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Bull-proof run reveals wealth of sire choice

Mind over matter and ‘can do’ attitude key to dairy success

Maize focus:

select early varieties and cultivate with care


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main article positive mental attitude

5 6 11 17 20 31 35

From the editor Cow talk Value added: craft beer brewer CRV Avoncroft Breeding Information Roger Evans Boehringer Ingelheim Health News ForFarmers Nutritional News/ Thompsons Nutritional News 45 NMR Dairy Management News 50 Events and contacts MAIN A RT IC L E

8 Cultivating a ‘can do’ attitude and promoting good mental health REPORTS

12 Downsizing has increased efficiency and profitability on one Kiwi dairy unit 18 Two top herds go for gold FEEDIN G

14 Reaping the rewards of robotic system/ Baby steps to success MAIZE S PE C IA L

24 Variety selection is key to maize success 26 Preventing bird damage

8 Gold Cup finalists

special maize


32 Dig into fertility data 38 Lean concept offers calf-rearing benefits BREEDI N G

42 Wide variation in feed efficiency 48 December bull proofs


Bull-proof run reveals wealth of sire choice

r Mind over matte ude and ‘can do’ attit cess key to dairy suc





RUA RY 2020


Ron Pellow:

James Tomlinson:

“The dairy business is leaner and more resilient”

“With so many good sires available, I can afford to be extremely picky”

Maize focus:

eties select early vari care and cultivate with

.UK 16-01-20 16:51



Taking a moment: cows tuck into a fresh helping of their winter TMR. Picture: Harrie van Leeuwen


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Wednesday 5 February, Stoneleigh Park



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300+ exhibitors

Business Efficiency

Women in Agriculture

Product Launches


Panel Debate

Dairy Services


Drop-in clinics






Whole Supply Chain







Brand Awareness Personalised Itinerary







Sell Out


16,000sqm event area












Ground Breaking



Live Buyers

New ideas


Ask the experts






Royal Dairy






Industry News

Innovation Award




16-01-20 09:24


Start the new year with a positive outlook This is the first issue of 2020 – and the new decade – and we hope it helps you and your business get off to a flying start and banishes some of those January blues. Winter – particularly January – can be a tough month whatever you do for a living. But for producers it’s often when the cold, dark mornings really start to take their toll. And so that’s why we thought our article on ‘positive mental attitude’ would resonate with readers at this time of year. Talk of this year’s maize crops may also help to boost moral, as thoughts turn to spring, warmer temperatures and sunshine hours required to guarantee a good return on your investment. Our special, which starts on page 23, focuses on maize and we have some pointers on taking the risk out of growing the crop, namely through suitable site selection and opting for an early variety. We also look at the steps producers can take to prevent bird damage to newly-sown crops, following the ban on – and limited availability of – bird repelling seed treatments.

There will be more pressure on producers to comply with environmental legislation this year – particularly with regards to Defra’s clean air strategy. And our herd report, on page 12, features a Kiwi dairy unit that’s decreased stocking rate – and milking cow numbers – to focus on a more sustainable approach. This has proved to be better for the bottom line and its carbon footprint. Inputs have fallen significantly and fertiliser use has halved. But productivity and profitability have increased, demonstrating that a more environmentally friendly approach is good for the bank balance. Beer is proving to be a money spinner for one Irish dairy producer, who has set up a brew house on his unit and is now exporting bottles and kegs to many countries, including the US. Find out more about his lucrative diversification on page 11. We also kick off the year with a cracking column from Roger Evans, who shares his views on vegans and his experience with a ‘newcomer’ to the village. She clearly didn’t know who he was!


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Interaction and innovation at Dairy-Tech 2020

Visitors to this year’s Dairy-Tech, on February 5, can look forward to interactive, forwardthinking speakers and a whole host of product and innovation launches. Dairy is a vital source of nutrition, but industry is under increasing pressure an anti-dairy narrative. Independent nutritionist Claire Baseley will explain, at the event’s Dairy Hub, how producers and the industry can narrative this by separating the facts from the myths. Arla Foods’ Graham Wilkinson and Morrison’s Nicola Spalding will also discuss the latest consumer insights and how these differ from processor to supermarket. Tom Gill, head of sustainability at Promar

International, will focus on busting the myths around dairy emissions – an area that’s under increasing scrutiny. He explains that ‘it’s the how – not the cow’ and that there are plenty of steps that producers and the wider industry can take to reduce emissions and become more efficient. With more than 300 exhibitor stands, the one-day event offers the usual plethora of products, services and concepts for visitors browse. “The Innovation Hub is also packed with presentations on new ideas and products – with additional sessions looking at what’s on the horizon for the industry in a fast moving,

technology driven world,” says Matt Knight from show organiser RABDF. “If you’ve ever wondered about the positive effect of satellite mapping on grass growth or how innovation can help when it comes to meeting net zero targets then check out the hub timetable as it is packed full of inspiring and fresh content.” Miracle-Tech, Herdwatch and Zoetis are the three finalists in this year’s Royal Dairy Innovation Award, sponsored by CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock). Each company will pitch their product to the judges on the Innovation Hub after the official show open with the winner announcement taking place later in the day. Tickets are now on sale at www.dairy-tech. uk/visiting/buy-tickets, with concessions for RABDF members and students. Tickets cost £17 in advance and £20 on the day.

Tips to make every vaccine dose count A campaign to highlight the important role that vaccines play in protecting animal health – how to correctly store and administers them – has been launched by the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH). The #VaccinesWork campaign will set out to raise awareness of how and why vaccines work and the range of diseases they protect against. It will also review and improve how vaccines are stored and administered, as

well as encourage use of existing vaccines “Vaccination of calves against livestock diseases has risen to one of the highest levels in seven years,” says NOAH’s Dawn Howard. “But research shows that producers could be losing out, despite their best intentions, if vaccines are not stored properly or administered correctly. NOAH’s tips for storage include: ensuring that fridge storage is between 20C and 80C.

Keep vaccines cool on the road – leaving a vaccine for 30 minutes in a hot vehicle can render it ineffective. So use a cooler box/bag when transporting vaccines. Use a dedicated medicines fridge. The middle of the fridge has the most constant temperature. Store vaccines in date order and use in sequence – and only use vaccines that are in date.

And the Gold Cup winner is ... NMR is hosting the presentation of the 2019 NMR/RABDF Gold at the one-day Dairy-Tech event at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, on Wednesday February 5, 2020.


This will take place at 4pm on the NMR stand and will be followed with the traditional ‘openhouse’ cheese and wine event.

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bovens bovens regel o

One tractor, one operator umbilical system An umbilical pump trailer has been launched that offers producers the potential to save time and money by only requiring one tractor and one operator. Designed and manufactured by Tramspread, the pump trailer is used by its contracting division to reduce labour requirements and cover the highest hectarage using just one tractor. Unique to the design is an SIL remote control. Combined with pressure sensors and a flowmeter, this allows the entire umbilical system to be accurately operated and monitored by just one operator.

The unit can also monitor the areas treated and the quantity of slurry utilised because it is fitted with Tramspread’s Raven Box mapping and recording technology. “The combination of knowing the speed of flow and being able to control it remotely is key to the time and equipment savings this trailer offers,” says the company’s Laurence Baker. “The unit also keeps a record of the slurry utilised so operators can measure how effective each application is and improve distribution in the future.” The contractor pump trailer is powered by a 175 horsepower Iveco engine coupled to a

Bauer SX2000 pump, which is capable of pumping up to 300 cubic metres per hour depending on distance and hose diameter. The long drawbar enables an applicator, such as a dribble bar, to be carried on the tractor’s rear three-point linkage while towing the trailer. Up to 2,000 metres of drag hose is carried on two galvanised detachable spools located at the front of the trailer, while a further 1,000 metres is carried on the tractors front threepoint linkage via a powerful twin hydraulic drive reeler, giving a total system capacity of 3,000 metres.

Pre-calving management ‘station’ A ‘one-stop’ health station, which allows dry cows and young stock to be routinely monitored, foot bathed and weighed, is set to be launched at Dairy-Tech by Hoofcount. Hoofcount Transit features an observation crate with a footbath, which automatically empties and fills, and a feed trough that can be programmed to dispense both pellet and liquid feed. An optional electronic weighing system and a holding gate are also available. “This system will allow producers to manage their dry cows and in-calf heifers during the final weeks prior to calving and provide them with the opportunity to enter lactation in optimal health,” says the company’s Anthony Marsh. “Foot bathing is frequently neglected in

transition animals, but this will occur each time a cow or heifer visits the station. This will help to minimise any hoof health issues, such as digital dermatitis, when she joins the milking herd.” He adds that individual daily feed allocation can be programmed into the system, ensuring that every in-calf animal receives adequate energy intake to maintain body condition. “And the system’s optional weighing system notifies the producer of any abnormal deviations. Data, along with non-visits, are collected by the web-based data package and available in the office or from a smartphone App. The company adds that producers can buy or rent the station, on a monthly rental plan.

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Mind over matter

Positive and good mental health are key to running a business, and dairy farming is no exception. So is your glass half full – or half empty? And, if it’s the latter, what can you do to change your mindset? TEXT RACHAEL PORTER & KAREN WRIGHT


unning a successful business is often more about attitude than anything else – people really are key to efficient and profitable dairy units. So says Kite Consulting’s Edward Lott. “Look at two identical units and what’s always different are the people running it,” he told delegates at the recent RABDF conference. “They’re an important link in the dairying chain and often make all the difference when it comes to productivity.” “If the staff and those running the unit have a positive attitude, the unit is more likely to succeed,” he says. “The top-performing producers use their farm’s resources – feed, genetics, caption and people – better than the poorer performing farms. They also have the right mental attitude to cope with future change. These factors all determine the maximum profit per unit of production.” He says mental attitude is fundamental to economic success. “Attitude of mind definitely correlates with business performance, so looking after your mental health is not an ‘indulgence’ – it’s essential for your

Holly Beckett: “Changing your mindset requires focus and practice”


overall well-being, that of your family and work colleagues and staff, and the success of your business.” There are many challenges facing dairy businesses – some expected and others not so much. A positive mental attitude will ensure that producers are better equipped to meet them head on and, in some instances, turn them into opportunities. “It’s important to ‘control the controllables’ and don’t sweat too much about the things you can’t control. Focus on the things you can. “And draw on the outcome of previous challenges, of things you’ve made it through and changes they may have led to that have actually improved your business. Business management is important, but attitude is fundamental.”

