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V O LU M E 11 N O 1 J AN UARY 2013





Reduce risks and reap maize benefits in 2013

Schmallenberg update and the latest on BVD

Eye-catching sires in the latest bull proof rankings

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Cow Talk Overalls off: Wheelbarrowing Veterinary practice: Mycotoxins NMR Dairy Management News Avoncroft Breeding Information/ Thompsons Nutritional News 46 Events and contacts







15 Roger Evans BREEDING

20 Delta Refiner, latest success from the Art-Acres Tex B family 40 December bull proofs MANAGEMENT

30 Semen handling and AI refresher 34 Fresh ideas to help eke out supplies when forages are short 36 Firm handle on BVD eradication

“Our aim is to be the best breeding herd in the world” 12



Editor Rachael Porter Resolutions

12 Riverdane: herd sale paved the way to building ‘dream’ herd 44 Dutch producer Kees Kortleve takes top position for lifetime production

Mark Nutsford




4 10 19 29 43








ere we are – in our tenth anniversary year – and even more committed to making sure the pages of CowManagement bring you accurate, upto-date and useful information to help you manage your herds as efficiently as possible. The year starts as it ended – with plenty of challenges. Thoughts about maize are mixed after what was a disastrous and expensive crop for some in 2012. But we have a couple of articles that should restore some confidence in what is, without a doubt, an excellent source of home-grown starch on many units. Read about a first-time grower who harvested a great crop of maize in 2012, which is also performing at the feed fence, on page 23. If low forage stocks are keeping you awake at night, two nutritionists have some timely pointers on how to eke out supplies and monitor any potential problems on page 34. Some herds have also been hit by Schmallenberg virus this winter. Unexplained milk drop is one of the main symptoms being reported by producers. So we spoke to two leading vets for an update. Staying with health, we’ve an article on BVD. More milk tests are just one of the tools that mean that eradication is possible – see page 36 – so why wait? Lightening the load, we have Roger Evans’ column and an extreme freestyle wheelbarrower – yes, you read that right – is featured in our popular ‘Overalls Off’ column on page 10. A great start to our tenth birthday celebrations – we hope you agree!



Main article Health Grazing or housing? SBV update

Special Maize



Which is the most efficient: grazing or housing? We outline the latest research


The latest on this disease as it continues to spread north in the UK during the winter

Tips, recommendations and advice to give your ‘growing’ confidence a boost


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Quick test to ID sub-clinical ketosis Ketosis in freshly calved cows can be common, yet sub-clinical cases often go undetected and the consequences are costly. So to help producers to easily identify ketosis in their herds, Elanco has launched a cow-side testing kit called Keto-Test. This measures ketone levels in milk. The test is quick and easy, taking just a few minutes to get an accurate assessment of the presence of subclinical or ‘hidden’ ketosis. It uses colour-graded dipsticks to measure the levels of the ketone, betahydroxybutyrate (BHBA), in milk. The higher the concentration of BHBA in the milk, the deeper the colour purple on the test strips, and the greater the level of ketosis. A positive result for ketosis is defined as a milk BHBA level of more than 100μmol/litre. The test results are proven to correlate well with the more expensive method of taking blood samples for laboratory analysis.

Forage costings at your finger tips Whether you want to know typical forage crop growing costs, yields, likely crop analysis or general tips on what suits a situation and how to grow it, Kingshay’s Forage Costings 2013 Report



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has the answer. It goes as far as to give a relative value for each crop, based on likely energy and protein values and the cost to buy that in wheat and soya, according to report author Peter Shipton. But also gives the total production cost of dry matter and on a ppl of milk produced basis, over a range of crop yields. “The crops covered include grass and clovers – both grazed and conserved – as well as maize, crimped maize, wholecrops and a range of summer catch crops,” says Mr Shipton. “We also summarise the costs of typical concentrates, so it really does offer a chance to review the forage crop policy on dairy units.” The report has been compiled following a thorough review of crop management and nutrition requirements, using genuine costs, which have been benchmarked against real farm management accounts. It will be updated annually and will be essential reading for producers and farm advisers. For a copy of the report, which costs £80 for non-members and is free to members, contact Kingshay on 01458 851555 or e-mail

To monitor herd levels of ketosis, a milk test should be carried out every two to three weeks on cows that have calved between two and 21 days previously. A minimum of 12 cows should be tested. If more than 25% of cows tested have positive results, the herd’s vet and nutritionist should be consulted. “The test is a cost-effective tool that allows producers to routinely screen the negative energy status of early lactation cows to identify cases of sub-clinical ketosis,” said Elanco’s UK technical consultant Mike Steele. “This hidden ketosis is detrimental to cow performance. It has been shown to significantly increase the risk of other health problems, such as displaced abomasum, and also to reduce milk production and depress fertility. “By monitoring herds for ketosis, producers can work with their vets and nutritionists and take action sooner to prevent the negative impacts of hidden ketosis on herd performance.”

Prices cool for bulk tanks With cooling temperatures and price rises, GEA Farm Technologies is helping producers to beat the January blues by offering a 5% discount on all TCool bulk tanks that are ordered between January and March 2013. Available in a range of sizes, between 1,010 litres and 33,500 litres, the company’s bulk tank controls cooling and cleaning to ensure the highest quality milk using the least amount of energy. The company claims that the tanks will also reduce energy costs and the carbon footprint of dairy businesses.

Registrations rise Holstein UK has announce an increase in annual registration numbers in 2012. A total of 216,195 births were registered during the past 12 months, an increase of more than 500 from 2011. This continues a trend started in 2008, which has seen registrations rise by almost 10% in five years. The organisation said that it had worked closely with its 6,885 members – Holstein and British Friesian breeders – to achieve this result.

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Watch out for mycotoxicosis Summer 2012’s atrocious weather resulted in high levels of fungal disease in crops and producers should be alert to the risks of inadvertently feeding mycotoxin contaminated feed to their herds. So says EM Effective Micro-organisms’ Peter Townley, adding that mycotoxins, harmful metabolites produced by fungi, can result in a range of symptoms when inadvertently fed to cows, depending on the type and concentration of toxin. “Sub-clinical symptoms of mycotoxicosis can be vague and difficult to diagnose, but usually result in a reduction in performance, reduced feed intake, poor feed conversion and suppression of the animals’ immune system, which makes them more prone to disease.” Clinical symptoms can include digestive upsets, internal bleeding, reproductive disorders, and swollen teats and joints. “Where mycotoxin contaminated feed cannot be excluded from the diet, one solution is to incorporate in the diet a mycotoxin binder such as Bionit-S,” he said. This product deactivates the undesirable substances within the digestive tract, protecting it from the damaging effects of the toxins and relieving the burden on the liver. “Special screening tests for feedstuffs are available and producers should seek advice from their vet or nutritionist if they suspect mycotoxin contamination is resulting in a reduction in herd performance,” added Mr Townley.

Video guide to sward TLC To help producers improve and prepare their swards for this year’s growing season, after the rigours of 2012, specialist grass seed breeder Barenbrug has produced an informative video offering guidance on how to identify an unproductive sward and rectify the problem. In the four-minute video – which can be viewed on line – the company’s agricultural research and development manager, David Long, shows producers how to identify common problems like stress, disease incidence and compacted soil structure, and offers guidance on how to restore a sward to productivity. “To get the best out of their swards in 2013, producers must correct the problems in their grass leys. Otherwise they will end up with lower yields and another expensive winter of buying-in feed to replace lost production,” he said. He adds that most grass swards are suffering from the combined effects of the continual rainfall and damage caused by the need to feed stock. “Fields are looking an unhealthy shade of yellowygreen – an indicator of severe stress. This stress has two main sources – disease and poor soil structure – and it will have a detrimental effect on production and persistency, and cause the sward to fill up with grass weeds.” Disease and, specifically, Drechslera leaf spot is caused by the wet conditions combined with varietal susceptibility. “As well as reducing the feed value and palatability of the plant, Drechslera weakens the plant, reducing persistency

David Long

and making it more susceptible to winter kill,” explains Mr Long. “Grazing the sward will remove the diseased leaves, promoting healthy re-growth.” Soil structure also needs to be addressed and is much more of a problem. The weight of water that has fallen this year combined with the weight of harvesting equipment and grazing animals has created shallow ‘pans’ in many grass fields. “The effect is to restrict root growth to the top 10cm, and also to stop slurry and rainfall penetrating the soil. This means the roots are growing in a wet sludge, while beneath the compaction the soil is dry,” he said. “The plant’s access to nutrients is limited, reducing growth and favouring the growth of shallow-rooted meadow grass.” To view the video, visit watch?v=o4e_m3EecLU

Forage crop guide A free and comprehensive guide to growing forage crops, which provides producers and growers with options for selecting the most suitable forage crop and the best varieties to grow, has been published by Limagrain UK. ‘The Essential Guide To Forage Crops’ includes information on growing fodder beet, kale, swedes, lucerne and forage maize, as well as catch crops such as stubble turnips, forage peas, forage rape, chicory and forage rye. Also provided in the guide are detailed variety profiles that compare performance using the results from the company’s trials. Feeding guidelines,

crop suitability and feed quality are included with further information relating to suggested crop rotations, sowing times, yield and fertiliser guidelines. “Mixed forage diets help increase feed intakes and ensure optimum rumen stability, improved feed utilisation and better animal performance,” said Limagrain’s Martin Titley. “Many of the crops featured in the guide also allow growers to extend the grazing seasons in both spring and autumn, which can help boost margins.” For your free copy, visit uk or email:

C O W M A VN EAEGT EE M E LE TN TJ AJ NA UN AU RAI R 1 Y / 2 0 21 03 0 9

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Using milk from forage figures, all-year-round hou

The great gr az What is the financial reality of switching to a totally housed system, and how does it compare to putting cows out to grass? We look at the benchmarks that should be used to assess herd performance. text Allison Matthews

margin over concentrate, milk from forage, daily yields and concentrate use, to ensure they can see how effective their system is. If there is no way of assessing this, the decision to graze may be based on historical performance rather than on hard facts.” Successfully managing a totally housed system is dependent on silage quality and strictly adhering to the principles of efficient feeding. Mr Moore points out that setting realistic milk from forage targets from silage is essential and must be backed up by accurate target feeding. “Ad-lib high quality forage is imperative to support a realistic milk yield. If running


hen cows are housed milk from forage obviously takes a hit, but producers may be using the wrong benchmark to assess the herd’s performance. So says Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Alan Hopps. “Producers have traditionally looked at their milkfrom-forage figures to gauge performance, but there are more elements to the calculation of margin over concentrate. “Milk quality, yield, price and concentrate costs all factor into this figure, making it a more reliable measure of turnover than milk from forage. Combine this with the knowledge that producers can retain 40% of their margin over concentrate as profit and there can be no question that producers need to study it as a means of assessing performance.”

Feed prices Systems that result in the highest margin over concentrate (MOC) are heavily dependent on both milk price and concentrate input. Mr Hopps explains that while a falling milk price and elevated feed costs hit all systems, they have the biggest impact on those where the milking herd is housed all year round. “Just a £25 per tonne increase in feed prices adds a 1ppl to production costs for the high input system, which is already hit by higher overhead costs. A totally housed herd is likely to have a higher outlay per cow – an additional £60 per head compared to those managed on a conventional grazing system. “So, for example, with a milk price of 23ppl and concentrate costs of £300 per tonne, profits for all-year-round housed herds are lower than those for grazed herds. This takes into account the fixed costs of £60 per cow, which means that profit for those using a housed system are £20 lower per cow than for those with fully grazed herds Setting weekly and monthly targets provides essential management information, but it must be practical and not add to the already huge administrative burden carried by producers. Dairy nutritionist Richard Moore uses the example of Thompsons’ dairy costings service, Milk Manager, that provides producers with feedback on both monthly and rolling average performance by simply filling in one on-line or freepost sheet. “Producers must be able to compare month on month performance at a glance. This should include figures such as


c owmanagement

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und housing would be ruled out, so why isn’t it?

gr azing debate a grouped system, cows should ideally not exceed a yield span of 20 litres when a diet feeder is being used, with the wagon mix set to maintenance level to support the milk level of the lowest yielder in the group. “Once a week, those not meeting the milk yield requirements of the group must be moved to the next lowest yielding group.” Mr Hopps agrees: “If these cows are being sufficiently topped up with concentrates through the parlour, moving them to this group should not check their performance. The calibration of both milk meters and concentrate feeders must be accurate to ensure the information is exact.”

