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V O LU M E 9 N O 4 J UN E 2011





Liquid assets: tips on choosing the right feed

Rotary robot: read about the first one in action

Good communication is key to successful staff management

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Profitable Dutch Cows Profit from daughters of these two super bulls. Delta Fidelity and Beekmanshoeve Bertil are the two most used bulls in the Dutch AI year 2009/2010. With nearly 60,000 first inseminations the red and white bull Fidelity was used more than the leading black and white bull Bertil with 44,000 first inseminations.


• Great Feet & Legs and Locomotion • Outstanding production • Easy Calving • Excellent management traits • BB Kappa Casein

Kian x Lightning x Spektrum

Milk +227kg Fat +19.3kg +0.13% Protein +20.7kg +0.16% 173 Daughters in 139 Herds PLI £172

Interbull, April 2011









Dairy Strength






Feet & Legs



Final Score



Alger Meekma

Fidelity daughter, Jessica 20



75 Daughters in 57 Herds GES, April 2011

BERTIL Willis x Jocko x Fatal

• Great Feet & Legs and Locomotion • Outstanding production • Good Udders • Excellent management traits Milk +274kg Fat +15.5kg +0.06% Protein +20.9kg +0.15% 283 Daughters in 233 Herds PLI £156

Interbull, April 2011


Alex Arkink

Bertil daughter, Boukje 43 2nd Calf










Dairy Strength






Feet & Legs



Final Score



119 Daughters in 103 Herds GES, April 2011

Avoncroft Freephone 0800 7831880



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Cow Talk Overalls off: Rally driver Veterinary practice: New Forest Eye NMR Dairy Management News Avoncroft Breeding Information/ Thompsons Nutritional News Shows, events and contacts

R e p ort

12 Find out why Ian Sharman is milking Montbeliardes C o l umn

15 Roger Evans B reedin g

16 De-Su Oman Goli F eedin g

26 How does your sward grow? 30 Liquid feeds M ana g ement

36 Managing people

Ian Sharman “It was high input, high output and high stress” 12

Editor Rachael Porter Movers and shakers


o you ever think that it’s time to shake things up a little? Change is what keeps businesses’ moving forward and change also seems to be the theme this issue. We’ve a leading UK producer who has completely overhauled his dairy system by switching breed and reducing cow numbers and stepping off the ‘yield chasing’ treadmill. Perhaps a little too drastic for some, but read his success story on page 12 to find out more. If high Bactoscans are an issue on your unit, check your milk filter. We explain why on page 19. We also feature an automatic milking system for rotary parlours in our milking equipment special. If you have a rotary and have labour ‘issues’, could it could be the answer? If staff and team management problems keep you awake at night, take a look at the article on page 36. A simple change to the way you approach your staff and communicate with them could make all the difference. Change, literally at grass-roots level, may also be required to get more from your swards. We weigh up the reseeding options – and the costs and the benefits and the varieties available – on page 26. Tackling disease is not optional if you want a healthy and productive herd. So find out how, with help from NML, you could improve the control and prevent the spread of BVD in your herd on page eight. We spoke to the UK’s leading BVD specialist who says that the UK herd could – and should – be able to totally eradicate the disease.

Health NMR feature

Special Milk equipment

Series Feed efficiency




Readily available and costeffective tools can help reduce – or even eliminate – BVD

We focus on automatic milking in rotary parlours and discuss milk filters

Controlling and preventing disease can help to maximise milk from feed


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03-06-2011 14:10:20



Survey reveals cost savings

Tom Warren

Only 15% of large dairy units are currently capitalising on the significant benefits of once-a-day milk feeding, yet the practice can save around £40 per calf and cut labour input in half without compromising animal health and performance. This statistic comes from an independent survey of 300 producers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which was commissioned by Bonanza Calf Nutrition in March. The findings highlight the potential for the industry to make

significant calf rearing cost and labour savings, according to the company’s Tom Warren. “These latest survey findings reveal that a majority of producers (57%) are still bucket feeding their calves. More than 30% are using teated feeders – although this figure rises to more than 40% in larger 200cow plus herds – with only 7% taking advantage of automatic or computerised feeders. “With so many producers feeding calves manually, I think the UK industry is missing a trick by not moving wholesale into once-a-day feeding,” he says. “There’s plenty of research and producer experience around that shows calves can be fed successfully on once-a-day feeding systems.” Mr Warren adds that to rear calves successfully on a once daily system rearers must use whole milk or a milk replacer based on skim milk powder.

Dry cow management can help control acidosis Feeding low moisture molasses blocks to dry cows can help reduce the risk of acidosis in early lactation, according to Crystalyx’s Cliff Lister. “It is vital to maintain a stable rumen pH, particularly when concentrated energy sources are fed to complement energy deficient forages,” Dr Lister explains. “Highly fermentable feeds can lead to a decline in rumen pH, which reduces the activity of fibre digesting bacteria. A low pH also reduces rumen mobility which leads to depressed feed intakes.” He urges producers to focus on reducing acidosis to increase performance and the efficiency of digestion. “If we can precondition the rumen so that the lactic acid utilising bacteria are already present before levels of the acid increase, then we can reduce the risk of acidosis. We can achieve this by feeding specific sugars.” He suggests giving dry cows access to low moisture molasses-based Crystalyx blocks pre-calving.