‘Can do’ attitude Kite Consulting’s management consultant Jo Speed agrees. “A ‘can do’ attitude goes a long way. It’s a positive belief that no matter what comes your way or what life may have in store for you that you will come out ahead and that you can make it,” she says. “It means when confronted with a problem – big or small – you meet it head on and take action because you know success is possible, if not inevitable, for those try. “What you think affects your feelings, in turn, affect what you do. It’s a vicious cycle and if you are constantly in a negative frame of mind you will feel negative, your attitude will be negative and, therefore, much of what you do and the people you work with day to day could also be negatively affected.”

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Jo Speed: “A ‘can do’ attitude goes a long way”

capable, the mind will win. This also holds true when having positive expectations. It’s sounds like a cliché, but if you live your life on a daily basis expecting things not to go your way then they won’t.” Mindfulness – paying more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. And it’s certainly something that can help producers cultivate a more positive mindset – and boost productivity. “Reflect on your thoughts and put them into perspective by creating the space to do this,” says Nuffield scholar and farmer coach Holly Beckett.

Goal setting

Mrs Speed says that, for example, if we are feeling sad or depressed, we might have thoughts and feelings of being worthless and, at our lowest ebb, stay in bed all day. On the other hand, if we are feeling happy or excited and the future looks bright, we feel good about ourselves and behave in a positive way – with positive actions. Even if ‘positive’ isn’t your ‘default setting’, Mrs Speed says that producers cultivate a positive mindset. She runs workshops and meetings, as part of her consultancy role and as an Farming Community network volunteer, to help producers maintain and develop a positive mindset and safeguard their mental health. It starts with self-belief. “Take silaging. We know it’s challenging. But if we go into the season with the attitude that we want it to work, then it will. “We don’t hear producers saying there’s no point in harvesting grass because it might rain. If they did, we’d never get the crop. Producers always take action and move forward. So the next time you find yourself sitting back instead of charging forward, try to correct yourself and go forward. Think positively and be optimistic. Remind yourself that tough things happen but you’ve faced them before and you can do it again.” She points out that what we expect is what we tend to get. “If we go into an athletic competition and think we will lose then we will most likely lose. So think of winning – think of a sportsperson you admire and them scoring the goal, winning the try, or crossing the line in first place. “The mind really does control the body and when the mind says you can’t win even if your body is

She started the Focussed Farmers project in 2017 after receiving funding from the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust. Initially a pilot was run with a group of farmers and agricultural professionals to look at the impact of a programme of mindfulness, coupled with goal setting. Working with psychologist and mindfulness-based leadership coach Willie Horton, she developed an online 12-part video series that covers the psychology of mindfulness and goal setting as an introduction to producers and ag-sector workers. “Positive attitude and mindset are directly linked with mental health – good mental health. I believe that the agricultural sector has moved forwards, in leaps and bounds, with developing awareness and support for people struggling with their mental health. But there is still limited resource out there promoting what people can do to improve their mental health. “The project’s focus is to provide a practical approach, offer solutions and provide tools for producers,” adds Miss Beckett. “It is difficult for someone to change their mindset without physically doing something different – just telling someone to think positively won’t work in most cases It’s not that simple. Changing your mindset requires focus and practice. And that what we set out to help people to do.” l


Additional help and support The FF programme continues with similar positive outcomes as a paid-for course and the video series is still available for free. Find out more about the project at the website, and see if you could benefit. If you need help or support, call the Farming Community Network on 03000 111999 or email help@fcn.org.uk. For more information: www.focussedfarmers.com

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Name Seamus McMahon Herd size 120 cows Adding value craft beer brewer

Co Monaghan

Raise a glass… Seamus McMahon decided to turn his hand to brewing in a bid to mitigate milk price fluctuations, which were particularly severe in the early part of the past decade. “We were looking for an enterprise to help protect us from this volatility. We looked at processing and selling raw milk, but couldn’t get a licence,” he explains. While enjoying a craft beer with friends he hit on the idea of brewing his own, on a scale large enough to see a decent turnover and profit. “We visited some British breweries and also looked to see what was already being produced here in Ireland. We had to make sure there was a gap in the market – and outlets for what we wanted to produce.” Seamus, who runs a 120-cow herd at Carrickmacross in Ireland, enrolled on a master brewer course and Brehon Brewhouse – two converted farm sheds and a 10-barrel plant – began production in 2014. “We employ a head brewer and also have two part-time staff. I’d like to do more brewing myself, but I’m busy with the cows and the marketing, sales and client interface ‘beer’ work takes up all my time. I couldn’t produce beer to the consistent quality that our head brewer can. There’s no point just producing good beer – there has to be a brand, awareness and, ultimately, good sales for the enterprise to be viable.” Seamus also knew that he had to ‘think big’. “County Monaghan is quite small, with just 13 or 14 pubowning companies. And our research also showed that it’s difficult

to get people to change to drinking craft beers. Even in the larger cities, craft beers only account for 20% of all beers consumed.” Exports – of bottles and kegs – account for 80% of sales. Beer is sold in seven countries, including the US, France, Germany and Russia. And Seamus is continually following new leads and making contacts. Sales are expanding – both locally and globally. “We have been quite lucky – we’ve been in the right place at the right time and we’ve won some exciting pitches – like the chance to supply a few pubs in the US. The most notable are two Irishthemed pubs based at Disney Springs and Finnigan’s Bar & Grill at Universal Studios, in Florida.” There are four ales in the brewery’s core range and three seasonal and speciality beers, including a porter and a stout. Today the brewhouse can produce up to 22,000 barrels at any one time. “And we recently released a whisky-aged imperial stout, Crann Beatha, to celebrate our 200-brew milestone.” Seamus also hosts brewhouse tours and there’s a tasting room on the farm. “The plan is for the business to start making money, which should happen this year. We’ve grown quite quickly and we’ve not taken anything from the business – just reinvested. The dairy herd still ‘washes its own face’ and is our dominant business. But I would like to see the brewhouse supporting the farming side – that was why we set up the business in the first place.”

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Sustainability matters – not size Downsizing has increased efficiency and profitability on one Kiwi dairy unit. More milk, using less fertiliser, is being produced per hectare. Ron Pellow, who led the business during its transition, presented the herd’s impressive results at a recent LIC conference. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


ne New Zealand-based herd is bucking the trend towards expansion and has actually downsized in a bid to become more profitable and sustainable. The 560-cow herd of Kiwi-crosses (Friesian x Jersey), at Lincoln University’s farm, based just outside Christchurch on the country’s South Island, is managed on a typical New Zealand grazing system. What’s not so typical, and what sets it apart from other herds in the country – and, indeed, other parts of the world – are the steps it’s taken to focus on sustainability and efficiency while, at the same time, also keeping a very close eye on profitability. “That’s our key driver,” explains Ron Pellow, who led the business during the transition to a smaller but more efficient set up during the past decade. Peter Hancox is the farm manager. Ron says that producers in New Zealand, like those in the UK, have plenty to be positive about. They’re both temperate climates and, therefore, ideal for growing grass. “Our business is to turn sunshine into food – for the cows and then for people. And that’s food that’s good for the environment and for consumer health. We’re using grass to produce


high-quality protein for humans and we should never lose sight of that.” The next target is to do this in a way that’s both environmentally friendly and profitable. Ron and the team of staff who run the herd on a 160-hectare rotational paddock grazing system have been focusing on doing just that. “Our land is flat and the perfect grass-growing environment. We can grow a lot – up to 20 tonnes of pasture per hectare a year.” That said, they reduced the stocking rate from 4.2 cows per hectare, back in 2010, to 3.4 cows per hectare, in 2014. This reduced the milking herd from 670 cows, down to 630 cows and then further reducing it to today’s 560 head, plus 130 followers.

More resilient Not only has milk-solids yield increased, from 400kg to 500kg per cow (from 5,800 litres of milk), but farm profit per hectare has also risen from £1,575 to £2,051. “More importantly, the business is leaner and more resilient. Our costs are down and we’re much less reliant on bought-in feed – we’re producing more milk from grazed grass and buying in less grass silage,” says Mr Pellow.

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The herd calves in a tight six-week block in early spring, with heifers calving during the first two weeks, from late July. Milk is sold to Fonterra and milk price is typically around £3.30 per kilogramme of solids. It has been as low as $4 (£2.00) and as high as $8.40 (£4.30) in recent years. Ron says that they consider anything above $7 (£3.60) to be a good price. “Costs are always going up, so like all milk producers we need to operate as efficiently as possible to maximise our margins and our profit.” And, he stresses, we also need to ensure that our business is sustainable – both economically and environmentally. That was another factor in ‘downsizing’ and reducing stocking rate.

Taking risks New Zealand-based producers face stringent environmental legislation and Ron and the dairy team felt that the herd had a responsibility to demonstrate how producers could meet these regulations and still manage profitable and sustainable businesses. “This meant taking risks and, potentially, a few hits along the way while we figured out what works – but that’s part of our role as a demonstration facility. We set out to change our farming practices to create a net-positive outcome for the environment,” explains Ron. At first, when they reduced the stocking rate, the herd’s environmental footprint started to ‘creep up’. Nitrogen fertiliser application rates were routinely 40kg N/ha, irrespective of time of the year, because we hadn’t taken sufficient control of this input. “We decided to look closer at our system and asked: what can we change and what did we have control of ?” Benchmarking helped here, to compare the business to similar herds and systems and emerging research, and fertiliser use came under the spotlight. Fertiliser use has halved on the 21-paddock rotational grazing system – it was down to 170kg N/ha in 2018/2019, compared to 350kg N/ha in 2011/2012. “And we’re seeing the same, if not more, milk production. “Imported feed use is also down, which means that more milk is being produced from our own grazing platform. We’re managing our grass more efficiently and timing and targeting our fertiliser applications more stringently. We were previously overstocked, relative to our feed supply, and, as a

COMPANY PROFILE Name Location Herd size Average yield Stocking rate Profit

Ron Pellow Lincoln University, near Christchurch, New Zealand 560 cows, plus 130 followers 5,800 litres (500kg milk solids) 3.4 cows per hectare £2,051 per hectare

result, were more liberal with fertiliser applications.” The business was buying in 1,800kg DM/ha (big bale grass silage) in 2011/2012. That’s down to 600kg and has been as low as 500kg, in 2015/2016, which was a particularly good grass-growing year. “We’re always at the mercy of the weather. But it’s about managing that as far as we possibly can,” adds Ron. The team also has a reseeding policy in place. Grass leys, comprising a tetraploid and diploid ryegrass mix, plus white clover and plantain, are reseeded every seven to 10 years, depending on productivity. Grass growth is monitored using a plate meter by any of the unit’s four full-time staff. A farm manager, an assistant manager and two farm assistants run the herd. Irrigation, with large mobile booms and with water taken from a 100-metre deep well, typically begins in mid-September and continues through the end of March. Again, this is weather dependent and the unit has electronic soil moisture monitors to help monitor water levels. “Irrigating for between 80 and 100 days out of a 200-day growing season is the norm and it can begin in early spring (September), if the winter has been particularly dry,” says Ron. “We’re looking to maintain a moisture level in the soil while, at the same time, ensuring that there’s enough deficit or capacity for rainfall.” The herd may be turning an impressive profit now, but Ron would like to see management and efficiency to be fine tuned even further. “It’s in our remit to continue to strive to do better – not just for the herd and the university, but also because our role is to help other producers to run their herds in more sustainable and profitable way. There are so many other areas of management that can be improved and need to stand up to scrutiny.” l


New Zealand

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Reaping the rewards of robotic system

Installing an automated milking set up and revising feeding strategies has seen one Scottish producer expand herd size and increase average yields. We spoke to them to find out more. TEXT EMILY BALL

Good quality: forage is the building block on which the herd ration is based



triving to reach the next level of dairy efficiency, while seeking a positive lifestyle change, led the Glasgow-based Brewster family to invest in robotic milking on their 230cow dairy unit. And their decision has been well

rewarded, with improved milk production, increased herd fertility, and more time to spend on cow management. Brothers David and John (Jack) Brewster, farm in partnership at Boclair Farm in Bearsden, just outside

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From three weeks before calving, all heifers and cows receive Translac Advance, which provides extra nutritional support during the transition periods. “With a robotic system, yields can be pretty high right from the start of the lactation,” explains David. “This feed additive helps to prime the cow’s system for this demand and helps avoid health issues in those first crucial weeks of lactation.”