Attention to detail vital on any dairy unit, but when it comes to housing cows all year round this is even more important in order to achieve success. “Lameness has such a major bearing on dry matter intakes and milk yields, so for those serious about the all-year-round housing approach, foot bathing two to three times per week is essential. “This keeps on top of digital dermatitis and focuses the mind on locomotion scoring, which should be done on a monthly basis,” adds Mr Hopps.

Fertility management Mr Moore goes on to stress how crucial yield is in an all-year-round housed system and to this end fertility management becomes a vital piece in the jigsaw. “Fertility management can make or break such a finely tuned system. “Where mid-lactation animals make up the herd, they will not drive the performance required and the fertility programme must be geared towards maintaining a supply of fresh calved animals into the system,” adds Mr Moore. But without accurate monthly data, it all becomes irrelevant as there is uncertainty about what is actually working in practice. “Cows milking, cows dry, milk sold, milk value, milk to calves, concentrate fed and concentrate price are all figures that should be recorded on a monthly basis,” says Mr Moore. Benchmarking provides producers with the opportunity to review data annually and gives a good reflection of historic performance. When milk from forage and margin over concentrate are compared for similar systems it can act as a reality check and allow producers to critically evaluate whether things are really going as well as they think they are. “Ultimately the success of the decision to graze or house will only be dictated by the producer’s ability to manage whatever system they choose,” adds Mr Hopps. l Table 1: Financial comparisons between different systems

grazing 24/7 in summer herd size annual milk produced per cow (litres) annual concentrate fed per cow (t) annual total milk production (mlitres) annual dairy herd feed useage (t)

157 7,393 2.36 1.2 370

194 8,244 2.85 1.6 553

276 9,176 3.6 2.5 994

margin over concentrate (£/cow) 25ppl and £250/t concentrate 23ppl and £300/t concentrate

£1.258 £992

£1.349 £1.041

£1.394 £1.031

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only grazing no at daytime grazing


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O V E R A L L s

Name: Location: Herd size: Hobby:


Sam Parris Honiton, Devon 90 cows Extreme freestyle wheelbarrowing

Sam Parris: “It really was a once-in-alifetime opportunity”

Free-wheeling TV thrills text Rachael Porter


evon-based dairy producer Sam Parris puts danger and excitement into ‘wheelbarrowing’ while, at the same time, raising the profile of farming. And there’s certainly no bigger or brighter spotlight for the industry than a primetime Saturday evening television programme with millions of viewers. Sam and two friends, Lyle Burrough and Bobby Barnes, are ‘The Barrow Boys’ – extreme freestyle wheelbarrowers – and they snatched their ‘15 minutes of fame’ back in 2009 when they made it to the live semi finals of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. “They were held at Wembley Stadium and it was one of the most thrilling and strange experiences of my life so far,” recalls Sam. “It was all pretty far out and it really was a once-in-alifetime opportunity – we never expected to get anywhere. So we made sure we made the most of every minute of it.” The trio first began performing with their standard, green 90-kilogramme wheelbarrows for their local Yarcombe Young Farmers’ Club event. “We saw ‘The Red Barrows’ on the Internet, thought they were a bit boring and thought we could make it more exciting.” Someone in the audience said the group was good enough to be on TV. “We laughed it off, but then someone else dared us to enter Britain’s Got Talent. I got home one evening, a little worse for wear, and filled out the on-line entry form,” says Sam. They got through two auditions in 2008 and made it on to the 2009 series. And the rest, as they say, is history. “We had bookings for about a year, performing two or three times a month at mainly corporate events. We were the main draw at Bicton College’s open day, which usually sees around 500 visitors, but 3,500 came through the gates that year. “It was great fun and good to know that we were also raising the profile of farming.” Things then went quiet until very recently when television channel ITV2 got in touch and asked The Barrow Boys to film an ‘ident’ – a channel’s logo between programmes to identify its service. “We rehearsed with a stunt co-ordinator at a skateboard park in London and filming day was another memorable – and somewhat bizarre – experience. We were referred to as ‘the talent’ all day and we had someone who carried bottles of water around for us and another who set out chairs for us between takes,” says Sam. He thinks that the ITV2 ‘gig’ should renew interest in the group. “If people continue to enjoy what we do, then we’ll keep doing it. We certainly get a kick out of it.”


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+44(0) 1237 42 5000 or visit:


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E opportunity M The of a lifetime




Herd sale paved the way to building ‘dream’ herd and other business ventures


Selling their renowned pedigree Holstein herd allowed two

Cheshire-based producers to invest in their farm and to pursue

Number of cows: 90 Average yield: 11,031kg Longevity goal: six lactations Lifetime production goal: 70 tonnes


en years ago CowManagement visited ‘new entrants’ Sue and Mark Nutsford. And what a difference a decade makes! The pair built up one of the UK’s most renowned herds, taking shows and the pedigree sale ring by storm – and producing plenty of milk to boot. Today sees the same enthusiastic and ambitious couple managing a different herd and business. Back in 2003 the couple, and their Riverdane pedigree Holstein herd, were new recruits to the NMR annual production ranking top 10. They were milking 55 cows and averaging 11,791kg of milk

their cattle breeding dreams. We first visited the Nutsfords 10 years ago and now we return to find out what’s happened since. text Rachael Porter

at 3.7% fat and 3.33% protein. Yields are similar today, at 11.031kg of milk, but fat has risen to 4.33% and cow numbers have increased to 90.

Upgraded facilities The farm itself has also seen some changes, with investment in new cow housing in 2010, with sand-bedded cubicles and a robotic feeding system installed in 2011 to feed a TMR that provides maintenance plus 30 litres. “It’s great for the fresh heifers. We have a self-locking yoke system at the feed barrier and, even if they get held back a bit, when they do finally get to the feed



fence there’s plenty of fresh feed for them,” says Mark. The existing Vaccar 16:16 herringbone parlour has also been upgraded, an extra annex on the heifer housing has been added, and there are also facilities to receive and house cows for ET work. These investments were funded by a somewhat unusual move back in 2008. Mark and Sue sold the Riverdane herd – all 200 head – to the owners of the Cornwall-based 1,100-cow Willsbro Holstein herd. “Robert Wills is a good friend of ours and one evening when he called he caught me in a bad mood – I’d just finished a difficult


Mark and Sue Nutsford A lot has changed at Ravenscroft Hall Farm during the past decade. Its testament to the couple’s drive and ambition, which is stronger than ever.









YEAR New faces: the current herd was built using cow families that Mark sourced from around the world



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Fresh feed: robot ensures a constant supply

milking. And, off the cuff, I said that if someone would pay me so much per head for the cows I’d sell them all. “And he said ‘we will’. So that’s what happened – I sold the lot, apart from about 15 heifers and a few embryos that I had in storage.” Mark says that he and Sue saw it as a chance to buy their farm outright and fund a much-needed upgrade to facilities. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime and a chance for me to start again really. We’d just sold what some said was one the best herds in Europe and now I could enjoy the challenge of building a new herd up from scratch again, using cow families that I’d always wanted to work with,” says Mark. He went on to scour the world for the very best cow families to breed from. It’s a task he relished. These included the Ashlyn family, as well as Atlee and Redrose. “I did look at the US cow families – I liked what I saw there. But I also looked elsewhere and I gradually built up the herd to the one we’re milking

“Sue is usually buried up to her neck in paperwork – I really don’t know how she does it all. She gets up and does the morning milking, looks after our children and then goes to work in the office,” adds Mark. The breeding and genetics side of the business takes up a lot of Mark – and Sue’s – time. “Semen from at least 20 of our bulls, which have been genomically tested, is being marketed and we’ve also got some daughter-proven sires too. “Nothing has changed in the way we purchase our bulls. I still focus on the cow family – to us that’s king – and we mainly look at bulls with a well-proven sire. “Reliability is important and we choose our bulls in the same way that we choose cow families – they have to have strength and their daughters have to stay in the milking herd for a long time.” Mark is looking for five or six lactations and a lifetime yield of between 60 and 70 tonnes. For this reason, he places a lot of emphasis on health traits, particularly somatic cell count. “But type is important too. I’m looking for good udders, they’re vital for longevity.” The herd is still milked three times a day and Mark likes to do the evening milking. “It gives me the chance to catch up on what’s happening with the herd and to liase with our herdsman, Ross.” So, what about the next decade? “Our aim is to be one of the best breeding herds in the world,” says Mark. “Genomics is really taking off and opening up exciting opportunities. The technology puts the UK on a level playing field with the rest of Europe and North America. It’s now possible to test and acquire semen from a bull wherever it is in the world. “It really has revolutionised breeding and I think it’s what will allow us to fulfil our ambition.” If past form is anything to go by, then there’s little doubt that he and Sue will certainly succeed. l


Life’s a beach: cow comfort is king in the herd’s sand-bedded cubicle house

today. I’ve always wanted to milk these cow families. It’s a great herd, like the one we had before, but it’s built on different foundations,” he says. “That said, I also kept some of best cow family lines through embryos we had in storage and these also helped to give the herd a strong footing.”

Importing embryos The move has also fed further into his passion for cattle breeding and freed up time and energy to invest in genetics. Together with Sue’s father, Bill, Mark and Sue set up their own AI company, called KingStreet Sires. “We started by importing embryos from across the world and then, once we got going with using and selling semen from our own home-bred sires, we started to import semen too.” He and Sue also run another business, Celltech Embryo Transfer, from their Middlewich-based unit. Proceeds from the herd sale funded the conversion of one of the farm’s old barns into office buildings.


The way they were: our previous article on the Riverdane herd, published in 2003



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Award-winning columnist and Shropshire-based dairy producer is feeling grumpy, but he can’t hide his optimism about the future of UK milk production – and CowManagement.

