118,262kg of milk at 4.88% fat and 3.58% protein – equal to 10,010kg of fat and protein. More importantly, one bull after another is bred from her cow family. A few years ago sires such as Delta Antidote (by August) and Delta Bonaparte (by Bonanza) made a huge impact. And they have passed the baton to high-flying sires, such as the red-and-white leader Delta Jacuzzi (by Livington) and Delta Reloader (by Finder). Jacuzzi and Reloader are recent acquisitions from CRV’s Holstein breeding programme. Every year the organisation tests 35 black-and-white bulls and 15 redand-white bulls, which are largely recruited from the company’s own nucleus breeding programme after a rigorous selection process. “Only one in every 60 genomically-tested bulls is selected for semen production,” says Mr Veldhuisen, who is head of product development genetics at CRV.

Satellite farms At the Dairy Breeding Center, in Wirdum, 12,000 embryos are produced each year. These embryos, extracted from the best cow families in the Netherlands and abroad, are being transplanted into recipients at more than 200 Delta Satellite dairy units in the Netherlands, Flanders and the Czech Republic.


Depending on the size of the dairy unit, these commercial herds each receive between 20 and 40 embryos per year. Based on the results of a genomic test, CRV buys back the best calves. The other calves stay at the units and often result in a major leap forward in genetic progress. So these satellite herds improve the quality of their cattle and also contribute to the improvement of the CRV’s bulls on offer. Every year CRV tests around 3,000 bull calves that are born from these embryos. The breeding organisation buys approximately 120 bull calves from this group, of which 50 bulls are tested each year. But it does not stop there. CRV has breeding programmes for many different dairy and dual-purpose breeds in countries all over the world (see illustration). For example, there is a breeding programme for the dualpurpose breed MRY, another for breeds that perform well under tropical conditions, and one geared to help producers who manage their herds on grass-based systems. These breeding programmes have one thing in common, according to Mr Veldhuisen. “Efficiency and health are the common thread in these programmes. Every bull that we test must fit in with that,” he says. “We want to breed bulls that sire healthy cows that produce milk efficiently, thanks to a high lifetime production, high components and good feed efficiency. “Within the Holstein programme, we further distinguish several segments to serve all producers worldwide: lifetime production, protein, health, type and grazing. For example, a bull like Double W Ranger fits well in the type segment. Producers can make the best genetic mix to suit their breeding goal.” In addition to the Dutch Holstein breeding programme,

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CRV’s breeds all over the world MRY Strong, problem free, red-and-white dual purpose breed with high protein milk

Fleckvieh Robust, healthy breed that excels in fitness and efficiency and is suitable for crossbreeding

Holstein Easy to manage, long lasting cows with fewer problems, that produce milk with high fat & protein and with excellent feed conversion

Jersey US Long living and attractive Jerseys that convert feed efficiently into component rich milk

Friesian NZ (grazing) Superior, robust Friesian breed that converts grass efficiently into valuable milk

Tropical Robust breeds that produce and perform well in tropical condition

there is a US-based breeding programme in which around 10 Holstein bulls are tested each year. The emphasis there is slightly more on kilogrammes of fat and protein. “Bulls like Peak Hotline and Peak Jerod Abel come out of that programme,” adds Mr Veldhuisen.

Grazing systems Holsteins also play a role in the grazing-based breeding programme in New Zealand. Approximately 80 Friesian and 30 Jersey bulls are tested each year, plus about 40 so-called kiwi cross bulls, bulls with both Jersey and Holstein bloodlines. “The grass-based system requires a slightly different type of cow,” says Mr Veldhuisen. “The European Holstein cows are too big and too heavy for their management systems,” he adds. “Producers who work with a grass-based system prefer slightly smaller cows. Fertility and calving ease also play an important role. For that reason, a bull like Batenburg Stellando was quite popular in New Zealand.” Holstein is the main dairy breed for CRV, but the breeding organisation also has developed breeding programmes for producers who prefer dual-purpose

Jersey NZ (grazing) Efficient and fertile Jersey breed that produces valuable milk

breeds. The Dutch MRY breed for example, with 10 bulls being sampled each year, produces strong, problem-free, red-and-white cows with high protein.