Maintaining longevity David (left) and John Brewster

Glasgow. The farm comprises 350 hectares with just under half in arable rotation, growing barley, wheat and oats. Back in 2015 the brothers were successfully managing a 180-cow herd on a summer grazing system and feeding a TMR during the winter. While they had achieved good average annual yields of 10,500 litres a cow and a calving index of 425, they felt that the herd could ‘do better’ and started to look at ways to further improve performance.

Robotic system “Having seen, first-hand, the success of several robotic systems and after careful consideration of the direction we wanted to take the herd, we decided to install our first robots,” says David. “We also began using sexed semen on all cows and heifers, allowing us to be more selective when it came to breeding replacements. We focused on milk production, health and fertility – traits that we feel are most important to breed efficient cows.” The farm now has four Lely robots and the milking herd has expanded. Average yield has increased to 13,000 litres per cow, at 3.82% fat and 3.20% protein, while the calving index has dropped to 400 days. While the family source feed through Quest Farm Supplies, the brothers work closely with ForFarmers’ Christina Pollock. She helps to manage cow nutrition. The change to a robotic system gave the Brewsters the opportunity to review their feeding plan and come up with a new, comprehensive strategy to help improve milk production. “One of our key aims is to provide a ration that supports milk production, as well as cow health and fertility, across the whole lactation,” says David. “Our high-quality forages are the building block on which the whole ration is based. Christina uses forage analysis data to formulate a balanced ration that makes the best use of this resource.” The cows’ ration comprises grass silage, straw, dried or crimped home-grown barley, maize distillers’, a fibre source (typically sugar beet), and protected rape. A concentrate from ForFarmers’ Maxima range, a high specification feed to help support animal performance, is fed via the robots. Lintec is also added to rations to help support health and fertility. “We are working with exceptionally high performing cows and so everything that’s offered at the feed barrier needs to have a role and do its job properly,” says Christina.

David is proud of the family’s ability to achieve longevity in the milking herd, alongside productivity, with a replacement rate of just 16% in 2019. Breeding has played a role here. The Brewsters are renowned for breeding good cows and the family has always run a pedigree Holstein herd, with David and John’s father a past President of Holstein UK. In 2017, the Boclair herd was named Holstein UK Premier Pedigree Herd – the first Scottish herd to ever win the award. “As a breeder, this is the award you want to win,” says David. The previous year, he and John also won the prestigious Master Breeder Award for the second time – an award that can only be won every 10 years. As a result, there is a good market for the herd’s genetics, which now provides a significant income stream for the business. “Attention to detail in all aspects of herd management has also been key to the success and progress of the herd at Boclair,” continues Christina. “David and John consider everything carefully before making any change to herd management.” The switch to robotic milking has given them a degree of freedom, with less rigidity around milking times. “This has given us more time to manage the cows, freeing up the time to assess and act on the increased data we receive via the robots and heat detection monitors. “It’s not about doing less work,” stresses David. “It’s about concentrating efforts in the right areas and being able to be more responsive when it’s needed.” l

Automatic milking system: four Lely robots have been installed at the unit

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The benefits of milk confirmation testing Routine PD scanning is being replaced by IDEXX’s Pregnancy Associated Glycoprotein (PAG), a simple milk test providing accurate, timely results for a growing number of dairy farmers. Amongst them is Patrick Stevens who is both expanding his Devon based herd and moving from all year round to autumn block calving. Introducing PAG 70 days after service has

with CIS, it delivers the milk sample pots to the

and April can be pretty harsh up here and it

brought ‘peace of mind’ says Patrick Stevens

farm, collects within 72 hours and issues for lab

would be a struggle to get sufficient grazing

who currently manages a 240-cow herd

analysis. I receive notification from CIS when the

days for a spring block calving herd.

at Upottery, near Honiton. “It’s a simple

results are ready and I login to check them.

“We used to PD the entire herd just once a year

milk pregnancy checker that is delivering information to build up a picture and mathematical probability and it is helping us to respond more promptly to herd status. Every open day costs £3 a head, so the sooner the

The procedure is unobtrusive, it is theoretically accurate and what’s more it’s given me that peace of mind.

better we know when a cow is in calf.

after the service period was complete, however we were getting nervous about upsetting a pregnancy whilst it is still fragile in the early stages of pregnancy. The PD scan process was a hassle, it demanded extra time and labour and we have poor handling facilities. It was

“We currently have so many changes going on

getting stressful not knowing when a cow was

Profit based business

in the herd, this new service is relatively very

in calf until we had officially finished serving.

“We’ve just started serving early November

straight forward,” he explains. “We are running

through to the end of January and we are

a profit based business. My objective is to

Another tool in the box

gradually tightening up the calving pattern. PAG

focus on one job and to do it well which has led

“Whilst PAG is marginally more expensive than

has helped identify which cows remain open and

to us changing our strategy.

PD scanning, the milk test has overcome all those

need to be served again. Since we introduced the

PD induced issues and it seems to particularly

test in 2017 to routinely check the herd once

No more hassle

lend itself to block calving herds. The procedure

a year, 60% are calving in the first six weeks,

“We are in the process of swapping a sheep

is unobtrusive, it is theoretically accurate and

that’s a 10% improvement. By 2021 I want to

enterprise for total dairy enabling the herd

what’s more it’s given me that peace of mind.”

move that figure to 80%, and eventually 100%

to expand from 240 to 400 cows and we are

within the first three cycles,” he explains.

just about to start building a new dairy. For

He adds: “PAG is another tool in the box, it

the last five years, we’ve been moving from

offers another indicator that helps to build up

“To improve accuracy and ensure we’re on

all year round calving to a low-cost autumn

the whole herd picture of what can be done

target, then we plan to PAG milk test after

block calving herd - mainly Jerseys with some

differently. It also provides an opportunity

the first 30-day service period, consequently

crossbreds, and it is currently averaging 5,000

to bring about another incremental change.

it will eliminate that current 40-day window

litres, 5.1% BF and 3.7% protein, a yield level

I think it’s easy to overlook a 1%, 2% or 3%

of uncertainty amongst those cows which

we are planning to increase by 30% along with

improvement, however its these small changes

conceived in the first cycle.” Patrick says the

constituent value; we’re farming 600 grassland

over a period of time can make a real difference

logistics are simple. After signing up for PAG

acres at 800’ on medium to heavy clay; March

to any herd and to any business.”



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Hotline: number-one daughter-proven type bull Peak Hotline is the number-one daughterproven type bull in the UK, with a Total Merit score of 4.7 that includes 3.21 for udders. And that’s not all that Hotline has to offer. He is a high production sire with +9% for Better Life Efficiency and he also breeds cows with good management traits such as: fertility (105), somatic cells score (106), and ketosis (105). Peak Hotline is a Hotrod son from CRV’s American portfolio. Descending from the J-Mor Shottle Heavenly cow family, he is a popular bull internationally, which is also reflected by his listing in the US top 10 TPI of daughter-proven sires. He also holds the leading position for conformation in the top 100 TPI (3.45 PTAT). In Italy he is the number one, in Canada he

is the number two, and in Spain he is number 12 for Total Merit index. Peak Hotline

CRV Avoncroft calf jackets Buy more than 25 straws of Holstein semen from CRV and you’ll receive a free calf jacket. Using calf jackets for young calves in cold weather can result in significant savings on feed, medication, and bedding costs. The calf is able to convert more feed energy into growth, rather than generating warmth, and this will also help to reduce the incidence of disease. For more information contact your local CRV representative or visit www.crvavoncroft.com

Fifth-lactation Bouw Goli Flower Bouw Goli Flower, the dam of Bouw Rocky, is now in her fifth lactation and, so far, she’s produced 65,535kg of milk, at 4.50% fat and 3.48% protein. That’s the level of performance that you can expect if you are using Bouw Rocky, a Shamrock son who transmits high lifetime milk production.

Bouw Goli Flower was pictured recently in her fifth lactation

For more information on products and services of CRV Avoncroft: phone: 01562 861582 www.crvavoncroft.com www.facebook.com/CRVAvoncroft/

Varta is numberone Fleckvieh The UK’s number-one daughter-proven Fleckvieh sire is Varta. This Valeur son fits perfectly for producers looking to breed healthy and efficient cows, because he scores +5% for Better Life Health and +6% for Better Life Efficiency. His daughters are top producers (+853kg of milk) with 0.03% for protein. A remarkable feature is his unmistakable dual-purpose profile, which is combined with positive health traits. Varta daughters have average stature with good muscularity (106) and good udders (117). This makes him perfect for use as a first-generation cross, as well as for purebred Fleckvieh purposes. Number-one Fleckvieh sire Varta

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Two top herds

go for gold

Elizabeth Birkett, Rookhaye Farm, Bowerchalke, Salisbury HERD FACTS System: Farm size: Herd size: Yield: Feed regime: Calving interval: SCC: Milk buyer:

all-year-round calving 360 hectares 153 pedigree Holsteins and 120 young stock 10,398kg of milk, at 3.88% fat and 3.24% protein, twice-a-day milking TMR and topped up in parlour (grazed from mid-April to July) 382 days 112,000 cells/ml Sainsbury’s Producer Liz Birkett has more than two decades of experience in managing her dairy unit and although changes have been made, her focus has remained on cow comfort, health and welfare. “Getting these right should reflect in animal performance and profitability,” she says. Managed on a high-input-high-output system, the herd is grazed from mid-April until the end of July and a TMR buffer is also fed to ensure that maintenance and milk yield requirements are met. A former nutritionist, Liz pays close attention to rations. “I strive to provide a stress-free environment for the herd, and this includes providing high quality feed and having it readily available. I work with the Dairy Group to formulate the ration, which comprises maize and grass silage, rape, sugar beet, and minerals.” The TMR provides maintenance plus 33 litres and cows are then topped up to yield through the parlour with an 18% protein concentrate. “Our milk contract with Sainsbury’s offers a more consistent milk price throughout the year, but also offers invaluable benchmarking information,” adds Liz. Genetics has played a vital role in improving the herd and Liz has invested heavily during the past few years. “We

Liz Birkett

select bulls on PLI – we set a minimum of £500 – as well as feet and legs, udder traits, fertility, and lifespan. Maiden heifers are served, on average, at 15 months old, with the first two services to sexed Holstein semen.” Pregnancy rate is 22% with cows averaging 2.04 services per pregnancy and heifers averaging 1.5. “We are also just seeing the results from genomic testing, which we started in January 2018. I hope this will allow us to accelerate the herd’s rate of genetic gain and to boost performance.”