New Year cheer I

t’s the editor on the phone. “It’s our magazine’s 10th anniversary,” she tells me. “Make it cheerful,” she says. A lot of life is all about timing and her asking me to be cheerful just before Christmas is timed just about as badly as timing can get. I’m usually grumpy at Christmas, but last year I forgot that. So, if I am to live up to my reputation, I’ve got to do a double up ‘grumpy’ this year. So here we go. I can’t tell you who told me this, but I can say that it comes from an organisation with a good reputation and plenty of credibility. As part of its forward planning, it’s predicting that UK milk production will decline by 40% during the next few years. It’s a figure that can take you by surprise at first, but if you just stop to think about it then it’s not surprising at all. We hear a lot about sustainability today. It’s a modern-day buzz word, but what it really means is survival and what this piece of work is saying is that 40% of UK milk production is unsustainable and will be lost. It brings to mind the DairyCo report on profitability. Low-cost, low yielding herds came top. Next came high yielding 10,000-litre Holstein herds but, to put that in some sort of context, for every £1,000 low-cost herds were making, the high yielders were only making £400. A middle-of-the-road sort of herd that falls in between these two scenarios, which to be honest is where most of us sit, recorded losses. It’s not quite as simple as all that, but that is the generalisation. So the loss-making herds are not sustainable, they won’t survive just doing what they’ve always been doing and we all know that, because cash flows have been so tight this year. So what to do? If you’d like to increase yields and get into the high yielding bracket, you have to ask yourself what concentrates will cost in the long term and how the milk price and concentrate ratio will affect the future of producing milk in that way. It could be, and probably is, an easier option to move to a low-input-low-output system and that in itself will contribute to the 40% reduction figure. Predictions are crystal-ball gazing. The 40% figure could be 10% out. It might only be 30% reduction but then, just as easily, it could be 50%. The implications are endless. Fewer cows, fewer calves, a 40% reduction in everything, maybe 40% fewer adverts in this magazine (I bet that’s cheered her up. But then she could say she needs 40% fewer contributors). We have to run the scenario a bit further ahead. The milk market in the UK is roughly 50% liquid. If producers move to low-cost systems and possibly spring production, it could just be that the autumn trough will fall below daily liquid milk requirements. All of a sudden processors will start to make encouraging noises about level profiles and more money! So I started with bad news and drifted towards good, and I didn’t mean to do that. So it might be just worth hanging on in there, which is what most of us have been doing anyway, and hoping things will get better. We might still be getting this magazine in 10 years time. The editor has been bossing me about for more than that, but I’m getting used to it.

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Midges are still active, so watch out for Schmallenberg symptoms

Milk drop? Check for SBV With widespread reports of milk drop, often mistakenly attributed to poor forage quality and dietary issues, UK herds are in the grip of a viral outbreak that’s having a serious impact. We spoke to two leading dairy vets to find out more. text Rachael Porter


t’s not midge season – it’s winter. But producers should still be vigilant for signs of Schmallenberg virus (SBV) in their herds, according to dairy research vet Ian Nanjiani, from West Sussex-based Westpoint Vet Group. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency published figures on December 14, 2012, showing that a total of 23 cattle holdings across the UK had been confirmed as having the acute form of the disease. In other words, clinical signs of the disease had been confirmed in cattle, including diarrhoea and milk drop associated with rising antibody titre to Schmallenberg virus (SBV) or a positive SBV PCR blood test. “These are not the cattle that picked up the disease in the summer, when the midges that spread the disease are at their most active. These animals have recently picked up the virus from midges that are active in and around cattle housing on UK farms,” explains Mr Nanjiani.

counties with the highest number of confirmed cases are in the south, but Cheshire, Shropshire, Leicestershire and North Yorkshire are fast catching up. Exposed animals have been detected in Scotland, but so far all positive Scottish animals were introduced into Scotland from English counties where SBV has

been reported. A reduction in milk yield – up to 50% for an individual animal – is what dairy producers should be looking out for as an indicator for the disease. “Yields will recover quickly, but the sudden drop will be accompanied by fever and, in some cases, diarrhoea,” explains Mr Nanjiani, adding that some producers incorrectly, but understandably, put the symptoms down to forage quality issues. “German and Dutch herds have typically seen yields return to normal in two to three weeks and individual animals in between two and five days. But it’s not the short-term loss of milk that’s the problem. “Depending on the animal’s stage of pregnancy, calve malformations and

At risk: Schmallenberg virus infection has the potential to damage the nervous system of unborn calves

Unexpected activity Foetal malformations caused by the virus have, to date, been confirmed in 57 herds and serology – positive blood tests for the disease – has confirmed SBV exposure in 606 beef and dairy herds. Virus spread and infection in new herds in the winter months wasn’t completely unexpected. Although midges are much less active at this time of year, spring and early summer SBV cases in 2012 pointed to midge activity throughout the winter months. “There still seem to be some midges about – even in the coldest parts of the UK and after some sub-zero conditions. A look at the most recent AHVLA SBV testing results table shows that the disease has indeed spread north. The


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Legend Countries with dairy cattle with acute SBV Countries with deformed offspring with SBV Countries with evidence of exposure to SBV in sheep Countries with evidence of exposure to SBV in cattle

Schmallenberg symptoms Schmallenberg virus is a vectorborne disease and clinical signs in cattle include fever, reduced milk yield (up to 50%), loss of appetite and condition and, in some cases, diarrhoea. It is likely that several cows will have the same symptoms over the same time period. In newborn ruminants and foetuses, suspect cases are considered to be animals with cases of limb and brain defects, shortening of the hamstrings, deformation of the jaw, or newborns with neurological disorders, paralysis, blindness, exaggerated movements, feeding difficulties and poor balance.

Figure 1: SBV spread across the UK, December 2012 (Source: DEFRA)

foetal death can also be a result of infection with the virus.” He adds that it’s all about timing. “Initially scientists thought the risk to the calf was just the first third of pregnancy, but we now know it’s the first half. The first five months of pregnancy are critical. “If a cow or heifer is infected before AI or mating, that seems to have no impact on the pregnancy. But if infection occurs during the first half of the pregnancy, a proportion of calves will have abnormalities. The virus impacts on the development of the calf’s nervous system and the long bones. Some calves are born alive and appear to be normal, but are unable to suckle or walk.”

Milk drop He says that fused hock joints are another ‘symptom’ of SBV infection in the dam, seen in new born calves. “This results in very straight back legs and could tear the cow’s uterus. So take care when delivering calves, particularly if you know that your herd has been exposed to the virus during the critical period in pregnancy.” The good news is that, unlike Bluetongue, SBV is not fatal in adult livestock and they do recover rapidly, developing good immunity. And any subsequent pregnancy is likely to have a positive outcome.” Vaccine development generally takes several years and a vaccine would be useful in protecting naive breeding stock. But until one is available we have to work with what we know. “Producers with a

stock bull would always be wise to give him a pre-breeding ‘MOT’. SBV can cause a high fever, and bulls can be ‘infertile’ for four to six weeks after a fever, which kills off sperm.” Mr Nanjiani says that, although there’s little that producers can do to prevent their herd from being infected with the virus it’s important that they don’t ignore any symptoms. “Milk drop can also be a sign of many other diseases, so producers need to eliminate the possibility of SBV infection.” “So, if you see the three classic symptoms in more than two or three animals in a week then inform your vet. It could be one of many other things – BVD, Salmonella, Leptospirosis or even mycotoxins. But whatever it is, it needs to be dealt with.” Bulk milk testing will reveal if the disease is on your unit and blood testing will show which animals have been infected – useful if you’re going to carry out some embryo transfer work, for example, or use some expensive semen. “Sero-positive dams have had the virus previously and we believe strong immunity will have developed, making them a safe bet.” Mr Nanjiani stresses that there’s a lot that vets and scientists don’t know about the disease. “So we have to work with what we do know. “It’s still early days with this disease, but we’ve learnt a lot in 12 months. Being part of the EU has brought real benefits – the Germans were the first to diagnose the disease, and rapidly shared their experiences, and the diagnostic tests they

developed. Other member states have been equally open with their experiences, which has given us a head start in knowing what to expect. “We’re six months behind the rest of Europe in terms of disease spread, and so we’re better prepared. We know what to expect and we’re not in the dark.”

Over the worst Wim van der Poel, research leader at the Central Veterinary Institute, Wageningen University in the Netherlands agrees. “It’s reasonably quiet in the Netherlands at the moment,” says Mr van der Poel, who is also Professor of Emerging and Zoonotic Viruses at Liverpool University. “Testing has revealed that there’s a seropositive prevalence of more than 70% here now. Many herds have had the virus and now have some immunity to it. We’re seeing far fewer cases compared to late 2011.” He says that it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen next in the UK, but says that expectations are that the virus will continue to spread north in England, over into Wales and up into Scotland. “I’d say that sero-positive prevalence in the south east of England is already close to 70% and it’s also increasing in the west and eastern regions of the UK. In fact, the UK may be over the worst. The UK would be heading into a year that’s similar to the one that we’ve just had in terms of SBV.” l For more information about Schmallenberg virus and its spread across the UK, visit:

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Cattle vet Debby Brown, from Lancaster-based Advance Nutrition, takes a timely look at health and welfare issues that are affecting dairy herds across the UK. This time she’s focusing on forage and problems caused by moulds and fungi.

Watch out – wet forages can pack a toxic punch

Mycotoxins misery W

here there’s damp, there are moulds and fungi. So it’s no surprise with the wet summer and 2012’s poor silage making conditions, as well as the continuing winter deluge, that cows are feeling the effects of their presence in some feed and forage. Wet grass and grain silages are not keeping as well as would be expected on some units and this can impact on cow health, fertility and milk production. There are a number of possible problems with wet and mouldy feed, including listeriosis, acidosis and mycotoxicosis. Each cause distinct symptoms in the cow, but there is some overlap and a definitive diagnosis may be difficult to achieve. Listeriosis can often present as abortions or as nervous signs, such as depression, a ‘droopy’ face and possibly walking in circles. Listeriosis is, unsurprisingly, also known as ‘circling disease’. Acidosis and mycotoxicosis can both be associated with cattle having inconsistency in their faeces with mucous tags, a drop in milk production, poor body condition and reduced bulling activity. Acidosis can be caused and remedied by changes in the diet, but if mycotoxins are present then problems will persist. Adding a mycotoxin binder to the herd’s ration, without making other changes, is likely to be the most practical way to achieve a diagnosis. If improvements are seen, mycotoxicosis is likely to be at least part of the issue. It is possible to test feed for mycotoxins, but this is expensive and delays treatment. And it can fail to identify what is causing the cows’ symptoms.

The encyclopaedia Mycotoxicosis Cause Mycotoxins are the poisons – or toxins – that are produced from secondary metabolic processes. These occur naturally in a variety of moulds as they grow. The amount and type depends on fungal type and environmental conditions. Aspergillus, for example, grows in warm and dry conditions and produces aflatoxins. Fusarium grows in cool and wet conditions and produces, among other, ‘T’ toxins.

Symptoms The symptoms are wide and varying, but can include rough coats, poor body

condition, low milk yield with poor milk quality, poor conception rates, foot lesions that fail to heal, heifer conception rates below 60%, swollen udders in heifers, poor bulling activity and soft/loose dung with mucous tags.

Diagnosis Usually the diagnosis is the result of definitive clinical signs, evidence of mould on feed and a response to treatment, typically the addition of a mycotoxin binder to the herd’s ration.

Treatment Feed a mycotoxin binder, but monitor response.

Prevention Try to avoid feed spoilage through good silage clamp management, and avoid feeding spoiled feed and forages.


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s ire

r e p o rt

Manager son Delta Refiner is the latest success from the Art-Acres Tex B family

Patent on AI bulls D e l ta R e f i n e r (Manager

x S D J o rda n x J o c k o )

CRV’s Delta breeding programme for the past 21 years. There

Production proof: 66 daughters in 53 herds (Source: GES/DairyCo breeding+, December 2012)

are a large number of bulls with the Delta prefix, with the

kg m. % fat % prot. kg fat kg prot. PIN PLI +494 –0.03 +0.01 +17.1 +17.1 £30 £143 Longevity: SCC: Calving ease: Temperament: Milking speed: Fertility:

+149 days –21 108 101 97 97

A 100


frame 105 dairy strength


udder 111 feet and legs


total score


stature 105 chest width


body depth


angularity 101 condition score


rump angle


rump width


rear legs rear view


rear legs side view foot angle

95 105

locomotion 105 fore udder attachment


front teat placement


teat length


udder depth


rear udder height


central ligament rear teat placement

outcross Delta Refiner being the latest. text Inge van Drie

Conformation traits: 33 daughters in 28 herds 88

Descendants of Art-Acres Cleitus Tex B have contributed to

n impressive line of bulls preceded him. Delta Sparta RF, Art-Acres Win 395, Delta Paramount and not forgetting the British leader Cogent Twist. A large number of bulls from the Art-Acres Cleitus Tex B family have made it as AI bulls. But the list is by no means complete, says CRV’s head of the breeding Pieter Van Goor and, as the person ultimately responsible for the Delta programme in the past, he’s closely involved in the performance of this originally American family that almost seems to have a patent on the supply of breeding bulls. “The Art-Acres Cleitus Tex B family has a long history within Delta. From the beginning – 21 years ago – we used this family in all kinds of ways. Most families that we have had in Delta have since disappeared from the scene. Sometimes because they did not reach the very high

standards we set and sometimes because we used the wrong bulls. But this family is one of the few that has remained all this time. There are still several family members within Delta,” he says.