Fleckvieh sires The Fleckvieh breeding programme is even bigger. Each year CRV tests around 40 Fleckvieh bulls in Germany and Czech Republic. The organisation has contracts with producers and breeders and buys some of the test bulls from auctions. The number-one Fleckvieh bull in the UK, Ducati, originates from the CRV breeding programme just like the highly popular Haribo and Wobbler. The most important Fleckvieh populations are in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, and France. CRV’s Fleckvieh breeding programme uses all these populations to ensure that it sources the best available bulls. “The aim is to improve protein yield and animal fitness and health while, at the same time, maintaining meat performance and to increase lifetime performance,” says CRV’s Tobias Lerner. “The objective is a high functional longevity with an average lifetime performance of 30,000kg of milk. A good example of the focus on health and efficiency again.” l

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Genomic health index pays off

Tom Oesch

Tom Oesch from Swiss Lane Farms, Michigan, has made significant welfare and financial benefits in his 2,200 Holstein cow herd since he started genomic testing using CLARIFIDE Plus in 2012. He told producers at recent meetings, held here in the UK, that his vetand-med spend had almost halved from £192 a cow a year to £108. CLARIFIDE Plus includes the bespoke Dairy Wellness Profit (DWP) index – an index also available, for an additional fee, to GeneTracker users. DWP is based on lifetime productivity and health, giving an overall view as to how profitable a cow will be.

Tom conducted his first genomic test on a batch of 500 heifers in 2012. In 2014, when the first genomic tested heifers were calving, he saw an increased number of stillbirths. “We brought in vets and consultants and there was nothing from a management point of view they could identify,” he says. However, when he looked at daughter stillbirth (DSB) rate on the genomic prediction, every heifer with a dead calf had a high DSB rate more than nine. “That is when we decided to genomic test the rest of the herd.” By using the genomic results to highlight cows more prone to metritis, Swiss Lane Farms has seen a 77% reduction in prevalence from the worst group to the best group. “We’re now seeing just 9% of metritis in the geneticallyranked top 25% of heifers and 39% in the bottom 25% of the herd – that’s 26% less than in 2016,” he said. Similar advantages have been seen for other health factors with 76% fewer cases of ketosis between the top and bottom quartiles of the herd and 92% fewer cases of displaced abomasum. The difference in mastitis and lameness cases between the top and bottom quartiles is now 76% and 65% respectively. Using genomic tests, DWP has now become Tom’s main selection tool.

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GeneTracker dates The next genomic sample submission and results dates for NMR GeneTracker are: • October 17, results on December 3 • November 21, results on January 8, 2020 • December 20, results on February 5, 2020

Diary 2020 The NMR 2020 herd management diary is now available. This latest edition includes the new Red Tractor Farm Assurance changes for Johne’s disease and BVD, which will apply to most producers. The 2020 diary is priced at £30.00 plus VAT, including postage, and is available via your NMR area field manager or directly from NMR Customer Services on 03330 043 043 or

Help at hand GeneTracker, NMR’s genomic testing service, comes with a helping hand in interpreting and using the results. Rebecca Gage offers on-line support for those just getting the hang of making best use of the results. “We publish genomic results on the inGENEious reports. These are easy to use, but it’s good to talk through how best to navigate your

way around if you’re new to it all,” she says. “We offer remote online sessions for all users but particularly those embarking upon their first batches of GeneTracker testing. Our aim is to help producers to get the most from their results so they can identify the best breeding pool for the herd.”

UNIFORM for all Advisers and vets can now have access to real-time herd information through the latest UNIFORM software. “The new UNIFORM consultant’s package is specifically designed for third parties, so, with the producers’ authorisation, they can access herd information such as medicine use, daily milk yields and mastitis or lameness incidences simultaneously,” says NMR’s Cath Smith. UNIFORM software is used on 1,200 dairy

units to record and manage production, health, fertility and event information. The data is kept up to date through parlour links and with NMR recording information, so herds can be managed based on real-time information. The UNIFORM consultant’s package is available for £125 per month for two licences, which includes software updates and on-line support.