Team effort

Liz fully appreciates the team effort that is required to run a successful herd and business. She employs a full-time herdsman, a full-time senior arable operator, a general farm worker, and a part-time calf rearer. She also uses relief milkers when required. Strict protocols and training are a priority to ensure consistent high standards are achieved. “From record keeping and cow hygiene, through to following health and clamp management protocols, it’s important that everyone understands their role to run an efficient business that produces a high-quality product. I am proud of my team and it’s important to involve them in the decision-making process.”

What the judges say “There is a strong desire to continue to develop a strong and sustainable business at Rookhaye. Technologies are being employed, such as genomics to progress the herd’s genetic merit, in a drive to keep improving the performance of the herd in all areas.”


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As we approach the presentation of the 2019 Gold Cup at Dairy-Tech, we profile the final two of this year’s six contenders – Liz Birkett from Salisbury Wiltshire and Andy and Rosemary King from Barrington, Somerset.

Andrew King, Barrington Organic Partnership, Barrington, Ilminster HERD FACTS System Farm size Herd size Yield Feeding:

Andy King

Andy and Rosemary King started the Barrington Organic Partnership in 2008 when they took on the tenancy of Thong Dairy Farm, near Ilminster. “The first challenge was to build a more efficient and uniform herd of cows,” says Andy. “We stuck with black-and-white genetics, but looked for a more Friesian type of cow.” The herd has been closed for the past seven years and all replacements are now home bred. “The herd is now more consistent. We aim for easy-care cows with a calm temperament and that are good grazers.”

No excuses

Andy says that it’s the day-to-day commitment of their staff that has helped make a success of the business. Richard Coombes joined them in 2009 and is now farm manager and they have placement students each year. Their organic status isn’t considered an excuse for ‘weak’ performance. “We don’t shy away from respectable milk yields from home-grown forages, and we monitor and manage cows to achieve good health and fertility performance,” adds Andy. Accurate records and monitoring have helped drive improvements in health and fertility. These include a

SCC Calving interval Milk buyer

all-year-round calving, organic production 220 hectares, 150 hectares for dairy 243 Holsteins 7,882kg of milk, 3.75% fat, 3.17% protein, twice-a-day milking grazing, TMR and parlour concentrates to yield (50% milk from forage) 74,000 cells/ml 374 days Coombe Farm

mobility scoring system, quarterly screening for Johne’s disease through NMR, and vaccinating for IBR, leptospirosis and BVD. Calves are tagged and tested soon after birth, to identify any persistently infected calves, and vaccinated against pneumonia. The all-year-round calving herd grazes on clover-based swards from April to October and they look for between 13kg and 14kg of dry matter from grazing per day. About 30 hectares of red clover and 20 hectares of lucerne are grown a year; both selected for their high palatability and protein content and fed in TMR with minimal ‘balancing’ of the ration using a concentrate blend. The TMR also includes high-energy forages fodder beet and wholecrop spring barley, alongside grass silage. This produces about 3,900 litres of milk per cow and is nudging on 50% of total average milk production. Cows are fed to yield in the parlour with a 16% protein cake. Just under two tonnes per cow per year are fed. “With organic concentrates 60% more expensive than non-organic feed, we will keep our focus on growing more protein on the farm,” says Andy. Andy also manages the milk group for Coombe Farm. Its 26 producer suppliers, of which Barrington Organic is one, supply Waitrose’s Duchy brand organic milk.

What the judges say “Barrington is an exciting business model with clear goals. Working with key professionals from outside the business and a good use of technology allows everyone to see and monitor targets, as well as ensure continued animal welfare and fertility.”

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Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans admits defeat when it comes to reasoning with some vegans.

Indignation and ignorance Never before do I remember there being so much criticism of livestock farming. The most critical are vegans. We have good reasoned arguments – and scientific facts – on our side. But they are of no interest to some vegans because they are not interested in reason. They have not thought things through, and don’t intend to. They think that any grass field could grow trees, which is true. But they also think that any field or piece of grassland could grow crops for humans, which is not true. If grassland is taken out of animal production, more food will have to be imported. We have a meal every month in the village. It’s a sort of community get together. One day what I call a newcomer sits down beside me. ‘Newcomer’ sounds a bit derogatory, and it is. Anyway, she sits down and makes conversation. “What do you do for a living?” This surprises me for reasons you will see later, but I play along with it. “I’m a dairy farmer.” “You should be ashamed of yourself,” she says. “Why?,” I reply. She goes on to tell me that she has read all about dairy farming and that it is cruel. “You keep those poor cows locked in dark, dirty sheds all the year round, they never go outside, they never see the sun, they never get to eat grass.” This was all said aggressively and confrontationally. I didn’t respond, I didn’t see the point. And I could see that she took this to be a victory, as she turned to speak to the person on her other side. This encounter seems to illustrate the point I was making previously. I was surprised she had asked me what I did for a living and I was even more surprised at her perception of dairy farming. Why? Because when she and her husband had been house hunting in this area, they had stayed here in our B&B on three occasions. Our guest bedrooms are at the front of our house, they overlook a four-acre field. This field has plenty of trees in it, as well as a pond, and there are always cattle in there. If I was a cow then I think it would be an idyllic place to live. She would have seen those cows, but she didn’t want to see them. If you are living a mundane sort of life, a life that doesn’t have much going on in it, a bit of indignation goes a long way. If you can find an issue that fuels that indignation you hang on to it just as long as you can. And that’s what we are up against, people who will pretend they are deaf or blind in order to give their lives some purpose. I didn’t bother to speak to the lady again, except for at the end of the meal when I asked her if she wanted me to pass her the milk to put in her tea. “Yes, please.”

“If you are living a mundane sort of life, a bit of indignation goes a long way”


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15-01-20 14:21

MAIZE 24 Mitigating risk Variety selection is key to forage maize success.

26 Bird damage

Prevent seed loss with sound cultural practices.

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Take steps to mitigate

maize-growing risks Selecting the optimum maize variety for your unit can help to reduce the risk when growing and harvesting the crop, as well as increase the supply of quality forage, and boost the return on investment. TEXT PHIL EADES


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aize continues to be the crop of choice for high starch forages across much of the UK. And LG Seeds’ Tim Richmond believes that producers can get still more from maize by focussing on the real objectives of the crop and reducing the risk of it failing to deliver to its potential. He suggests a successful maize crop is defined by meeting three objectives. The first is providing the target kilogrammes of dry matter per cow per day for the winter with a high energy content. The second is ensuring that maize can be incorporated into the diet, properly fermented as early in the winter feeding period as possible. And the third objective is to ensure that it is harvested in time to allow a following crop to be drilled in the autumn. “By understanding these objectives, management can be focussed on delivering a more successful crop, increasing the contribution of maize in the diet and potentially reducing purchased feed costs,” says Mr Richmond. “It also allows you to identify the risks that can stop you hitting the objectives and reducing your return on investment.”

Variety selection Mr Richmond identifies a number of key risk factors including: poor crop establishment, inferior feed quality, and delayed harvest. And he adds that all can be moderated by paying close attention to variety selection and field choice. Feed choice needs to consider its suitability both at the start and end of the season. And it’s also important to consider soil type and aspect when deciding which field to drill. Producers also need to factor in the likelihood that a crop will be harvested in a difficult season. “To maximise the chance of producing the yield and quality required, avoid late fields and those at risk of water-logging in the autumn,” says Mr Richmond. “Choose fields that will warm up quickly in the spring, work down well, and allow good access at harvest.” He adds that the biggest decision that will affect the potential success of the crop is variety choice, because this will directly influence all the objectives. “Variety choice will determine how well the crop gets away in the spring, how quickly it matures, and if it is fit for harvest. And, ultimately, the potential quality of the forage produced and developments in plant breeding mean that it is possible to select a variety to deliver in most circumstances.” He stresses that the majority of producers should be looking at early maturing varieties. These require fewer Ontario Heat Units (OHUs) to reach maturity, increasing the prospects that they will be harvested sooner in better conditions. And this also means that maize silage can be incorporated into rations sooner. “OHUs are the internationally recognised system to show if maize can be grown successfully in a particular location and are calculated for the maize growing season from mid-April to mid-October. “If there are too few OHUs, crops will struggle to mature and this can lead to a number of problems, particularly with increased environment concerns regarding maize stubbles,” explains Mr Richmond.

Tim Richmond: “There is little need to gamble on later maturing maize options” “Our unique OHU map, available on our website, shows the average heat units for every postcode. We recommend looking for varieties that can be grown comfortably within tehe average OHU. It is better to err on the side of caution than to stretch the point. He adds that there is a 26-day spread between the earliest and latest maturing varieties on the BSPB/NIAB Descriptive List, which can be the difference between harvesting in optimum conditions, producing a highquality feed and struggling to get a crop in. “Choosing a late maturing variety just increases the risk that the crop will be late going into the diet and that a successor crop will not be established.” It’s also important to select a variety with good early vigour to make sure that crop ‘gets away’ quickly. Once the crop is drilled into suitably warm soil, the quicker it germinates and reaches the two leaf stage, the better the plant will establish. New biological seed dressings can also help with early growth.