Superb legs The latest bull to make it into AI is Delta Refiner. In the spring of 2012 the Manager son obtained his first breeding values based on daughter performances. He came out with a high NVI and good production, 107 for udder health and 111 total score. Mr van Goor identifies in the inheritance of Refiner particularly the high score for feet and legs (107) and udders (111). “Virtually all the animals in this cow family have superb legs, while with Mascot and Fatal there are still bulls in the family tree that inherit mediocre leg quality. It seems as if the cow family overrules that.”

Refiner daughter Paulien 81

99 103

Heavy, strong boned cows Refiners daughters are somewhat broader than average and have extra muscle. That is to say, they are ‘heavy, strong boned’ cows. This is how Marcel Hellegers, cow photo scout at CRV describes the 18 Refiner daughters that he saw. “The leg quality is rather coarser in the bone – you can see that in the whole cow – but they walk easily. They also have flexible, well-formed udders with neat, rather longer teats. They are cows that develop nicely, that rough bone sits better with a third-calf cow than with a heifer.”


c owma nagement

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The strong udder inheritance is also a characteristic that comes back time and again. Mr van Goor refers to Delta Roppa and Delta Paramount who recorded 113 and 109 for udders respectively. In addition, Paramount’s full sister Delta Mariska obtained a high udder score. The Jocko daughter recorded 87 points for udders. CRV put in many sons of Delta Mariska, who as a heifer produced 9,080kg of milk with 4.09% fat and 3.61% protein in 305 days. “We had high expectations of Mariska, but her sons just miss that last little bit extra. Breeding is about creating opportunities. Good cows from good cow families must be offered a chance, but you also have to be lucky that the genes fall in the right place. With hindsight, her full sister Delta Mieke has been more successful,” says Mr van Goor.

Health improver In combination with Leroy Abrian, Delta Mieke produced the full brothers Delta Butembo and Delta Roppa. CRV sold Butembo, after obtaining his daughter breeding values, to an AI organisation in Russia. His full brother Roppa was used a lot to begin with in The Netherlands and Flanders, but his popularity decreased when his breeding values declined. “Now we are seeing that he is improving again. He scores 143 NVI, 110 total score and 282 days longevity. The cattle breeders that have used him like his daughters.” The mother of Refiner, Delta Margot (from Jordan) recording 84 points, fits perfectly into the picture of the cow family that Mr van Goor describes. She scored 87 points for udders and 84 for

Jordan daughter Delta Margot, Delta Refiner’s dam

feet and legs. As a heifer she produced 9,028kg of milk with 4.46% fat and 3.40% protein in 305 days. “In udders and leg quality she was very good. Within Delta we had four or five donors of Swamo Delta Jordan. Margot was one of the better ones for udders,” says Mr van Goor, who also says that the Jordan daughter might show a bit more depth. “That is something that you see more often in the cow family. The cows are late maturing; they need a bit more time to develop. That also applied to Delta Mariska and Delta Priscilla, the mother and great-grandmother of Margot. In their time they were splendid heifers, but a little more depth would have been nice.” However, in carrying out the mating that would lead to Delta Margot, Mr van Goor paid little attention to depth. He

Art-Acres Cleitus Tex B (Ned Boy) Etazon Vienna (Mascot)

Art-Acres Mascot Tex B (Mascot)

Art-Acres Patron Mascot (v. Patron)

Cogent Winchester Tex (Winchester) Cogent Major Tex (Major)

Cogent Twist (Shottle)

Delta Sparta rf (Marty)

Art-Acres Win 395 (Winchester)

Delta Priscilla (Jabot)

Delta Heart (Fatal)

Delta Mariska Delta Paramount (Jocko) (Jocko)

Delta Lindberg (Shottle)

Delta Vanguard (Shottle)

Delta Margot (Jordan)

Delta Refiner (Manager)

Delta Onedin Cello)

Delta Roppa (Abrian)

Delta Minke (Ramos)

Delta Mieke (Jocko)

Delta Butembo (Abrian)

combined Delta Mariska with Swamo Delta Jordan, a bull with a normal type, good production and above all a remarkably long lifespan and good health characteristics. “Jordan was not the most appealing of bulls at that time. He came into the limelight mainly due to the attention paid to healthy cows.” The bull died in the waiting period, which prevented widespread use.

Next generation A generation later, Mr van Goor again let health be the deciding factor in the choice of bull. He mated Delta Margot with the German Mtoto son Manager. “As a contemporary, Manager was always a little in Shottle’s shadow. Shottle was the more popular of the two. He inherited more milk and a better type but Manager was better with regard to health characteristics.” In total CRV tested 12 Manager sons, of which Delta Refiner appeared to be the best. He’s a good addition to the stud of CRV. “He is a young bull that scores highly for udder health and is free of O Man, Goldwyn and Shottle bloodlines.” Refiner is not the first in the family to be promoted to a breeding bull and he will not be the last, according to Mr van Goor. Maybe the next generation of female animals may also produce breeding bulls. “A cow family is important, but if you use the wrong bulls you can easily finish a cow family for AI interest,” says Mr van Goor. “Using the wrong bull once is not serious, but if you use the wrong bull a second time then the cow family is out of the picture.” l

cow man ag e me n t

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Back to basics: careful site and variety selection were key to first-time growers’ success. Page 24 Maize options: reduce ‘growing risks’ and consider alternative forages. Page 26

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Go ‘back to basics’ with maize management and protect your investment

Don’t leave it to luck Success with maize – even in a ‘bad’ year – starts with careful site and variety selection. Follow it with thorough and timely husbandry and you’ll see plenty of high-quality forage in the clamp. And here’s the proof – a first-time grower shares his experience with maize in 2012. text Rachael Porter

Agronomist Tim Ashley (left) with Stephen Ashley


eginner’s luck? Not in 2012. The success of first-time maize growers Stephen and Peter Ashley is the result of a meticulous approach to every aspect of maize silage production – from variety and site selection, though to seed-bed preparation and crop husbandry. “In a way, we had an advantage compared to other growers in one of the most challenging seasons on record for maize,” says Shropshirebased Stephen, modestly. “We’d never grown it before, so we used an agronomist and did everything by the letter. We were keen to protect our investment, more than anything. It costs close to £1,000 per hectare to grow maize, so our insurance was to get good advice and to act on it.” That advice came in the form of Wynnstay agronomist Tim Ashley “Soil nutrition, seedbed preparation and variety choice are the most important factors when growing maize. You’re already on a ‘sticky wicket’ if you try to grow maize on a poor site,” says Tim.

Suitable site Indeed, it was due to the lack of a suitable site that the Ashleys, who run a 70-cow herd at Meadow Bank Farm near Cantlop, had not grown maize before. But a land swap with a neighbouring farm provided them with the opportunity. “The plan is to rotate and have a different maize field every year,” explains Stephen. “We ran very low on grass silage last year, but by growing maize we’re now spreading the risk. Our general



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aim is to buy less concentrate and to substitute it with maize. This will help reduce our feed costs. We also hope to see an increase in milk yield, up from our current herd average of 7,000 litres per cow.” Stephen also works away from the farm as a contractor and plans are being rolled out to install a robotic milker to relieve the pressure on labour at home, allowing him to manage both the farm and the contracting with some help from father Peter.

Increase yield Provided the nutrition is right, the robot should also help to increase overall milk yield by 15%. Maize now forms part of a ration comprising grass silage, chaff, fodder beet and molasses. The TMR is combined using a Shelbourne Reynolds machine, which weighs the individual components of the ration and provides silage data analysis. Tim Ashley stresses that growers need to get the site right and should look at aspect, soil type, drainage and altitude. On Stephen’s eight-hectare field, soil tests showed pH5.2, but maize needs a pH of 6.5. To raise the level a high-purity prilled lime was ploughed in, with another surface dressing of prilled lime applied before drilling, so that the soil profile was at the correct pH. “We weren’t expecting any compaction in the field, but compaction was a significant problem on most farms in 2012, particularly field margins and gateways, and it’s something producers should check for and remedy,” he adds. High-phosphate chicken manure and FYM were applied to meet phosphate and potash requirements.

The field was then ploughed and then ‘shakeratored’ on consecutive days, as the ground was so wet. This allowed it to dry out a little before drilling. The maize was drilled on May 4 with a compound ‘starter’ fertiliser providing between 10 and 15kg/ha of nitrogen along with 5kg/ ha of phosphate. No MAP or DAP was applied as phosphate levels were already sufficiently high. Tim recommended Limagrain variety Acumen, which is suited to marginal sites. In Wynnstay’s trials it proved reliable and has also performed well in previous difficult years. “Acumen has great early vigour and gives a tall, leafy crop. It has good size cobs with a small spindle and big kernels. It’s also early maturing and has good dry matter yields,” says Tim. “It offers a complete package as it also has excellent starch content. It’s a reliable, safe variety and is also well suited to the marginal growing conditions of the area.”

Early drilling On the 2013 NIAB List, Acumen rates highly with a DM yield of 17.2t/ha and a starch yield of 5.9t/ha. Timing is also vital to maize success. “Early drilling is important because maize needs a certain number of heat units – hours of sunshine – to mature,” says Tim. That’s another reason why good weed control is important. “Maize also gets its energy from reflected energy from bare soil, so a green carpet of weeds reduces that reflection. This, in turn, reduces the energy absorption and can affect subsequent canopy development. Acumen is good at getting established

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and developing a canopy to out-compete the weeds.” The Ashleys applied a pre-emergence herbicide, following Tim’s advice. “Where post-emergence herbicides were relied upon this year there were lots of weeds due to the difficulty in finding a spray window,” he adds. The maize was harvested on October 18, yielding 44.5t/ha fresh weight. “When the maize was nearing harvest I was away contracting, so we relied on Tim’s experience and knowledge to identify when the crop was approaching the

target dry matter percentage of between 32 and 35%,” says Stephen. “He really was with us at each step of the way – very reassuring as we didn’t want to fall at the final hurdle after all our best efforts.” Analysis revealed 30.1% starch, and 33.7% DM, which equated to 15t/ha DM. “Good results for a challenging year. And proof that, even in a difficult year like 2012, if adequate soil nutrition is ensured and an early maturing variety is selected, then a successful crop of maize can still be achieved,” says Tim.

And the crop is also performing at the feed fence: “Milk yields have remained the same, because the energy in the maize silage is compensating for this year’s poor grass silage, but the butterfat has increased from 4.25% to 4.60%,” says Stephen. So, what about 2013? “Yes, we’re certainly going to grow it again. And we’ll take the same approach. “It’s a considerable investment and a big risk, so for us it’s a case of doing it properly or not at all.” l

Size matters: Acumen offers cobs with small spindles and big kernels


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Do nutritional benefits justify the ‘growing’ risk on marginal units?