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

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Put a spring in your step

Producers pay a lot of care and attention to cows’ hooves. But what about their own feet? We spoke a physiotherapist and a parlour-pit mat supplier to find out why personal ‘hoof care’ is a vital part of running an efficient and productive business. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


old, hard concrete. Dairy producers know it’s not good for their cows’ feet, yet they too often spend a significant proportion of their working day standing on – and sometimes even jumping from a height on to – it. Just like their cows, this can leave them vulnerable to ‘lameness’ and other knee, hip and back problems. And, depending on its severity, these health issues can also have catastrophic consequences for the dairy business. Gloucestershire-based physiotherapist Clare Woodward should know. With more than 20 years of experience in ‘foot-care’, she is also a producer’s daughter. “It really is a case of ‘no foot, no farmer’,” she explains. “Standing and walking on concrete for long periods – and jumping off tractors and down from the collecting yard and into the parlour pit – particularly in ill-fitting or unsupportive footwear, will, at the very least, result in excessive pronation of the foot. “This often means that the arch of the foot collapses and rolls inwards,” she explains. As the feet pronate, there is excessive biomechanical stress placed on the joints and soft tissues in the foot. And this can result in a number of painful conditions in the foot itself, such as bunions, corns, plantar fasciitis (a tightening of the soft tissues in the sole of the foot) and metatarsalgia (inflammation of the metatarsal joints at the front of the foot). “Compensatory misalignment can then also occur throughout the rest of the musculoskeletal system, which can cause ankle, shin, knee, hip and even lower back pain,” adds Miss Woodward. The good news is that, just as in dairy cows, ‘lameness’

Paul Butland: “How much time do you spend standing on concrete?” 48

is preventable. And it does not need to involve a cattle crush or a vet. The key focus here is investing in and wearing the correct footwear. “Producers wear Wellingtons for extremely long periods throughout the working day – not great footwear when it comes to looking after your feet because most don’t have a good, supportive foot bed. “It’s vital to invest in a good pair of boots that support the foot. Ideally, producers should be wearing boots with a foot bed that holds the joints of the foot in a good biomechanical position,” she explains, adding that producers should think of their footwear as a piece of essential person protective equipment (PPE) – just as they would steel toe caps if they were working with heavy machinery. “Supportive boots will optimise the position of the foot and prevent foot conditions from occurring, as well as optimising the position of the ankles, knees, hips and pelvis.”

False economy “It’s a false economy to balk at the price of a decent pair of Wellingtons. The cost of physiotherapy, or even surgery and time off, will far exceed the cost of even the most expensive boots. So invest in your feet – look after yourself,” Miss Woodward says. “Make sure your boots are the correct size, they’re not too wide, and they offer support and cushioning to both the arch of the foot and the heel. “And don’t wait to change them when they’re split and letting in water. Replace them when they start to wear and you feel that they no longer offer maximum foot support,” she says. “Remember, runners don’t wait for their trainers to fall apart before they replace them – they know that after so many miles they should be replaced, as the shock absorption and support begins to diminish. It’s the same for Wellingtons. Buy some that put a spring in your step and, when you can’t feel that anymore, throw them away and buy a new pair.” And she says that producers should take every opportunity that they can to change into different footwear throughout the working day.

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Foot support: invest in boots that will protect your feet and mobility

“Something like a pair of leather drilling boots would be ideal. Anything that’s supportive, breathable and easier to walk in than Wellingtons. Again, it takes just moments to change your boots – so make time for yourself and make it part of your routine.” The number-one condition in ‘Wellington wearers’, and indeed anyone spending prolonged periods on their feet in inadequate footwear, is something called ‘turf toe’ – the inflammation of what’s known as the PIP joint in the big toe. “This is caused by over use, which occurs if the boots are the incorrect size – typically they’ll be too big or too wide,” she says. Plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the sole of the foot – would be the next most common complaint and is the result of inadequate arch support. Another common condition in boot wearers is called Achilles tendonitis – also known as policeman’s heel. This results when there’s no cushioning or support under the heel.

Concrete ‘cushioning’ Mats in the parlour pit can also be extremely beneficial – both in terms of providing cushioning and warmth – in protecting producers’ feet and skeletal system. Intershape’s Paul Butland says that his Northamptonshirebased company is seeing a steady increase in sales of parlour-pit matting each year: “And it’s mostly as a result of producers making enquiries about mats for the cows in the parlour. It gets them thinking about how much time they also spend standing on concrete.” He says that there’s also a mixture of producers who are fitting mats as a ‘reaction’ to their own foot problems: “But the majority only think about footwear if they’re having an issue with their feet, knees, hips or backs. Matting can also be an important piece of the PPE puzzle, when it comes to spending a lot of time standing and walking around on concrete.” The mats are typically around 25mm thick and made of material, predominantly EVA, that offers support and

Parlour matting: additional support and insulation

insulation, as well as being non-slip and resistant to dairy chemicals, slurry and urine. “These mats should last for around 10 years, depending on the level of wear. Clearly a mat in a rotary parlour, where the operator stands in the same place for long periods, will show a greater level of wear than a mat in a herringbone set up. “And using peracetic acid for cluster washing can also reduce the lifespan of the mats. But they’re well worth the investment in terms of operator comfort and skeletal health.”