Root development One seed treatment, called Starcover, uses a combination of a plant extract, which accelerates root development and increases root number and length, in conjunction with plant growth promoting bacteria, which help to improve nutrient uptake and plant growth. “In trials, treated crops have had 18% more roots than untreated plants. Two weeks after drilling, treated plants were on average 5.1% higher and 15.4% higher five weeks after drilling, meaning they were capturing solar energy more efficiently and sooner,” says Mr Richmond. “Some producers have steered away from early varieties, believing that they produced less silage of poorer quality. Modern breeding techniques have effectively eliminated the traditional yield penalty seen with early varieties and feed quality is typically excellent, so there is little need to gamble on later maturing options. “Widely grown varieties, like Glory and Pinnacle, are both maturity class 10 or FAO 190 and are high yielding with excellent starch and ME content.” Prospect is one of several new varieties on the list that has the early maturity for a reliable harvest and produces exceptional feed value. The combination of high yield and exceptional ME content – the result of high starch and outstanding cell wall digestibility – means that it produces enough energy, on average, to produce 2,500 litres per hectare more than the average variety. This has the potential to generate an additional return on investment of £700 per hectare. “Variety selection is increasingly being seen as a way to reduce the risks of growing maize and increasing the prospects of quality forage to improve margins. So choose your variety with care,” adds Mr Richmond. l

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Speed up germination to thwart hungry birds

A renewed focus on getting maize crops ‘in and up’ quickly, to help prevent bird damage, will be more important that ever this spring. A ban on a key bird-repelling seed treatment has limited its availability this seasons, so we look at the other treatment and cultural options available to producers. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


epelling birds will require more focus this year, since a key seed treatment – Mesurol – is no longer available. Bird problems will vary across the UK, with fields close to woodland often hardest hit. So, with the ban on Mesurol (its licence is up for review and the manufacturer felt it wasn’t cost effective to renew it), what can producers do to ‘insure’ their investment in maize crops against corvid damage? The good news is that cultural management, to prevent and limit damage – typically caused by crows and rooks – is also conducive to good sowing and early crop management. “Many producers will already be taking steps to prevent bird damage – by getting the crop off to a quick start. And that’s the best defence,” says Limagrain’s Richard Camplin. He says that there will still be a little Mesuroltreated seed available this year – but not much. “So it’s important to keep that in mind this year, in the run up to drilling, particularly if rooks and crows are problematic on your unit.” These birds are intelligent and will dig up seed – even following the row of the drill – for feed. Mesurol made

Simon Draper: “Drill seed deeper to keep it out of ‘beak’ reach” 26

the seed unpalatable and quickly deterred birds if they did take an interest in the crop. “We’re not suggesting anything new – just that producers make sure they do what they should do when growing maize. In other words, selecting a variety with good early vigour and sowing it at the ideal depth and soil temperature, in a well-prepared seed bed, to ensure quick and strong germination and establishment.” “Once the seed has germinated and established at the three-leaf stage, it’s safe from bird damage. The birds are only really interested in the seed and, at this point, the young maize plant also has a sizeable root to anchor it.” To get to this stage, as quickly as possible, producers must first select a good growing site: “A field that warms up quickly in the spring – a south facing slope, ideally, and lighter soil.”

Seed-to-soil contact Seed-bed preparation is also key, to maximise seed-tosoil contact and aid germination. “Create a fine tilth – not a ‘cloddy’ seed bed. And soil temperature, at the depth of drilling and not the surface, should be between 8ºC and 10ºC for seven days, or more, prior to sowing. “With seed beds likely to be wet and cold this spring, extra attention to temperature at sowing depth will be needed if we are to avoid plant losses. On some units, this may mean drilling a little later – particularly if seed is being sown deeper. Drilling at a shallower depth puts the seed at risk of being stolen by birds and if the soil is too cold it will just be sitting there anyway.” Mr Camplin says that producers typically drill in early May, with some sowing from mid-April. “This is fine if the soil temperature will support germination. But later, say mid-May, is OK if it means that the seed will be up and away quickly. Speedy establishment is the key here.” “Germination within a couple of weeks will keep the crop safe from bird damage.”

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n Richard Camplin: “Once the seed has germinated and established at the three-leaf stage, it’s safe from bird damage ” Maize Growers’ Association agronomist Simon Draper agrees that there are cultural steps that producers can use to mitigate the absence of seed treatment options when it comes to deterring rooks and crows. “Sowing depth is key and where rooks are a problem then this needs to be below 5cm – the typical depth to which they will dig with their beaks to dig out the seed.” Mr Draper adds that rook damage tends to be devastating as they move in flocks and can quickly decimate a field. “So sow deeper, but not too deep. Soil temperature and seed bed preparation are key here, to ensure that the maize will still germinate – and quickly establish – even when sown at a greater depth. “And remember that some kit will struggle to drill maize more than 5cm deep – between 6cm and 7cm should keep it out of ‘beak’ reach. So, again, make sure the soil has a good tilth to aid drilling.” He adds that it’s important to make sure that any seed spillages or surplus isn’t left lying in the field. “This just encourages the birds. It signals that the seed is there in the first place.” Mr Draper says that it may sound obvious, but it’s still something he sees on farm. “These birds are pretty intelligent. So try to hide what you’re doing – leaving seed above ground is asking for trouble.”

Cultural practices Another seed treatment that repels birds, Korit, is still available this year, according to Mr Draper. “But its licence expires in 2021 and isn’t expected to be renewed. “There is quite a lot of Korit-treated seed about this year so that’s some good news for producers who have a problem with rooks and crows,” he says. “But this year offers an opportunity to review cultural practices with a view to having no treated seed next season.” He’s not a huge fan of Korit either, adding that it requires careful handling because it’s less safe for the operator to use. Force is another seed treatment that can deter birds and it also helps to protect the seed against nematodes, leather jackets and other pests. “The downside is that this costs more than the regular bird repelling dressings. So it’s not for everyone.” “It’s about tipping odds in your favour – away from the birds,” adds Mr Camplin. “And there are plenty of steps producers can take to protect their investment.” l

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CRV, your partner in breeding a healthy & efficient herd As CRV, we believe that better cows lead to a better life for our customers, for society and for the animals in the herd. CRV delivers genetics and smart solutions that help cattle farmers build healthy and efficient herds which are profitable and easy to manage.


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One extra lactation because improved fertility, udder and hoof health


Higher milk price because higher fat and protein in milk


10% more milk with the same amount of feed

That’s what you will achieve by using CRV genetics!


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15-01-20 13:18

Stress Free All In One Calf Colostrum Bag/Tube Feeding NEW

To find out more about this new product, visit Dairy Spares at Dairy-Tech, Stand I36 Tel: 01948 667676 www.dairyspares.com




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#Calfmatters set to fine tune calf rearing #Calfmatters is launching its ‘Fine Tuning Calf Rearing’ campaign for 2020, and the first opportunity to hear more about this will be at Dairy-Tech on Wednesday February 5, at Stoneleigh Park. “During the initiative, we’ll be working with producers and vets up and down the country, and talking about making a continual series of small changes on farm,” explains Boehringer Ingelheim vet and brand manager for #Calfmatters, Matt Yarnall. “Harnessing the expertise in this area from the motorsport industry, the focus will be on optimising quality and efficiency and minimising variation in daily tasks – particularly when they are carried out by different members of staff. “Studies have shown that variation in calf growth rates within a farm can be greater than the variation between farms,” he adds. “However, by standardising protocols and the way everyone works by making small changes to current practice, it should be possible to make lots of small improvements throughout the system. When added up during the life of the calf, these make a real difference to growth rates and finishing times, as well as economic performance.” The first few days of life are important to set the calf up for a healthy, efficient and productive future in the dairy herd. Paying extra attention to detail during this time can offer significant payback later. “The theory of kaizen, or continuous improvement, is central to motorsport. A common theme in the industry is ‘a number of small changes make a big difference’,” Mr Yarnall explains. “The #Calfmatters workshop at Dairy-Tech will be an open discussion to

National BVD survey 2020 now open

examine what systems are in-place for managing the calf in early life. Ultimately, the initiative aims to develop a flowchart, which can be widely used throughout the sector and will help to ensure more productive calves with little or minimal investment, crucially saving time along the way.” To bring the workshop to life, motor racing driver Tom Oliphant, who drives for 2019 British Touring Car Champions Team BMW and competes in a BMW 330i M Sport, will talk about how the concept of continuous change has revolutionised the sport. The #Calfmatters workshops, which will be held in Hall 3 and begin at 10am and 1pm, is open to all, although numbers are restricted to 40. Producers can also visit the Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health stand (I64, Hall 1) throughout the day for help and advice on how to continually improve calf early-life process management and for Tom Oliphant’s autograph. For more information check out: www.calfmatters.co.uk

The fifth national BVD survey is now live, so look out for survey forms in some of the leading farming publications, check your email or take a look at www.bvdsurvey.co.uk. The survey closes on January 31 2020 and 10 lucky entrants will be selected to win an Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Bluetooth Waterproof Speaker. Since the first survey, five years ago, a lot has changed when it comes to BVD control: • BVD eradication schemes now exist in all parts of the UK • Testing and surveillance options have improved • Data showing herd BVD status is widely available • Livestock markets and auction houses support clear identification of stock • Clear price bonuses exist for stock of known BVD virus status The annual BVD survey gathers information from all parts of the UK and all types of farming system to gain a snapshot of what producers are doing on their farm to control and eradicate this costly disease. This information is then analysed and can be important when it comes to future policy. So why not take a few minutes to take part – remember you could be in with a chance of winning one of 10 portable and waterproof speakers.

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

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Dig into fertility data Whatever the system, fertility is a key factor in determining herd performance. Armed with the herd’s data, and knowing what can be achieved from probably the industry’s best benchmarking report (2019 report just published), can help many dairy teams reach their targets. TEXT KAREN WRIGHT


hat a difference a decade makes. According to the University of Reading’s latest study of 500 NMR-recorded Holstein herds, calving interval at the mid-point is now 401 days, outstripping that achieved by the top 25% in 2010 by eight days. A pat on the back for some, but the top 25% of Holstein herds are now achieving a calving interval of 385 days, which is a realistic target for more herds. Report authors, James Hanks and Mohamad Kossaibati, highlight an improvement in key fertility parameters across the report’s 10 years. Table 1 shows the proportion of cows served by 80 days and cows conceived 100 days post calving. Both show a marked improvement, with half the herds in the study now performing as well as the top 25% of herds in 2010. “We’re now seeing 58% of cows served by 80 days – 12% more than 2010 – and the percentage of cows conceived by 100 days after calving has increased from 26% in 2010 to 34% in 2019,” says Dr Hanks. “These are the midpoints in the sample of randomly selected recorded herds. There’s some good progress, but there’s still some work to be done. In all 10 reports we publish the achievement of the top 25% for all parameters as an achievable target for individual dairy herds.” Pregnancy rates have also improved by 5% and are now higher than the 2010 target. This is the percentage of cows eligible for service 42 days+ after calving that conceive per 21-day oestrous cycle. “Pregnancy rate is the key parameter here and a true

reflection of fertility performance,” says dairy vet Peter May, from Drove Farm Vets, who has used the Reading University benchmark parameters and NMR’s InterHerd+ to run the Dairy Early Warning (DEW) group among his dairy producer clients. Monthly DEW reports comparing herd performance with the group and the national figures are a valued management tool. “Pregnancy rate is a popular discussion point,” he adds. “It’s a good reflection of herd fertility. The easiest way to improve is to serve more cows in their target service period by improving heat detection.”