Mulling over maize options After 2012’s extreme growing season, some producers are asking if there’s still a place for maize silage on UK dairy units. There is, say nutritionists and agronomists, but on some marginal sites it could be time for a rethink. text Rachael Porter


hile no-one will doubt the benefits that producers have seen from including maize silage in their dairy herds’ winter rations, some are beginning to question whether the crop is worth the risk. Some believe that there may be better alternatives, particularly after one of the worst growing seasons

for the crop since records began. “The maize area grown has been increasing year on year and with this we have seen more maize being planted on marginal sites,” says Biotal’s national technical support manager Roy Eastlake. And that’s why so many producers came ‘unstuck’ in 2012. “While this has paid off in a good growing year, the economics

have been less impressive in a difficult year, as was amply demonstrated in 2012 when both yield and quality were affected in many parts of the country,” he says. “Maize costs around £938 per hectare to grow with costs increasing as seed and spray costs, in particular, rise. At a good average yield of 37 tonnes per hectare of a 30% dry matter material (11t DM/ ha) this makes maize silage a price competitive feed. “But if yields are down then it can become an expensive crop. The 2012 harvest saw many producers reporting 40% drops in yield, putting the cost per tonne of dry matter at £140/t compared to the usually quoted £84/t in a good year. And, by the time maize has been harvested and the yield known, the options to replace any shortfall in

‘Site’ for sore eyes: late drilling, slow establishment, excessive rain fall and too little sunshine meant that 2012 was an extremely challenging year for maize crops



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Roy Eastlake: “Consider risk management when devising forage plans”

Tom Hough: “Forage maize is an outstanding source of home-grown starch”

quality or quantity may be fewer and farther between.” Mr Eastlake suggests that for many producers looking for a reliable starchbased forage, wholecrop cereals may be a sensible complement or alternative, particularly in marginal maize growing areas.

establishment of subsequent crops. It is not unusual for grass following wholecrop to be grazed in the autumn and, of course, cereals can also be undersown. “Increasingly, producers will need to consider risk management when devising forage plans and for many, wholecrop may be a lower risk crop compared to maize,” Mr Eastlake adds.

Wholecrop option On a purely output and cost of production basis, wholecrop compares well with maize,” he explains. “Wholecrop cereals will average around 11.4tDM/hectare at a cost of £79/t compared to maize at 11tDM/hectare and £84/t. Maize is however higher starch at 28% compared to 23%. But wholecrop has some other significant benefits that may tempt producers to consider switching crops. “The first benefit is reliability. Wholecrop generally yields more consistently year on year and you do not see the swings in yield which have typified recent maize harvests. The fact that the crop is harvested during July or August makes the harvest process more reliable and less prone to bad weather. “Wholecrop is also more flexible. Depending on grass silage yields it is possible to put more or less wholecrop in the clamp. Any cereal not required for forage can be crimped and fed as a concentrate or it can be sold.” It is also possible to grow bi-crops for wholecrop and so increase on-farm production of protein. A pea and barley wholecrop, for example, will be around 13% protein compared to maize at 9% and straight barley at 10%. With rising soya prices this could be an attractive option. “Finally the agronomy of cereals means they are better suited to many farming systems. You can choose between autumn and spring sown crops and the earlier harvest means that conditions are far better for the

Maize devotees That said some producers are – quite rightly – sold on maize. There is no doubt that the introduction of maize silage into UK dairy diets has generally underpinned improvements in milk production and herd performance, even in this very difficult forage producing year, according to NWF’s technical manager Tom Hough. “If I am given the option of rationing a cow using just grass silage or a mix of two forages, I will always choose two forages and preferably one should be maize, particularly in a non-marginal growing area and provided the economics make sense. “The benefits of complementary forages in increasing overall dry matter intakes are well known and this has allowed total nutrient intakes to increase,

supporting the output potential of high genetic merit cows.” What is less well understood is the benefit maize silage can convey in terms of physical diet structure and consequently on rumen health and production. Maize makes it easier to produce diets that are closer to the ideal UK target physical composition of the diet when assessed by a Penn State separator sieve. “Forage maize is an outstanding source of home-grown starch, which is one of the principle glucogenic energy sources in the diet. Glucogenic energy sources are vital for the production of lactose and high milk yields. They also help maintain better levels of fertility.”

Careful fine tuning Mr Hough points out that like any forage, both quantity and quality can be variable making regular forage analysis essential. “Every year the feed value will be affected by a range of factors such as sunlight hours, which will determine starch content and crop maturity. So it is vital to know exactly what is in the clamp and to ration accordingly. “Incorporating maize silage is no silver bullet guaranteeing better production but on many farms it is an incredibly valuable feed. It is also important to remember that the degradability of the starch will increase with more time in the clamp. This can mean that the silage becomes a different feed as time progresses, particularly as a higher proportion of degradable starch could affect rumen health and impact on production. “However, with careful fine tuning of the diet to accommodate higher starch degradability maize silage can continue to be a valuable feed throughout the winter.” l

On course for maize-growing success If your maize growing and feeding confidence took a severe knock in 2012, then why not brush up on your maize knowledge at one of the Maize Growers’ Associations’ training days? In response to demand from growers, following one of the most challenging maize growing years for the past 25 years, the MGA has decided to run a series of one-day courses on maize production. Scheduled for late January and February, they will be held in

Devon, Cambridgeshire, Herefordshire and Dumfries. These courses are designed for all those who are new to maize growing, as well as providing the more experienced growers with a refresher/ update on the new methods, to help maximise the success of their maize crops. For more information, contact Jean Howard at the MGA on 01363 775040 or visit


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Johne’s ‘live on air’ NML has introduced a series of Johne’s seminars for vets through their webinar system – a real-time, on-line conferencing facility. It allows voice and video chat to be shared simultaneously, across geographically dispersed locations, so vets across the UK can all participate. “In fact, our first Johne’s webinar featured Professor Søren Saxmose Nielsen, Johne’s disease guru from the University of Copenhagen,” says NML vet services manager Chris Spence. “This webinar provided current information about Johne’s test interpretation that was shared with 50

participants – mainly vets – from all over the UK. And even more useful is that we have been able to make this available to everyone through the NMR and NML websites.” The second Johne’s webinar is to be held in late January and will focus on managing Johne’s risks and practical controls within dairy herds. Guest speakers will include MyHealthyHerd directors and vets Dick Sibley and Peter Orpin. To register for the webinar please email Proceedings of this should be available on both the NML and NMR websites by January 26.

NMR sponsors training

Lewis Kellaway

NMR has awarded £500 sponsorship to Lewis Kellaway to support his education towards a career in dairying. Lewis was one of 30 successful

applicants in the West Country Dairy Awards that are open to students from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset who are studying agriculture and related subjects. From a family-run organic dairy farm near Sherborne in Dorset, Lewis is studying for an extended diploma in agriculture at Hartpury College, Gloucester. He is currently undertaking a number of business case studies in different sectors of the industry and he plans to use his NMR sponsorship for specific dairy courses including one in AI and one in foot trimming. Lewis will be able to put his practical dairy skills into practice on the family herd of currently 150 Holstein cows and increasing. The Awards – run by the NFU and Dairy Crest and supported by industry sponsors – distributed more than £16,000 in 2012.

Long life and milk NMR has published a list of cows achieving 100 tonnes of milk in October and November 2012 on its website. Here are the top three from the two months ranked on lifetime daily yield (LDY). 1. Picston Con Birch 64 produced 109,668kg of milk in seven lactations and has a LDY of 30.72kg/day. (V Williamson & Sons, Austerson Farm, Austerson, Cheshire). 2. Line 179 gave 103,557kg of milk in seven lactations and has a LDY of 29.66kg/day. (T N Beeston & Son, Moreton Hall Farm, Market Drayton, Shropshire). 3. Wilderley Bombay Moira produced 103,395kg of milk in seven lactations with a LDY of 28.59kg/day. (Wilderley Hall Farms, Pulversbatch, Shropshire).

Diaries 2013 NMR’s Herd Management diaries for 2013 are still available. The industry’s most popular management diary takes the stress out of record keeping. All in a ring-binder, packs of extra pages of the calendar and medical recording sections are available to slot in if you run out of space. The diary costs £24 plus VAT from NMR Customer Services on 0844 725 5567 or email

NMR job vacancies NMR is looking to fill two key job vacancies, for a product manager and service development manager. In both cases excellent organisational, planning and communication skills are required along with a sound understanding of the dairy industry.

Competitive salaries, a company car and benefits are being offered with these posts. See the vacancies page on the NMR website for more details or contact: Ben Bartlett at Closing date: 30 January 2013.

For more information on NMR products and services contact customer services, 0844 7255567, NMR web address:, NMR email address: COW MAN AG E ME N T

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10-01-13 14:25


DIY AI success – don’t fall at the final hurdle

The final straw

How’s your handling? Does it match the recommendations of AI professionals? We spoke to some leading fertility experts to find out more. Read on to see if you can pick up some pointers to improve your AI success.

f the results of a nationwide survey are anything to go by, a refresher course in AI – particularly when it comes to semen handling – would go a long way to solving fertility issues on some dairy units. When DIY inseminators were asked how they thawed semen prior to use, the responses given in a survey carried out by Kite Consulting varied from seven seconds to more than one minute. The results of the research revealed that semen thawing times and semen handling practices vary widely and in many cases are not in line with current thinking and best practice. “How you handle and thaw semen will have a significant impact on AI success, but our survey showed that some producers are cutting corners or simply getting into bad habits. Some may have simply forgotten the importance of best practice, focusing on heat detection and AI timing and treating the procedure


Good technique

itself as a bit of an after thought,” says Kite Consulting’s Ben Watts. He’s been a dairy consultant for 16 years, but is also a qualified inseminator and dairy fertility specialist. “Of course success depends on timing and technique and our survey shows

AI success starts with good semen handling technique. Genus Breeding’s Phil Salkeld says that there’s a huge difference between DIY and professional inseminators. “The latter is always the best option if you’re time poor and simply don’t have the skills or know how. And professional AI technicians inseminate thousands of cows a year – they’re quick, efficient and, above all, offer success rates.” That said, he knows that some producers

Ben Watts: “Success depends on timing and technique”

Phil Salkeld: “Excessive heat will damage semen”

text Rachael Porter


that, in many cases, the latter leaves much to be desired. It’s a shame because really the hardest part should be getting the cow is in the AI pen.”


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AI pointers for success, post thawing • Once thawed, don’t let the straw cool down • Dry the straw with a paper towel – water is a spermicide • Put the straw into a pre-warmed gun. Ideally use a gun warmer – they cost around £10. Or hold the gun against your cheek. It should be blood temperature, so if it’s cold it’s too cold and warm and it’s too warm. • Cut the straw with clean sharp scissors or a straw cutter at a 90° angle • Keep the gun at the correct pre-warmed temperature • Inseminate within 10 minutes of preparation – or five minutes for sexed semen • Prepare one straw, and serve one cow at a time, unless skilled enough to AI in batches • Use a plastic sheath on the AI gun to maximise success • During winter, keep lubrication gel at room temperature to avoid a cold shock • Never split straws • Use a clean piece of tissue paper to wipe the vulva before insemination

Good hygiene and house keeping • • • •

Sterilise AI guns, scissors and forceps regularly to keep them clean Keep accurate records on semen inventory and use Monitor AI success by inseminator, bull and semen batch If ordering large quantities of semen from one bull, ensure delivery comes from multiple batches • Ensure the AI flask is regularly checked and topped up with liquid nitrogen

straw size water temperature thawing time straw colour

0.25ml straws 35ºC - 37ºC 30 seconds various

0.5ml straws 35ºC - 37ºC 30 seconds various

ABS Sexation 35ºC - 37ºC 30 seconds red

Table 1: Recommended semen thawing times (Genus)

x straw size water temperature thawing time straw colour

0.25ml straws 37ºC 40 seconds various

0.5ml straws 37ºC 60 seconds various

Table 2: Recommended semen thawing times (Cogent straws or straws sexed by Cogent)

still prefer to carry out DIY AI and points out typical problems that he sees on farm as Genus’ national reproductive management system training manager.