Supportive footwear Coupled with well-fitting and supportive footwear, the mat should offer cushioning that’s akin to wearing sports trainers in the parlour. “Jumping down into the pit, and standing and walking on concrete puts stress on feet and legs. And cold concrete in the winter just exacerbates the issue. Insulation not only makes life more comfortable for the milker, but can also aid better circulation. “Put it this way – I’ve never had a producer complain about a parlour pit mat,” adds Mr Butland. “Most, once they’ve had matting fitted, wonder why they didn’t do it before. And I’m sure it goes a long way to making the whole milking process ‘easier’ and more pleasant. And that, foot health aside, has to help with operator efficiency and overall performance.” l

Clare Woodward: “It really is a case of ‘no foot, no farmer’”

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ADVERTISERS’ INDEX Alta 18 Boehringer Ingelheim 51 ClusterClean 46 Cogent Breeding Ltd. 39 Concept Cowhouse Ltd. 23 Cosy Calf 34 Cowcare Systems 6, 44 CRV Avoncroft Ltd./CRV 14, 30, 31 Dairy Spares 23 DP Agri 24, 46 Farmplus 29 FCG Accounting Ltd. 29 FiveF Alka 46 ForFarmers/Thompsons 2 Heuven Livestock BV 23 Hoofcount 44 Intershape 44 Lallemand Animal Nutrition 4 MediaMeadows 24 Nedap 40 NMR 10, 52 NWF Agriculture 29 Trouw Nutrition 29 Zinpro 47


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NOVEMBER CALF REARING November 1: Our next issue’s special will shine a spotlight on calf rearing. And we’ll also have the third 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, Lauren Goringe, 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. Whilst 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, Els Korsten (17, 19), Alex Arkink (35) and Eveline van Elk (36-37, 50).

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A winning formula since 1997

Removing gutworm with Eprinex® lets you get the best performance from your cows. It’s been shown to help improve fertility and increase milk yield by killing these damaging parasites.1,2 And with zero milk withhold, you can use it at any stage of production without the worry of lost milk sales. No wonder it’s been trusted by farmers for two decades.

A formula for success

1. McPherson et al. Proceedings of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists. 44th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Abstr. 28, 1999. 2.Verschave et al. BMC Veterinary Research (2014) 10:264. EPRINEX® Pour-on for Beef and Dairy Cattle contains eprinomectin. Legal category: POM-VPS. For information about side effects, precautions, warnings and contraindications please refer to the product packaging and package leaflet. Further information available in the SPC or from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Ltd., RG12 8YS, UK. UK Tel: 01344 746960 (sales) or 01344 746957 (technical). Email: EPRINEX and the steerhead logo are registered trademarks of the Boehringer Ingelheim Group. ©2019 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Ltd. All rights reserved Date of preparation: March 2019. AHD12190. Use Medicines Responsibly.

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Healthy cows = productive cows Take positive action on Johne’s Ensure you are Red Tractor compliant by having your Johne’s vet declaration signed for your milk buyer by 31st October 2019! To find out more visit: johnes

You don’t have to see clinical signs of Johne’s disease for it to be present in your cows, adversely affecting their health. NMR offers a range of surveillance options to suit your herd’s Johne’s status.


• Quarterly testing of all cows using NMR milk recording samples • Each cow classified by risk (Red, Amber, Green) • FREE risk assessment

• Whole herd adhoc testing

• Gives you an initial snapshot of your herd situation

30 cow screen

• Herd level assessment • HerdTracker: Quarterly service for low risk herds

@NMRGroup NationalMilkRecords

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Always discuss Johne’s surveillance requirements with your vet

03330 043 043

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Profile for CRV Uitgeverij/CRV Publishers

Cowmanagement october 2019  

Cowmanagement october 2019