Heat detection Technology, such as heat detection collars and ear tags, will undoubtedly play a greater role here, as well as improving the detection of sick cows. “One of my clients recently had 60 heifers to serve and, by using activity detection ear tags, identified 57 cows on heat within the three-week target. So I only treated three who were not cycling,” adds Mr May. Activity collars can contribute to better heat detection

Table 1: Fertility Key Performance Indicators derived from analysis of 500 NMR milk recording herds, September 2018 to August 2019 (source: University of Reading)

parameter percentage served by day 80 percentage conceived 100 days after calving calving to 1st service interval (days) calving interval (days) age at first calving (years) conception rate percentage service intervals at 18-24 days percentage service intervals >50 days percentage eligible for service that served percentage eligible for service that conceived lifetime milk / cow / days (kg)


median (2019)

inter-quartile range (25-75%, 2019)

58 34 81 401 2.3 35 37 21 39 14 13.0

44-68 25-41 71-98 387-417 2.1-2.5 29-42 28-44 15-31 28-51 10-18 10.9-14.9

target median (2019) (2010) 68 41 71 387 2.1 42 44 15 51 18 14.9

46 26 105 424 2.4 32 30 32 27 9 10.5

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Allflex’s Paul Mitcham agrees that heat and health detection related information from this technology, which monitors cows 24/7 through collars or ear tags, can contribute to far better heat detection. “Our data shows 95% heat detection rates are achieved where collars or tags are used compared with around 65% through typical three-times-a-day observation.” Conception rates, though, do not reflect the same level of improvement seen in other fertility parameters. But Peter May admits improvements here are more challenging than that of heat detection. “Overall reducing stress in all its guises – disease, nutritional and environmental – alongside breeding for better fertility is the way forward,” he adds. “We need to look at the overall picture and then pay attention to all those little details which together will ensure progress.”

Genomic testing Progress will continue to come from marginal gains in health status, nutrition and husbandry. “There are great opportunities, particularly through genomic testing of our Holstein females. We can then breed from the best – those who have the greatest potential to achieve the targets set for the particular dairy business.”

On a day-to-day basis Mr May looks for the best protocols for each herd so that he can minimise treatments and maximise their efficacy. “Each unit is different and needs its own fertility targets,” he adds. “For example, following discussion on farm and with the farm’s breeding advisory team, we have extended the number of days before the target first-service period for first-lactation cows in two large high producing dairy herds. “Records showed that the first-lactation cows were getting in calf before reaching peak yield so by extending the target they will yield better and be allowed to finish growing. Reducing these stresses during their first couple of lactations will hopefully improve their longevity.” Improvements will come from using the data, as a team, to implement change. “We know this works because producers in our DEW club have improved their KPIs for fertility and mastitis parameters at a quicker rate, year-on-year, than the national 500 herds that are monitored. “We produce a monthly DEW report for on-farm discussion. We also have group meetings to review KPIs to share best practice,” says Mr May. “Team work, using data and targets, and being prepared to change is a good formula.” l

Peter May: “Each unit is different and needs to set its own fertility goals”

Industry signposts The University of Reading’s latest Key Performance Indicator report provides dairy businesses with clear benchmarks and signposts. It includes 38 key parameters for the year ending August 2019 for 500 NMRrecorded herds. Herd size ranges from 45 to 938 cows, with a mid-point of 169 cows, and 61% of herds with 200 cows or less. “This is a large data set that is representative of all milk recording herds, making this annual

report one of the industry’s most accurate sets of data,” adds Dr Hanks. “It is a random selection of Holstein herds with a range in systems and performance. We rank herds for each parameter and publish the performance of the middle – 250th – herd. This median figure prevents any distorting that can happen with an average, particularly if there’s a big range in performance.” The top 25% figure for each parameter is

seen as a realistic target for many dairy businesses. “Vets and consultants use InterHerd+ to benchmark individual herds against the report’s KPI data and to set targets against the national averages and others in a bespoke group. This becomes the basis of informed management decisions with their producer clients.” Find the report on: www.nmr.co.uk/software/ interherd-kpi-study

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Mineral range relaunched to help address excess supply issues Minerals, trace elements and vitamins are essential for cow health, but research has shown that many UK dairy cows are oversupplied with minerals. ForFarmers, on the back of work carried out at its Nutritional Innovation Center in the Netherlands, as well as work with Trouw GB and data gathered from forage analysis, has revisited the mineral offering in its Mineline range. “Correctly balanced minerals can lead to improved performance, cow health and fertility,” says ForFarmers’ Bruce Forshaw. “But oversupplying dairy cows with minerals will increase costs, impact on performance and, in some cases, cause health issues.” Copper is required for good fertility and haemoglobin production but, if oversupplied, it is stored by the cow in the liver and can eventually cause copper toxicity. Phosphorus is essential for energy metabolism and fertility, but supply too much and the cow excretes it in dung. This can then leach into waterways and cause algae bloom. “ForFarmers’ account managers are trained to assess the complete mineral input on farm by collecting information from forage analysis,

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water analysis, feed content and via boluses or supplementation from the vet,” says Mr Forshaw. “They can then develop a mineral plan that works for each individual herd, meeting the cows’ needs but not oversupplying minerals. “We estimate that about 80% of the time we will have minerals in the Mineline range that will suit the herd,” he adds. “For the remaining 20% we can develop a bespoke product to suit their exact needs.” ForFarmers has also increased the amount of vitamins A, D and E in its minerals, to help boost the cow’s immune system. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that works in conjunction with selenium, which is part of glutathione peroxidase (GPX), an enzyme that reduces oxidative stress at a cellular level. “We’ve also concentrated minerals in the feed, making feed calculations simpler. The typical feed rate for in-feed mineral is 150g, while the new range is designed to meet requirement at 100g per head.” Talk to your ForFarmers account manager about your herd’s mineral requirements, or call 0330 678 1133 for more information.

Soil nutrition

When buying fertiliser, producers tend to opt for what they’ve always bought before, rather than looking at current evidence to support the use of fertilisers that improve crop yields and quality, to support healthier and more productive livestock. Fertilisers containing sulphur are often overlooked because they’re slightly more expensive, but evidence has shown the clear benefit of its inclusion and sulphur is now recommended by all the independent farm advisory bodies in the UK. Sulphur supports nitrogen efficiency and improves grass growth rates, as well as grass composition. Trials show that sulphur applications can improve grass yields, by an extra 750kg DM/ha. This offers a return of £7 for every £1 spent on sulphur. Selenium (Se) can be applied through fertiliser to fortify grazed grass or grass silage. Cows require 0.3mg of Se for every 1kg of dry matter consumed. But data from Yara shows that more than 90% of grass samples have selenium levels below 0.2mg/kg. Applying fertiliser containing selenium can ensure that enough dietary Se is supplied by grass. High cell counts and mastitis problems are associated with Se deficiency and feeding grass silage fortified with Se is a cost effective way to maintain good milk quality and minimise the incidence of mastitis. For more information contact your ForFarmers account manager or call 0330 678 1200.

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Lean concept offers

calf-rearing benefits Streamlining calf management – to maximise efficiency and make marginal gains – will be the focus of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s #Calfmatters campaign in 2020. And there are plenty of ways that producers can get involved with the programme – and benefit from the results. TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


ean management is something that Boehringer Ingelheim’s vet Matt Yarnall has been intrigued by for a while and he’s looking forward to seeing how it can help to improve and streamline calf rearing on UK units during the next 12 months. The concept is strongly associated with manufacturing – most notably the car industry. But it has its roots as far back as the late 1800s, when the concept was first developed to improve efficiency in factory/production line environments. This included the standardisation of work and time-and-motion studies, to improve the efficiency of work methods, processes and operations. More recently the human behavioural aspects of work have been added to this concept – pioneered by the likes of Henry Ford and Japanese car manufacturers, most notably Toyota.

Continuous improvement Kaizen, which basically translates from the Japanese as continuous improvement, is a part of this Lean management philosophy, and essentially looks at identifying what’s slowing down productivity (delaying colostrum feeding) or preventing something from happening at all (for example, ensuring that calves receive enough quality colostrum in the first six hours of life, at the correct temperature). With so many variables – and all dairy units and calf rearing systems being unique to these individual herds and set ups – it’s ripe for the lean management treatment. “Lean management and the kaizen principle of continuous improvement could be applied across the entire dairy herd and business, but calving and calf rearing is a good place to

Matt Yarnall: “The devil is in the detail and lean management – streamlining systems – can dig some of this out” 38

start,” says Mr Yarnall. “There are some easy wins and gains to be had and producers can start small and add things in as they go along. It’s not a static concept and there’s no one-size-fitsall solution. Even the best calf rearers can continue to hone their systems – or expand their goals. “It’s all about the detail – not about making huge changes or making significant investment in new kit. It could be something as simple as printing out a calving and colostrum protocol and displaying it clearly. Or marking a space on the floor for a calving/colostrum kit ‘trolley’ to sit so it’s where it needs to be at all times.”

Streamlining systems Focusing on the period from calving to 10 days of age is a start – a blood test can be carried out at a week of age to check the calf’s immunity or, in other words, the efficacy of colostrum management and early calf care. “And then producers could take this concept right through to first calving and the heifer joining the milking herd. They can go at their own pace and build a lean management system that suits their herd, system and set up.” Mr Yarnall says that producers often invest a lot in genetics: “But it’s typically the small, low-cost aspects of calf rearing that can really make a big difference. The devil is in the detail and lean management – streamlining systems – can dig some of this out.” What order is the best order to do things? How should things be done? What’s the best kit to use? How do you ensure that it’s always clean, ready to use and close at hand? These are all aspects that require thought and planning – to help ensure that things are done quickly, efficiently and well. It may be that some things are not happening at all, or they are happening but too slowly – or not effectively. It’s about questioning every little thing and asking if it can be done quicker or better? He adds that calf rearing is still the poor relation on a lot of units. “Many still fail to prioritise it. It tends to just ‘fit in’ around day to day management of the milking herd. But it’s time to turn that on its head and have someone on the unit who is ‘invested’ in it so that it becomes their priority and their key job. “I’d say that’s really the first step towards lean management

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#Calfmatters 2020 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health will also be undertaking Kaizen #Calfmatters farm walks in spring 2020, across the UK. And look out for competitions and other ideas on social media and at www.calfmatters.co.uk

when it comes to calving and calf rearing – someone has to step up and take charge. The second stage is to put processes in place and then add ‘standard operating procedures’ to make sure that these protocols happen. Having a list up on the wall of what needs to be done and in the correct order, is one thing. Things also have to be in place – and to hand – to ensure that everything on the list happens in the correct time frame and in the right order.” And just such a list is something that the company hopes to produce, with pointers on how to make sure the processes on the list are carried out quickly, easily and effectively.