Critical temperature “Heat is a huge problem – if semen gets too hot it’s game over. So temperature is critical. And good practice starts with using tweezers when picking semen out of the AI flask. “It’s minus 196°C in there, so when you stick your fingers in there it’s like a blow torch to the semen straws – they heat up in a flash.” Another typical error is lifting the semen goblets out of the flask when selecting semen straws. “Lift the goblet containing the straws of semen no higher than 50mm below the neck of the flask and then you have just 10 seconds to select your straw.

“If you can’t find it, lower the goblet back down into the flask and wait at least 10 seconds before lifting again. Just make sure that that goblet holding the straws never comes above the neck of the flask,” says Mr Watts, adding that some producers keep straws of just one sire in each goblet to make it easier to find that they’re looking for. Mr Salkeld says that a clear inventory helps here: “If you know exactly what’s in your flask, and where the straws are, this can help to save time and fiddling about. It also reduces the risk of damaging semen. “Remember, once you’ve removed a straw from the flask, you can’t put it back. The thawing process will begin instantaneously.” Dirty water in thaw boxes is another issue. “Change the water regularly – it has to be clean.”

And use a thermometer to take the temperature of the water – don’t guess. “On a hot day, the water will seem cooler and on a cold day it will feel warmer. “It needs to be between 35°C and 37°C and remember that cooler is better than too warm. Excessive heat will damage the semen.” Thawing times, recommended by Genus and Cogent, are in Table 1 and Table 2. And timing really is everything, according to Mr Salkeld. “So use a timer – again, don’t guess. It’s difficult to accurately judge 30 seconds, so set a timer or watch the second hand on your watch. “Our technicians all have timers mounted on the back of their vans. It’s hard to distract someone with chit chat about the previous evening’s football match when an alarm is going off.” He stresses that it really is all about paying attention to detail. “Avoid cutting corners and distractions and it will pay off. You’ve done the difficult bit – you’re identified that the animal is on heat and you’ve separated her from the rest of the herd ready for AI. So don’t fall at the final hurdle.” Ben Watts agrees. “Start by setting everything up correctly first. Best practice is to have the cow restrained as close to the AI flask as possible, having all the equipment to hand, and only thawing and inseminating one straw at a time.”

Refresher course Mr Salkeld adds that once semen is thawed and in the gun, there just a 10-minute window to get it into the animal, or just five minutes with sexed semen. “So if you have a few cows lined up for AI, you could thaw several straws at time. “But how many cows you can AI in 10 minutes depends very much on your skill level and facilities. It can be trickier if you’re using several different sires too. “If you’re not overly confident or quick, it’s best to do one at a time and get it right. A little extra time spent here it certainly time well spent,” he says. If you are feeling a little rusty and you don’t want to use an AI technician, investing in an AI refresher course is a great way to boost your confidence. There’s an 80% Farming Connect grant available at the moment for producers and staff who need DIY AI training. And, if more incentive were needed, think of the improved herd fertility and higher pregnancy rates that your herd could enjoy in 2013. l


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Fresh ideas to help stretch supplies when forage is short

Good housekeeping Something as simple as minimising waste and maintaining a tidy clamp face can help to eke out those precious forage supplies this winter. And knowing exactly what’s in your clamps is also vital, according to the UK’s leading nutritionists. text Rachael Porter


orage stocks are low and producers are all praying for an early turnout. So says Somerset-based independent nutritionist Trevor Birchall. The majority of his clients have had ration reformulations so far this winter, with more to come on some units, in a bid to eke out forage supplies and to keep diet changes to a minimum. “It’s best to act early and work with what you’ve got, particularly since buying in forage and moist feeds is nigh on impossible this year. The feeds are either already forward bought on contract or just unavailable.” Independent dairy nutritionist Hefin Richards agrees that early action is key and is urging producers to assess forage stocks now: “Don’t leave it a moment longer if you’re concerned you won’t have enough to last the winter,” he says, adding that for every producer who has a handle on forage stocks, there are several who haven’t. “It’s been a tough 12 months and what’s going on out there varies from unit to unit – the situation is extremely variable, with those in the north and south of the country generally fairing worse then those in the midlands. “There are some producers with enough quality forage to see them through to turnout, but there are also many where

supplies are very short. And, of those, some have grasped the nettle and have a plan in place. Alarmingly, there are also those that don’t.” Mr Richards, who is from the Profeed Nutrition Consultancy, says that he understands why producers are avoiding facing the prospective problem head on. “It’s not going to be an easy one to tackle this year and will, invariably, involve buying in feed – if you can get your hands on any. Feed prices are high and belts have already been tightened. There are some producers out there who want to avoid tightening them any more.

and keep the face tidy. If you’ve 10 panels and you use a panel a week, then you know you have 10 weeks of silage left. If 10 weeks won’t be enough, you can start to take action now.” He stresses that the sooner producers act, the more subtle changes in the ration can be. “That’s so much better than running out of silage and it avoids massive dietary changes.”

Silage for milking cows One of the easiest ways to eke out forage is to feed a little more concentrate and drop the forage content of the ration a little – let the substitution effect take the strain. Mr Richards also urges producers to take young stock off grass silage. “They’ll do just fine on straw and concentrates. Milking cows must be a priority for all available silage.”

Assess stocks “But the irony is that any potential forage shortage will cost them more, the longer they avoid facing up to the problem.” Solving a shortage issue will also become trickier as times ticks on. Brewers’ grains, pressed pulp and fodder beet are all in extremely short supply or unavailable and this is set to continue as the winter progresses. “The starting point is to assess stocks and I mean really assess them – honestly. It’s vital to get to grips with what you’ve got and to be realistic. “And to keep checking on a weekly basis – put a mark on the silage clamp wall

Winter feeding pointers • Assess forage stocks honestly and carefully monitor use on a weekly basis. Act early if a shortage looks likely. • Silages should be fed only to the milking herd – heifers and dry stock can be fed straw and concentrates. • Reduce milking cow numbers, either


by drying off late lactation and low yielding cows a bit earlier or culling problem cows. This will create a more efficient herd and reduce pressure on forage stocks. • Minimise silage waste. Keep clamp faces tidy and forage handling equipment in good working order.


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Hefin Richards: “Assess stocks honestly”

Mr Birchall agrees “Grass silage – the very best stuff you have – should be fed only to your milking herd and preferably the higher yielders. “Feeding should, most definitely, be targeted. If you have cows in your early group that just aren’t performing, move them to the mid or the late group. Don’t keep throwing feed at them. This isn’t the year to be doing that. In some instances it’s time to cut your losses and focus on those that are producing plenty of milk.”

Indeed, a third tactic is to dry off the late lactation milkers a little earlier than usual and to cull any of the poorer quality animals in the herd. “Reducing your milking herd size, by say 10%, can really help to eke out forage stocks without compromising the bottom line. Numbers can quickly be restored again with spring calvers once the forage shortage is over and, in my experience, many producers end up with a leaner, meaner herd.” Waste – or rather reducing it – can also have a significant impact on forage stock. “It’s typical to go on farm and hear concerns about stocks only to see silage dropped all over the place,” says Mr Richards. “Something as simple as fixing a tine on a shear grab can make all the difference here. Minimising waste is an easy way to eke out supplies. Every little helps.”

Mycotoxin risk Silage quality is causing a few issues too, particularly due to mycotoxins. Mr Richards has included a mycotoxin binder in all his rations this winter. “I’ve taken a belt-and-braces approach this

year, particularly where second-cut silage, wholecrop wheat and maize silage are being fed. “2012 was such a wet and challenging year and many crops were affected by fungal disease. For a high production herd I think using a binder is good insurance. Generally I’d take a ‘suck it and see’ approach with forages, but this year the risk is just too great. “There are so many challenges for the cows and producers and this is one thing that can be easily eliminated, before it becomes a problem. “You don’t need a huge response in cow health, productivity and fertility to justify the investment – it’s easy to see a return,” he adds. Mr Birchall stresses that it’s vital to protect herd fertility. “I’m urging my clients to focus on getting cows back in calf. They have to get back in calf if the business is to have a chance of catching up next year. The last thing producers need after a year like 2012 is a huge slip in the calving interval,” he says. “Get them in calf on time and the herd will be ready to go when grass and forage supplies return to relative normality.” l

Targeted feeding: milking cows must be a priority for all available silages


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11-01-13 15:58


Maintaining zero BVD requires more than one ‘tool’

Firm handle on BVD eradication Producers are being encouraged to take a more comprehensive approach to BVD control in order to eradicate this costly and devastating disease. It involves status surveillance and decisive action, depending on that status. A vaccination programme or milk test will not achieve this single-handedly. text Karen Wright


t’s likely that the dairy industry will hear more about plans to eradicate Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in England and Wales in 2013. The Government is considering a national control scheme, consultations are underway by the Cattle Health and Welfare Group and funding to support an education programme has been allocated to DairyCo and EBLEX. All cattle units in Britain may soon be within BVD schemes. BVD can cause major reproductive losses with a huge price tag in cattle. The main reservoir for infection is via persistently infected (PI) animals. These can reside in the herd as ‘trojan cows’ for many years,


re-infecting any susceptible animals. PIs are born as a result of infection of the dam at between 40 and 120 days into pregnancy. Virus will persist in the herd if PIs exist, even if the herd has a strict vaccination policy.

Eradication – not just control Cheshire vet Neil Howie is encouraging producers and fellow vets to use a combination of tools, which are available now, in an on-farm programme to tackle BVD. “Eradication is the name of the game – not just control,” he says. “We have to get across the fact that vaccination alone won’t eradicate BVD.

Neil Howie: “We have the tests to eradicate BVD so why wait?”

It is a valuable part of the programme, but it is not a long-term solution.” The US is an interesting example. It has been vaccinating cattle for 40 years, but BVD is still rife. However, Germany and Switzerland set up more comprehensive schemes three years ago, which involved tissue testing and herd surveillance, and the disease is all but eradicated from both these countries. That’s not to say that BVD is history. The highly contagious nature of the disease means that routine surveillance has to be part of any eradication programme, at least until PI animals have been eliminated. Switzerland reduced the level of PIs from more than 1.35% in 2008 to less than 0.05% in 2012. It will now be promoting on-going surveillance to ensure any remaining PIs are removed. But Mr Howie says that producers shouldn’t wait for the Government to


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dangle a carrot when it comes to tackling BVD head on. “We know more about BVD now and we have more tests to use in an eradication plan so why wait? Monitor your herd. If the virus is identified then act quickly and most of all, employ a comprehensive plan and don’t expect that just by vaccinating the job will be done.”

Key points to BVD eradication • Vaccination alone is not enough • Surveillance is important even if the virus is absent • Establishing and monitoring BVD status in all herds is vital • Any PI animals must be identified quickly and removed • Don’t forget to test the bull.

Use two milk tests The first step in any eradication programme is to establish herd status and this is the step that Scottish producers – beef and dairy – have been taking as part of a compulsory scheme for the past 12 months. Bulk milk samples from the dairy herd can be used here to both test for BVD antibodies and detect any BVD virus. Mr Howie has worked with NML in the development of its BVD milk testing services and with the recently introduced qPCR test that uses a bulk milk sample to detect the BVD virus. “Antibody testing on a routine basis is useful for many herds to show if the herd has been exposed to virus, but we know that vaccine response can make interpretation difficult,” says Mr Howie. “So by bringing in a complimentary service that can identify and quantify the actual virus, we have a lot more information about the milking herd’s BVD status”. NML’s BVD qPCR and antibody tests are offered on both an ad hoc and a quarterly basis. Milk samples already held by NML for payment purposes are used for the test so there is no need for additional sampling. “This new qPCR service works well

in partnership with routine antibody testing of the bulk tank as a first step for routine surveillance of BVD,” says Mr Howie. “If you consider the levels of exposure in parallel with the levels of virus in the bulk tank, it provides useful information about the timing of an outbreak and could provide an early warning system.”

Vaccination not enough These tests can then be used as part of routine surveillance, which will enable producers and vets to identify then track the disease. Although the herd may be vaccinated it doesn’t eliminate the risk of a naive animal that doesn’t produce enough antibodies – she is at risk of infection and may produce a PI calf that is then a risk to the whole herd. Routine milk tests will pick up the virus. NML also offers blood antibody testing services for groups of between five and 10 pre-vaccinated youngstock, aged between six and 18 months of age in each management group, to identify if animals have been exposed to virus. The use of Tag and Test, where a tissue sample from young calves is tested for the BVD virus or antigen, is also a useful

part of the surveillance package and ideal for beef calves too. “We have worked hard to build a system that provides enough information to give a confident status report for every herd,” adds Mr Howie. “Herds vary, but if we provide a logical structure and a cost effective method of testing, vets can establish which herds to protect or which to search for PI animals. We must be careful not to over interpret negative results and ensure that our judgements are based on sufficient information. NML can offer all of the tools to eliminate doubt.” In support of DairyCo and EBLEX plans for a national scheme, NML has integrated its milk test services into recommended surveillance schemes to help vets with establishing a ‘status’ for a farm. “The tools are available to put BVD to bed as an active disease on most British farms,” adds Mr Howie. “Yet reports from diagnostic labs and surveys that assess management priorities show that BVD is still a major concern. National initiatives will be an important part of eradication, but each manager can take key steps to protect their own assets.” l


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Top cell count improver and a sire with several proven bloodlines top bull rankings

Out of this world Former Gold Cup finalist and respected Holstein breeder Willy Ley shares his views on the latest daughter-proven and genomically-tested lists following the December bull proof run. And we outline the changes to PTAs. text Rachael Porter


handful of new young genomic sires have set pulses racing among the Holstein breeders who want to be at the genetic cutting edge – including Devonbased breeder Willy Ley. He’s keeping an eye on the new numberone sire in the DairyCo PLI ranking, and the bull’s blend of a mixture of bloodlines mean that Willy won’t be alone. As a Freddie x Planet x Ramos sire, Rosylane-LLC Alta Barney brings the prospect of high production together with exceptional daughter health and fertility. This is no surprise when the high fitness bloodlines in his pedigree are considered. His genomic PLI is £254. Willy admits that he’s a Planet fan and that he’s milking quite a few of his daughters. “I’ve several already milking and more waiting in the wings. This sire shows that there’s plenty more to come from him.” Willy is also excited about the equal second ranking sires Lavaman and

Daughter-proven sires Willy Ley: “I’m still ‘dabbling’ in genomics”

Cashcoin (PLIs both £251). He has young calves on the ground by Lavaman and is pleased to see the bull maintaining his position since the previous index run. “His PLI wasn’t far off that of ManO-Man, a bull I haven’t used to date because his semen was so expensive. For me, Lavaman was the next best thing.” Willy is yet to use Cashcoin, but he’s tempted. “I asked for a brochure so I could take a closer look. I think he’s a bit expensive – some genomic sires cost as much as £37 per straw and I think that’s a lot for an unproven sire.

Woudhoeve 1042 Impuls


“I also know that the price will fall in six months or so as more genomic sires are added to the list. So I may wait a while.” Fourth ranking Synergy Alta Pilsner is another newcomer with a pedigree offering something different. A Jives son (who himself is a young sire by Jeeves out of a Shottle dam) out of a Planet x O Man dam, Pilsner traces back to the famous Lou Etta family. His PLI is £249. Willy is still ‘dabbling’ in genomic sires, but says he’s becoming ‘braver’ as daughter proofs are published and the ‘theory’ is mirrored by practice. “Daughter proofs are confirming the accuracy of genomic proofs. “A pattern is beginning to emerge and, although there will be the odd sire that doesn’t live up to his genomic figures, the majority are being pitched just about right. “I guess that DNA can’t lie, but it’s still important to have daughter proofs to keep a close eye on what’s going on and make sure any claims made by breeders and geneticists are robust.”

Looking to the proven sire rankings, there’s a new number-one bull specialising in udder health; a brand new UK-proven O Man son; and a strong showing by UK sires in the top 20 Profitable Lifetime Index ranking, published by DairyCo Breeding+ . The number-one position is taken by Guarini, a Goldwyn son whose somatic cell count index has improved to an impressive –32, making him among the best of the Holstein breed for udder health. “I’ve used him, but I don’t have any daughters on the ground just yet. I thought he looked like a useful package and we’ve been looking for a decent bull like him.

Lynbrook Jancen


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–32 –18 –12 –26 –9 –9 –8 –6 –23 –10 –20 –3 –12 –22 –18 –13 –27 –14 –11 –22

0.5 1.3 0.4 5.4 0.4 2.4 0.7 5.4 0.3 –2.8 0.1 1.2 0.2 3.6 0.2 6.3 0.2 3.4 0.3 0.1 0.3 2.1 0.6 1.2 0.2 3.2 0.3 2.1 0.2 5.9 0.1 4.5 0.3 2.9 0.3 2.7 0.3 3.1 0.2 5,0

0.8 2.4 0.8 1.9 0.2 1.4 3.1 1.1 0.4 2.3 2,0 2.1 2.3 1.7 0.9 0.1 0.5 0.8 2.4 1.5


253 247 236 235 229 228 225 222 222 221 220 219 214 213 208 207 206 205 204 202


46 49 53 39 56 57 51 47 50 52 45 41 49 42 40 49 37 38 45 41



+0.08 +0.04 +0.13 +0.05 +0.05 +0.02 -0.01 +0.09 +0.10 +0.02 +0.08 –0.05 +0.09 +0.10 +0.04 +0.08 +0.04 +0.04 +0.00 +0.03


+0.01 +0.07 +0.20 +0.18 +0.20 +0.04 +0.03 +0.20 +0.14 -0.05 +0.21 –0.11 +0.08 +0.15 +0.04 +0.05 +0.02 +0.07 +0.01 +0.05




+25.0 +23.9 +22.4 +14.6 +23.3 +29.7 +26.6 +19.0 +22.3 +30.0 +17.1 +26.0 +24.4 +17.6 +20.8 +25.0 +19.8 +18.2 +23.6 +20.3


+23.1 +30.7 +30.6 +28.4 +39.9 +37.2 +35.3 +30.6 +29.1 +30.3 +30.1 +27.2 +26.8 +24.3 +23.9 +26.3 +21.4 +23.5 +30.2 +26.1

prot. kg

+561 +622 +366 +337 +580 +864 +836 +353 +440 +886 +326 +925 +511 +297 +528 +554 +507 +457 +737 +558

fat kg

75 83 75 84 95 85 85 73 79 85 94 96 85 82 78 78 85 80 75 78

£PLI Genus Cogent Genus Semex Sterling Sires Viking/Nordic Genetics Dairy Daughters Cogent Dairy Daughters WWS UK Avoncroft Sterling Sires Viking/Nordic Genetics


O Man O Man Manat Zade Major Goldwyn BW Marshall Lancelot Lukas Durham Garter Amel BW Marshall O Man O Man Jesther Bret O Man Lambada O Man



Goldwyn Buckeye O Man O Man Shottle O Man O Man Goldwyn O Man O Man Goldwyn Taboo O Man Goldwyn Goldwyn O Man Mascol Goldwyn O Man Mascol

mat. grandsire supplier

functional traits


Guarini Morningview Levi Lynbrook Jancen Whitman O Man Awesome Andy Cogent Twist Ballycairn O Man Pello Mainstream Manifold Gomez D Omar ALH Dakota Ballycairn Tiergan Ensenada Taboo Planet Co-Op Oman Loydie Pirolo Goldwyn Wyman Goldfire Woudhoeve 1042 Impuls Co-Op Bosside Massey Danillo Omagic Dansire Mascol Mason






1.84 2.18 2.33 1.85 0.75 1.31 –0.22 –0.04 –0.05 0.84 0.16 0.41 1.58 0.67 1.12 1.63 0.97 1.39 0.2 1.2 1.05 1.89 0.75 1.24 0.66 0.21 0.51 2.19 0.28 0.89 1.34 1.53 1.62 1.41 1.28 1.41 1.37 0.3 0.72 2.65 1.81 2.42 2.03 1.21 1.87 0.29 0.17 0.33 2.07 2.35 2.64 3.3 2.3 2.99 1.43 –0.46 0.25 1.61 0.52 1.06

Table 1: Top 20 daughter proven sires available in the UK ranked on PLI (source: DairyCo breeding+ and Holstein UK)

“So we took a chance on him. Obviously, I’m really pleased to see him at the top but I can’t say I’m surprised.” The Buckeye son Morningview Levi edges into second (from first) position, but maintains his strong figures for fitness. Good daughter fertility (Fertility Index +5.4) and particularly impressive calving ability (both direct and maternal), combine with high production PTAs to earn him a PLI of £247. Willy hasn’t used him on his herd as he thinks he’s a bit on the narrow side.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good bull. But you can’t use them all.” The same can be said for Lynbrook Jancen (PLI £236), the component specialist who holds on to third position, and also for fourth-place sire Whitman O Man Awesome Andy (PLI £235), whose Lifespan Index at +0.7 is the best of the breed. “Andy is well priced and I’m interested in him, but I haven’t bought any straws.” Willy has, however, used semen from Shottle son Cogent Twist quite extensively.

He moves into the top five with a PLI of £229 based on performance by 82 daughters in 51 herds. Twist becomes the number one UKproven bull and improves on his impressive figure for kg fat, now with a breed-leading 39.9kg. “I have some heifers on the ground, born last spring and summer, and they’re looking good. I’m looking forward to milking them. “And I’m thinking about using some more Twist in the future. It depends on what else catches my eye.”

More health and fertility information added to PTAs Additional information will appear in cow genetic indexes with the aim of helping milk producers breed healthier cows. The new information will bring cow Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) into line with those for bulls, which have included health and fitness traits for many years, according to DairyCo Breeding+. “PTAs for somatic cell count, female fertility and lifespan have not been included in published cow indexes until now, but will be part of all female indexes from this month,” says head of genetics for DairyCo Marco Winters. This information will be available through the ‘Herd Genetic Report’, which is available for any milk recorded

herd through the DairyCo Breeding+ website (the cost is covered by the levy). “Producers will be well aware of their herd’s healthiest and highest performing cows,” continues Mr Winters. “But they will also be aware that factors other than genetics have an influence on this performance. “So this additional information will give them the opportunity to identify their herd’s strong genetic lines for these important health and fitness traits, and hopefully help them to breed better cows,” he adds. “In addition to this, it will allow breeders to benchmark their herd against others, and to monitor their own genetic progress over time.” This means that if they find they are

lagging behind on either count, they should find it easier to take action. “Breeding cows with good indexes for health and fitness traits is not expected to have an instant effect on their performance,” says Mr Winters. “But the benefits are cumulative and build up over the generations, so by improving your herd’s genetics for these allimportant traits, you are making your cows easier to manage over the long term, and stacking the odds against disease and infertility firmly in your favour.” To access your report go to www. and select ‘Herd Genetic Reports’. If you are not registered yet, select the option to register and you will be provided with login details.