Calving-kit trolley Making sure that things are tangible is also important. “One good idea that I’ve seen on farm – which I’ve also seen in a hospital environment – is a trolley that’s loaded up with all the kit necessary to facilitate calving and colostrum feeding. It’s a way to ensure that everything is to hand and ready to use.” And to ensure that the trolley is where it should be – and ready to go – he’s seen producers who’ve marked the floor in the prep area with tape, to create a ‘parking space’ for the trolley. “It then has a home – a proper place. And it’s also easy to see that it’s missing.” The #Calfmatters campaign will be officially launched at DairyTech 2020, on February 5, when Tom Oliphant, British Touring Car Championship driver for Team BMW and West Surrey Racing, will give a presentation on the lean-management concept and a dairy producer will also talk about how aspects of this have made a difference to their calving and calf rearing routine. “We think this will whet producers’ appetites and capture their imaginations. It’s very much about looking at protocols and improving them. This is often about making them easier to action, rather than changing them,” adds Mr Yarnall. “And who better to ask about what works on farm than the producers themselves. We’ll be running a campaign on social media and asking for producers’ ideas and input.” Questions will also be asked, such as how best to move calves quickly and easily – with minimal stress to calf and rearer – from the calving pen to calf housing. “Something as simple as investing in a wheelbarrow that’s designed for the job can really make a difference here. So the next question is which wheelbarrows do producers recommend? What do they find works best and why? “Other points for discussion will include colostrum management and feeding – what’s the most efficient way to measure quality, store colostrum, warm and feed it? This is where social media will really come into its own. And where we’re excited to see what direction this takes and how the campaign evolves during 2020.” l

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Milk Pregnancy Testing Dan Humphries of Dairy Insight shares his insight on Milk Pregnancy Testing. Cows which have lost a pregnancy can be a large cost to a dairy farm – the scale of the loss depends on how soon that nonpregnant cow is identified. The figures for pregnancy loss in dairy cattle are quite startling – up to 10% of cows can suffer from pregnancy loss in some herds. Clearly it will be less of a loss if that cow is identified soon enough to be re-served, and the options become very limited if a supposedly pregnant cow is dried off but never calves. If heats are spotted, then we can recheck these cows but short of regularly scanning these cows during the pregnancy what else can we do? Milk pregnancy testing provides an accurate and hassle-free way of checking for pregnancy. The test is measuring the levels of a protein called Pregnancy Associated Glycoprotein (PAG) and it can be performed on the samples from your normal herd milk recording. There are a few different ways that the testing can be used, such as a pre-dry off test, but it is well worth discussing with your advisory team how milk pregnancy testing would fit in to your herd management strategy. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with the CIS Field Team at on 01923 695319 or visit www.thecis.co.uk


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16-01-20 13:13


Wide variation in

feed efficiency Breeding cows that convert feed into milk more efficiently is interesting from a financial perspective. Breeding can reduce feed costs by 10% and this is just one of the reasons why CRV invests heavily in feed intake data collection. TEXT WICHERT KOOPMAN


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n the feeding passage in the cow house based at Melkveehouderij van Gastel near Nispen, in The Netherlands, its difficult to miss the large blue feed troughs. With a slight hissing sound, adjustable panels move up and down to give cows controlled access to a complete feed ration. And digital displays show how much feed each cow eats from the trough. “We have been studying the feed-intake pattern of individual cows for several months, with help from CRV,” explains producer Thijs van Gastel. He runs the 150-cow unit in partnership with his parents Gré and Anne-Marie. The cows are milked through a robotic system and produce a rolling annual average of 12,087kg of milk, at 4.14% fat and 3.60% protein.

Maintenance requirement “We have always had the impression that certain cows convert feed into milk far more efficiently than others,” he says. “You see the production of some cows really go into a downward spiral as the concentrate ration is reduced at the end of lactation, whereas the performance of other cows is unchanged. “We don’t have any firm figures on feed conversion rates just yet, but the first raw data certainly seems to back up our ideas. Within the group, the feed intake varies between 40kg and 80kg a day. “But there is no direct correlation with milk production. I see cows that produce more milk on a ration of 55kg of forage than animals of a similar age and at a similar stage of lactation but that consume 75kg of forage.” CRV is investing several million euros in systems that measure the feed intake of daughters of CRV bulls on five dedicated test farms, says Mr Pieter van Goor (see box). Breeding for feed efficiency will result in cows that require less feed for maintaining their body condition, for supporting movement and digestion. This leaves more feed to convert into milk production and, as a result, the feed conversion rate will rise.

Environmental benefits Since 2008, the Van Gastel family’s farm has been a test unit for heifers in CRV’s Delta nucleus programme. On a yearly basis, the producers purchase around 15 high-genetic-merit animals, after they have been used as a donor for the breeding

Thijs van Gastel: “Breeding for feed efficiency is interesting from a financial perspective and beneficial for the climate” programme. These cattle also tend to have the highest genomic breeding values in the herd. “It is great that we now also gain insight into the performance of bull mothers when it comes to feed conversion,” says Thijs. “Feed conversion will certainly become an important feature in breeding in the future. Cows that are more efficient at converting feed into milk are good for producers’ wallets, but also for the environment, and they also produce less greenhouse gas per kilogramme of milk. Breeding for feed efficiency is a good story to share with consumers,” he adds. l

Pieter van Goor: “Breeding alone, can reduce feed costs by 10%”

World leader in breeding for efficiency CRV began measuring individual feed intakes at a dairy unit in July 2017. Today there are five dairy units where it collects data about feed intake and this makes CRV the world leader in gathering data to facilitate breeding for efficiency. CRV breeding specialist Pieter van Goor supervises the data collection. So far, the company has invested more than £1.75m. “No other breeding organisation in the world invests on this scale in collecting feed

intake data,” says Mr van Goor, adding that CRV already has data from research farms, but wants faster and more data in order to increase the reliability of the breeding value. “Through breeding alone, you can reduce your feed costs by 10%.” Mr van Goor says that the most efficient cows perform well on all systems. “They produce the most, are not too heavy and, most importantly, they not only utilise concentrates

but also forage in the most efficient way.” Data on feed intake behaviour, milk production, water intake and weight are collected on the five units. “We also record hoof health and other health and fertility data. With all this information, we are able to select cows that are long-lasting, healthy and produce milk efficiently.” To view a video on CRV’s feed intake research visit www.facebook.com/Avoncroft/

cowmanagement JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

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Precision dairying focus for roadshows

bovens bovens regel o

2020 catalogue

NMR is highlighting additional management information, which is now available to producers and their advisers, at roadshows across the country, starting on February 11. “We will be highlighting recently introduced elements of service that producers and vets are using to fine tune cow management,” says NMR managing director Andy Warne, who will chair the meetings. “We also want to present our latest operational developments and investment in new technology that take our service robustness and reliability to a more advanced level and minimise the risk of future cyberattacks, following the disruption that affected data dissemination to our customers in 2019.” NMR will also introduce a range of testing and reporting systems that it plans to pioneer in 2020. Short presentations on the practical use of health, nutrition and genomic testing by NMR’s geneticists and vets will be followed

NMR has published its 2020 catalogue with a comprehensive list of its products and services, as well as prices. “Know your cows, know your milk, know your business,” is NMR’s strapline and it remains as important as ever,” says NMR chairman Trevor Lloyd in his introduction to the spring catalogue. “It is certainly very pertinent in my own herd,” he adds, explaining that his own dairy team relies on the NMR data for each animal in his 430-cow Holstein herd, for monitoring production, health and fertility progress. The new catalogue is on the NMR website.

by ‘open house desks’ for individual questions. Registration is through: https://www.nmr.co.uk/events Table 1: Date and locations



11-Feb 11-Feb 12-Feb 17-Feb 18-Feb 19-Feb 25-Feb 26-Feb 10-Mar 11-Mar 17-Mar 18-Mar 19-Mar

Launceston Bridgwater Shaftesbury Wootton Bassett Gloucester Carmarthen Nantwich Northern Ireland Lutterworth Ripon Glasgow Carlisle Preston

time 10.30 AM 7.00 PM 10.30 AM 10.30 AM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 7.00 PM 10.30 AM

Question time – KPI talk ‘on air’ The latest trends in herd health will be discussed ‘on air’ in NMR’s webinar on February 6, 2020, at 1pm. Anyone with an interest in dairy herd performance statistics can join in where trends and targets will be highlighted from the University of Reading’s recently published Key Performance Indicator (KPI) report (see feature on page 32). This 2019 report concludes 10 years of data on 38 key parameters and sets targets for UK dairy herds moving forward. “This will be a half hour presentation followed by questions,” says NMR’s Cath Smith, who will present the findings. All interested parties can tune in through their laptop or computer and ask questions by raising a virtual hand using the

webinar tools or by typing the question into the control panel. The webinar will focus on the trends seen in herd health and fertility, particularly on the progress made in somatic cell counts and in the proportion of herds keeping cows with chronic cell counts. More recently Johne’s incidence data on a proportion of the 500 herds included in the sample has been reported with informative findings that will be discussed. Report co-author James Hanks will provide supporting data. Interested participants can get log on information through the NMR events page. The webinar is recorded and, once registered, you will be sent a copy of the recording automatically.

GeneTracker dates The next genomic sample submission with results published on inGENEious in Herd Companion, or on Search Point (in brackets) are: • February 20, published April 7 (April 8) • March 19, published May 5 (May 6) • April 16, published June 2 (June3)

Uniform starter pack A new ‘starter’ package of the Uniform dairy management program is now available. Developed by Uniform-Agri and exclusively for NMR, this bronze package enables producers to harness the processing of Uniform in a more basic system but still have the real time data link with NMR, the App to use on a mobile phone or iPad, action lists, the highly popular Uniform dashboard, farm assurance reporting and links with BCMS and HUK. This starter package is available from £25/month. More details are available from NMR.

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

cowmanagement JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

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Spoiled for choice Twice runner up in the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition and renowned pedigree breeder James Tomlinson is excited about the latest bull proof run. And, he says: “It’s about time.” TEXT RACHAEL PORTER


t’s significant that Lancashire-based producer James Tomlinson wants to begin by talking about the sires on the proven list when discussing the latest bull proof rankings. That’s because he’s excited about Bomaz Alta Topshot, who has climbed to number-one position in the new Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) proven Holstein bull rankings, published by AHDB Dairy. Bomaz has a lot of sires high up on the list – but it’s just a small US-based family-run herd. “This is intriguing,” says James, adding that he’s getting a price for this sire. “I like his good, balanced linear and I’m surprised I’ve not really noticed him before – he slipped under my radar.” Topshot graduated from the genomic list in summer 2019 and took second position on the proven-sire list. He’s continued to edge upwards as more daughters have come into milk, earning him a PLI of £788. A son of the UK-owned Cogent Supershot, Topshot’s Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) for production include an impressive 1,151kg of milk and 35.3kg protein. Also moving up the list is View-Home Littlerock (PLI £749). This Cashcoin son has the highest Lifespan Index (LS) of the top 20 sires at +225 days, with a strong daughter Fertility Index at +12.4. The only sticking point for James is his chest width score of –1.32. “There are plenty of other excellent sires to choose from – on both the proven and genomic list – so I can afford to be extremely picky, even when a sire is this good.” New entries in third and fourth positions are Seagull-Bay SR Stardust (PLI £732) and Peak Alta Recoil (PLI £728). Both are sons of Alta Spring and display strong daughter

Velder Starmaker


AOT Silver Helix

fertility figures at +12.4 and +13.4 respectively. “Recoil looks interesting – he wasn’t on the HUK list. But he has a solid cow family behind him and I’ll be getting a price for him too,” says James, adding that Stardust is also a ‘may be’ for use on his herd in 2020.

Prolific producer Moving to fifth place is prolific producer of top genomic young sires, Melarry Josuper Frazzled. Offering 1,097kg of milk, with excellent udder health (–38 SCC, –3 mastitis) and calf survival (+3.9), it’s no surprise that James has already used him across the Bilsrow herd. “And I’ve already ordered some more semen,” James says. “He has a solid pedigree and a balanced linear – he ticks all the boxes for me.” He has also used his sire, Josuper, across the herd who now boasts an impressive PLI of £721. Sixth-ranking Siemers Bloomfield (£716 PLI) is, of course, another superb sire. But James says he’ll swerve him simply because his pin height is just a little too high for his liking. “Other than that, I can’t fault him,” he explains, referring to his calving score of +4.4, which makes him the best in the top 20, and his good cow lifespan figures at +219 days. Seventh ranking AOT Silver Helix is the highest production transmitter available with an incredible +52.6kg fat and +39.6kg protein, helping to earn him at PLI of £712. “He’s interesting because he’s a Silver son and his milk figure is massive,” says James. “That said, his lifespan score is the lowest in the top 20. Bomaz Alta Topshot

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That’s his only drawback, but it may stop me from using him.” Looking to the genomic list, James is also suitably inspired, starting with the young Holstein sire, Bomaz Fynn, who has taken number-one position in the genomic rankings, with a PLI of £878. “He’s a Frazzled off a Rubicon and I’m already on the list for some straws,” says James, adding that such is the demand for this special sire that semen is being allocated on a regional basis. “Only so much will be sold in each area of the UK, to make it fair. I should get my hands on some straws in early 2020.”

Solid PTAs Denovo 14566 Crosby moves up to second place, also with solid PTAs for production and the highest Lameness Advantage of the top 20 bulls. This high-ranking son of DG Charley has a PLI of £871. He’s also caught James’ eye. “I have already used quite a lot of him, but I have ordered some more semen. These figures confirm what I’ve seen in heifers on the ground.” Also making gains is Melarry Frazz Arrowhead, now ranking third with a PLI of £870. Another Frazzled son, he has excellent daughter maintenance scores (–10) and good SCC (–33), and he is the best improver of daughter fertility in the top 20 (+14.2). But James says that, for him, he falls down due to his rump and chest-width scores. The former number-one sire, Bomaz Alta Cabot, continues to show excellent PTAs for milk quality at +0.17% fat and +0.06% protein. Low cell counts and excellent mastitis resistance (–4) help earn him a PLI of £867. James says he’s already used him, but this latest run reveals his linear to be not quite as good as it was. “So I may swap him for another sire this time – there are better bulls on offer this time around.”

James Tomlinson: “There’s a trio of genomic sires that really caught my eye” Peak Alta Leap, who climbs to number five with a PLI of £860, will remain in James’ AI flask though. “I’ve used a lot of him and his calves are due next year. I’ve ordered more – he really does have everything that I’m looking for,” explains James, adding that his semen is ‘fertile’.

Dutch-bred Starmaker A new entry in sixth place is Dutch-bred Velder Starmaker (PLI £852). This son of Adorable transmits one of the best survival ratings in the top 20 (+3.5 calf survival, +222 cow lifespan) and has solid figures for daughter fertility (+12.2). James skips to the number-10 sire, Peak Alta Zarek (PLI £847), with one of the best scores for Lameness Advantage (+3.6) and strong production figures with more than two points for type. “I will be getting a price for him. He’s a Topshot off a Rubicon and there’s nothing not to like.” He admits that even the sires he’s dismissed for use on his herd are exceptional in both the proven and genomic rankings. “Once again we can revel in being spoiled for choice. And it’s a bit of a relief really as the past few proof runs have been disappointing. These are the most exciting lists I’ve seen in a while, and it’s a great way to start 2020 and a new decade.” l

Table 1: Top 10 genomic and top 10 daughter-proven sires available in the UK ranked on PLI (source: AHDB Dairy and Holstein UK) fertility ind.

Supershot x Embassy Cashcoin x Robust Alta Spring x Jacey Alta Spring x Jacey Josuper x Shotglass Mr Delta x Numero Uno Silver x Supersire Balisto x Denim Pesky x Esquire Robust x Planet

Alta Semex Genus Alta/AIS WWS UK Semex WWS UK Viking/AIS Cogent UK Sires/AIS

76 +1151 +38.4 +35.3 –0.08 –0.02 788 5 91 +823 +25.2 +27.3 –0.08 +0.01 749 –13 72 +783 +34.6 +27.0 +0.04 +0.02 732 –3 70 +948 +22.9 +29.7 –0.16 –0.01 728 0 79 +1097 +35.6 +28.6 –0.08 –0.08 721 0 76 +376 +41.4 +15.2 +0.32 +0.04 716 3 82 +1299 +52.6 +39.6 +0.02 –0.03 712 17 79 +271 +33.3 +20.0 +0.28 +0.14 710 2 85 +543 +30.9 +28.5 +0.11 +0.13 710 –3 96 +594 +38.4 +24.6 +0.18 +0.06 709 –21

–23 –18 –13 –12 –38 –16 –4 –38 –10 –12

149 225 137 189 158 219 64 195 76 88

8.3 12.4 12.4 13.4 3.6 11.9 6 6.2 10 3.1

1.55 1.52 0.63 1.48 1.21 1.73 1.81 1.14 0.49 1.52


lifespa n

proven sires Bomaz Alta Topshot View-Home Littlerock Seagull-Bay Sr Stardust Peak Alta Recoil Melarry Josuper Frazzled Siemers Bloomfield AOT Silver Helix VH Balisto Brook Bellemont Perks Co-Op Robust Cabriolet



6.3 0.2 7.8 0.1 14.2 0.8 6.7 0.1 10.3 –1.0 12.2 0.1 7.5 0.5 13.1 –0.6 7.4 –1.0 8.6 0.6



183 201 219 158 237 222 201 228 204 207


–30 –28 –33 –28 –32 –36 –24 –24 –29 –26

% prote in

64 +997 +51.0 +32.4 +0.13 +0.00 878 2 64 +1035 +42.5 +33.2 +0.02 +0.00 871 –1 64 +763 +36.7 +25.4 +0.08 +0.01 870 –10 65 +777 +45.4 +30.2 +0.17 +0.06 867 –7 64 +865 +31.8 +33.7 –0.03 +0.07 860 9 63 +631 +30.2 +26.6 +0.06 +0.07 852 7 64 +823 +49.2 +27.5 +0.19 +0.01 848 –6 63 +839 +37.7 +28.1 +0.05 +0.01 848 –8 63 +1263 +41.0 +37.1 –0.10 –0.04 848 7 65 +1072 +42.0 +32.3 +0.00 –0.03 847 4

% fat

Genus Genus WWS UK Alta Alta/AIS CRV Avoncroft/AIS Genus Genus Semex Alta

kg pro tein

Frazzled x Rubicon Charley x Rubicon Frazzled x Profit Topshot x Cabriolet Quantum x Alta Spring Adorable x Mobile Torque x Yoder Achiever x Supershot Guarantee x Jedi Topshot x Rubicon

kg fat


genomic sires Bomaz Fynn Denovo 14566 Crosby Melarry Frazz Arrowhead Bomaz Alta Cabot Peak Alta Leap cd Velder Starmaker Denovo 15158 Admiral Denovo Invictus Progenesis Monet Peak Alta Zarek

kg mil k

sire x mat. grandsire

% reliab lity




functional traits


1.48 0.80 0.89 1.31 1.73 1.30 1.24 1.68 1.33 1.73

2.43 1.37 0.89 1.86 2.03 1.71 1.84 1.43 1.44 2.18

0.1 0.98 0.76 0.5 0.65 1.28 –0.6 1.41 1.19 0.1 1.71 1.96 –0.3 0.62 1.51 –0.8 0.99 2.17 –0.8 1.10 1.37 0.5 0.93 0.92 –0.5 –0.10 1.43 0.8 1.44 1.06

1.36 1.21 1.52 2.65 1.54 2.40 2.18 1.43 1.04 1.48

cowmanagement JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

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MARCH GRASSLAND AND FORAGE March 6 – In our next issue we will focus on grassland and forage and we’ll also have the final part in our series on reducing dairying’s carbon footprint, which focuses on breeding.

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: rachael@reporterjournalism.co.uk Editing, design and production CRV Publishing Contributing writers Emily Ball, Phil Eades, Roger Evans, Wichert Koopman, 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: cm.office@crv4all.com CowManagement online Facebook: www.facebook.com/CowManagementUK/ Twitter: @cowmanagement Website: www.cowmanagement.co.uk


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: customerservices@nmrp.com www.isubscribe.co.uk Advertisements Nicci Chamberlin, NMR. Phone 07970 009136 E-mail: niccich@nmrp.com Jannet Fokkert, Froukje Visser, Hilda van der Wal P.O. Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem, The Netherlands, E-mail: hilda.van.der.wal@crv4all.com

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, Mark Pasveer (8), Glenn Murphy (11) and Els Korsten (15).

cowmanagement JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020

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