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Liesbeth 68 (v. Atlantic) Owner: Van der Weerd, Aduard, The Netherlands (Foto: Alger Meekma)

REACH MAXIMUM LIFETIME PRODUCTION WITH ATLANTIC Delta Atlantic excels in all areas! Every now and then there is this exceptional bull that makes you speechless. Can it really be that one bull possesses so many qualities? Sure! Atlantic transmits an eye-catching conformation, and virtually infinite longevity. This results in a lifetime production exceeds your expectations.


(Ramos x O Man) ai-code: 97-8797 aAa-code: 234165


292 740 113 106 106 103



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CRV bulls take top spots Improving health, welfare and fertility traits is good for cattle and, in addition, allows an efficient lifetime production for the herd. CRV offers bulls that allow producers to profit from these benefits. For instance, the red-and-white bull Maddock van de Peul P raises the level of breeding for natural polling and

Summit daughter Dolly

longevity titan Delta Atlantic is now the highest ranking bull in Holland with daughters in milk.

Excels in all areas Currently more than 80 daughters by Delta Atlantic (sire Ramos), who was a highly popular InSire bull, are now milking, and 51 of them have already been inspected for type. The performance of these daughters takes Atlantic’s type breeding value to 113. The breeding values for production are still based on genomics. Atlantic produces strong animals (111 frame, 112 dairy strength) that can handle their high production, +421kg of milk, +12.3kg (0.05%) fat and +17.8 (+0.05%) protein well. In combination with his extremely high longevity score of +740 days he has a PLI £185.

Successful Paramount son Lowlands Upgrade (£145 PLI) makes a successful debut as a breeding bull. The Paramount son has a similar inheritance profile as his sire, with high milk production and strong conformation. Upgrade’s conformation remains true to his genomic breeding value at 111. His production inheritance is strong at +764kg of milk with +25kg of protein. Silky daughter Liesje 94

New Mascol sons With £171 PLI De Biesheuvel Summit is an all round bull with high production, strong type, calving ease and great locomotion (107). Het Broek Silky at £131 PLI has an extremely high score for udder health (111) and low SCC of –24, in combination with great longevity of +630 days. With production of +444kg of milk, Silky produces cows that grow old without any problems.

Cricket daughter Plataan Frida 7467 Atlantic daughter Liesbeth 68

O Man sons Both Fiction RF (1,617 daughters) and Ralma O-Man CF Cricket (1,173 daughters) now have secondcrop daughters in milk production, confirming their promise as high producing daughters that remain in production. The daughters mature well thanks to their good conformation, particularly for frame and dairy strength, improved udder health and because they get in calf easily. Fiction scores 105 and Cricket scores 104 for female fertility.

Red-and-white leaders Topping the InSire genomic ranking for red-and-white bulls is De Vrendt Deputy (Ideal x Lawn Boy, £196 PLI). Deputy excels in udders and udder health with high protein and high longevity (+646 days). Broekhuizen Ricardo (£158 PLI) is sired by the red-factor Paramount son Delta Barney and his dam is a Classic from the noted Roza family. Ricardo passes on an excellent production with superb conformation. The highest ranking bull that passes on the polled gene, Maddock van de Peul P (£157 PLI), is a son of Kodak from the Massia cow family. He follows the family tradition with a strong milk inheritance, healthy udders and hooves resulting in high longevity of +716 days. With these breeding values, Maddock sets the standard for modern breeding with regard to natural polling, with bulls that can hold their own with the established bulls. Delta Fidelity now has a second-crop proof with 3,302 daughters in production, and still shows unparalleled quality. His daughters prove that Fidelity guarantees top class feet and legs (115) and high production (£168 PLI). For full details of all the CRV bulls that are available from Avoncroft, call free on 0800 7831880. De Vrendt Janine P Red, dam of Deputy


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For the third year in a row, the Kortleve’s herd has made it into the top 10 for lifetime production

“I don’t pamper my cows”

Kees and Hermy Kortleve The lifetime production for the culled cows of Kees Kortleve in The Netherlands is extremely high. He gives his cows an extra chance to get in calf.

Kees Kortleve pays a lot of attention to his cows and the result is Noordeloos

cows with exceptional longevity. During the past financial year,

The Netherlands

Herd size: Unit size: Rolling herd average: Calving interval:

102 55ha 9,246kg 3.94% f. 3.45% pr. 450 days


or three consecutive years Kees and Hermy Kortleve’s herd, from Noordeloos in the Netherlands, has appeared in the top 10 for lifetime production. And this year he tops the list. So why are his cows lasting longer than those in other herds? “I persist with AI for longer than most other producers,” says Kees. “On our unit, a cow has more chances to get back in calf. “That does result in a high calving interval, around 450 days, but I don’t really look at that. I hate getting rid of cows due to fertility although ultimately that is one of the most important reasons for culling. But I think it is more cost effective to inseminate an older cow more often than to rear a new heifer, at a cost of at least £1,200.’

Simple management Kees does all the AI himself and he also does all the milking. He milks twice a day and does not chase extra litres. Milk production per cow has been higher on his unit in the past. “But if you’re going to push your cows and chase yield for the sake of cow welfare, I think you should really milk three times a day. “I don’t want to do that because I think

cows that came to the end of their productive life recorded the highest lifetime production in the whole of The Netherlands. text Ivonne Stienezen

the cows become more susceptible to disease and other breakdowns. This production level just suits me and my cows. “I’m pleased if a fresh cow produces between 20 and 23 litres of milk at each milking and even more so if they can keep that level of production up for a long time.” Kees likes to keep management simple. “I am not so keen on technology. I just like to spend time and attention on the cows – I think that’s important. But I don’t pamper them, they must also be able to look after themselves. I do try to create very best conditions that I can for them.” The 100-cow herd lives in two old but clean cow houses, which were built in the 1970s. The cows are milked through a 2 x 4 open tandem parlour, which was built in the 1990s. “If I had the finance, I would probably renovate the cow house, but I don’t think it’s worth investing in these cubicles.” Saving money is also important to Kees. He feeds the herd a moderate amount of concentrates – just over 23kg of concentrates per 100kg of milk during

Table 1: Lifetime production (kilogrammes of fat and protein) for Kees Kortleve’s herd from 2009 to 2012

year 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012


number of cows

number of lactations

kg milk

fat %

protein %

kg fat and protein

kg milk/ day

10 15 11

5.6 6.1 6.4

67,657 64,726 74,701

3.94 4.12 4.10

3.36 3.40 3.35

4,938 4,862 5,564

30.2 29.1 30.0


CM01_Kortleve.indd 44


the past 12 months. “For example, I try to leave the cows outside for as long as possible in the autumn. If they consume enough protein during the daytime from fresh grass, I can feed them less soya.” Kees is careful when feeding protein, and usually gives his cows less than the standard amount. That can also be seen in the milk protein content, which is not high. That’s also a result of his choice of bulls, although at the moment he’s selecting sires due to milk constituents.

100-tonne cows For feed he takes the simple option: grass and corn, now supplemented with brewers’ grain and soya. In total, Kees’ herd has produced 17 100-tonne cows – most of them during the past seven years. The eighteenth is on her way and she should reach the milestone within a month, according to Kees. “Of course I am extra careful with this cow, but I don’t go over the top. I did once get rid of a cow that had a production of 97,000 kg, because she was not in calf. There are always economic factors to consider.” Kees pays a lot of attention to his dry cows. “This period is critical and it’s when you can really make a mess of things if you’re not careful.” The dry cows are managed in two groups: ’far off’ and ‘close up’. The first group are fed coarse hay and the second group is also fed 10kg of the milking herd ration and dry

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Two young Kortleve cows in a typical Dutch landscape

cow concentrate. “The hay comes from unmanured land where potassium levels are not too high, in order to help prevent milk fever.’ Kees gives the dry cows dry bedding twice a day and he also dips dry cows’ teats. He dips the heifers’ teats too, from about six weeks before calving when they’re already mixing with the milking herd. ”Dipping seems to prevent udder health problems, so it’s well worth the extra effort. Many cases of mastitis can be traced back to the dry period, so by doing this I think I keep the risk of infection for the dry cows as low as possible.” Kees believes it is important to manage cell counts, particularly in the older cows. “I use bulls with good somatic cell count scores – I always look at when I select sires. “Cell counts can creep upwards in older cows and I work closely with my vet and intervene as early as possible.”

Breeding goals But udder health is not the most important thing that Kees considers when chosing bulls. He also looks at type. He’s using bulls that include Improver, Cricket, Sunrise and Ormsby at the moment. “I want well-built cows that walk nice and straight. I pay a lot of attention to their back legs and make no concessions, they must be a minimum of 100. “That ensures that there is a good distribution of weight on all the cow’s hooves.” Kees pays a lot of attention to cows’ feet. He trims the cows’ feet himself and there is rarely a cull in his herd due to lameness. “If a cow is lame then I get her on a block as quickly as possible, It does take some work, but it ensures that all the cows come back from grazing as a group. “There are no stragglers – they can all move quickly. And it’s great to see that – I enjoy it.” l

cow man ag e me n t

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SHOWS AND EVENTS 2013 January 21-23: February 23March 3: March 5: February 24-28: February 26-27: March 1-2: March 6 May 31: June 12-13: July 3-4:

British Cattle Conference, Telford Golf and Spa Hotel, Shropshire SIA, Paris (France) Borderway UK Dairy Expo, Carlisle SIMA, Paris (France) BGS-BSAS Grazing Conference, Abbey Hotel, Great Malvern European Holstein and Red Holstein Championship, Fribourg (Switzerland) Agro Nord Show, Aars (Denmark) NMR/RABDF Gold Cup open day at Shanael Holsteins, near Evesham, Worcestershire German national show, Oldenburg (Germany) Livestock Event, Birmingham

Lunch break: a pause at the feed fence provides a photo opportunity! Picture: Becky Matthews


C O N TA C T S CowManagement is published eight times per year by CRV Holding BV

ADF Milking...............................................11 Alta............................................................14 Ambic.........................................................32 Avoncroft/Thompsons................................47 Batchelor Enterprises Ltd...............................6 Biotal............................................................7 Boehringer-Ingelheim.................................48 Boer Housing Systems Ltd, De......................6 Bolshaws....................................................39 CowCare Systems.......................................38 CowManagement.......................................32 Cowsfeet....................................................18 CRV............................................................42

Editorial team Chief Editor Jaap van der Knaap Editor Rachael Porter Phone 01394 270587 E-mail Editing, design and production Veeteelt Contributing writers Inge van Drie, Roger Evans, Allison Matthews, David Matthews, Ivonne Stienezen 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. Fax 0031 26 38 98 839 E-mail internet

Subscriptions CowManagement is available free of charge to customers of NMR, Avoncroft and Thompsons. If you think you are eligible, please contact: National Milk Records, Customer Services, Skipton Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 4LG. Phone 0870 1622547 E-mail

DP Agri...........................................11, 18, 39 Enviro Systems............................................32 Farmplus.....................................................32 Lallemand...................................................33 Limagrain...................................................22 Micron Bio-Systems....................................38 NMR......................................................2, 28 Teemore Engineering Ltd..............................6 TH White....................................................32


G r a s slan d sp ecial

Advertisements Julia Hughes, NMR. Phone 01249 467224 Willem Gemmink, Froukje Visser P.O. Box 454, 6800 AL Arnhem, The Netherlands, Fax 0031 26 38 98 824 E-mail

February (February 19) – Tips and pointers on how to maximise the productivity of grazing and grass silage swards this coming spring and summer.

Ilustrations/pictures Photographs by Veeteelt Photography, Samantha Clark (10) and Becky Matthews (12-13).

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 Holding 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 Classic Printing Phone 01452 731539 ISSN 1570-5641


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CowManagement january 2013  

CowManagement january 2013

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