Automatic milking research A grassland research project, which is being carried out by the Moorepark Animal and Grassland Innovation Centre in Ireland and supported by Fullwood, has been launched to investigate the most cost effective and efficient method of integrating automated milking systems into pasture-based dairy businesses. Fullwood has supplied the research facility at Fermoy in County Cork with the latest version of its flagship Merlin 225 robotic milking machine, which was commissioned at the Teagasc Moorepark facility in February 2011 and is currently being used to milk a group of 62 cows. “The research herd comprises of three breeds of cows – Norwegian Reds, Jersey cross-breeds and Holstein Friesians,” explains Padraig French, head of livestock systems at Moorepark. The cows were previously part of a herd that was milked through a traditional herringbone parlour. “They have adapted to the Merlin unit quickly and with relatively little trouble,” says Dr French. “The majority of the cows were happily entering and exiting the milking unit


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within two days of the Merlin being brought on line. “And we are adding new cows to the herd on a regular basis with the aim of reaching a total of 75 cows going through the robot in 2011.” The primary aim of the three-year study is to determine how AMS technologies can be integrated into grazing-based dairy systems, and how to manage a

grass-based AMS while optimising grass utilisation and milk production. The AMS herd is at pasture for 10 months of the year – from calving to drying off. “So we are interested in finding the most effective way of setting up and managing our pastures to encourage cows to enter the unit and to optimise the number of milkings per cow per day and maximise profit per hectare.”


03-06-2011 15:28:05

Delta Olympic retires After many successful years, and the sale of more than 1.4 million straws of semen, Delta Olympic’s career has ended. Born in 1999, the Dutch bull Delta Olympic (Addison x Besne Buck) got his first index in November 2004. He turned out to be an exceptional bull for production, conformation and health characteristics, such as udder health and calving ease. He was a highly popular bull at home and abroad. CRV sold semen from this bull in more than 50 countries and in 2008 he passed the one-million-doses of semen milestone after just four years of production. The qualities of Delta Olympic will live on through his progeny – both sons and daughters. CRV has used him as a sire of sons in its breeding programme and his first sons have already entered CRV’s active sire line-up. These sons, Delta Morazan and Havep Nano, are carrying on the good work of their father.

Fats are back on the menu The cost of many rumen-protected fats has fallen by between 10 and 15% from recent highs following a drop in global demand for palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD), a key ingredient in many protected fat products. “The resulting reduction in the cost of PFAD is filtering through to UK producers, with products like Megalac and Golden Flake, for example, now costing between 20 and 32p/cow/day for a two litre/cow/day milk response, plus

reduced body condition loss and improved milk fat production,” says KW nutritionist Mark Scott. “Demand for PFAD fell partly due to the high prices earlier in the year, and to the availability of better value alternatives. PFAD is also used to produce bio-diesel, so any rise in oil prices – or increased demand now that prices have fallen – could see rumen-protected fat prices rise again later in the year.”

Keep diets cool Producers can prevent mixed diets heating up this summer – and avoid lower intakes and drops in production – by treating buffer feeds with organic acids, according to Frank Wright Trouw Nutrition International’s Tim Carter. “As soon as a diet is mixed it can be subject to significant spoilage due to actions of yeasts and moulds that thrive on the combination of high moisture and plentiful nutrient supply in the mixed diet,” Mr Carter explains that every 1°C increase in diet temperature reduces dry matter content by 0.25%. Nutrients are lost and feed wastage increases. “If ambient temperature is below 20°C feed quality only starts to decline after 24 hours. “However, once the temperature exceeds 25°C, the rate of heating and spoiling increases markedly. “The research showed that where diets heated up, the sugar content was reduced by 40g/kgDM – equivalent to 50% of the total sugars,” he adds.

Covered calf feeder A unique type of calf feeder that prevents rain from spoiling feed, and pests like birds and rats from stealing the food, has been launched by Dairy Spares. The Milk Bar Meal Saver has protective lids, which calves soon learn to operate themselves, ensuring 24 hour access to feed that is kept in a dry and edible state. It has a lid each side of the trough, which operates on a counter balance system. Calves are easily trained to lift the lids with their noses to get to the feed. Pestproof vents allow the smell of feed to reach the calves and motivate them to open the lids. The feeder is 1.2m long and 80cm wide and holds up to 150kg of feed. Each one is suitable for feeding up to 12 weaned calves. Fitted with skids, they are suitable for towing.


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21-04-2011 28/03/2011 09:32:40 15:33:31



Readily available and cost-effective tools can

Time to ‘call t im There is evidence of BVD – past or present – in 70% of UK dairy herds. As NML unveils its new BVD surveillance scheme, industry experts urge producers to use new tools and get rid of the disease. text Karen Wright


Joe Brownlie: “We are lagging behind other European countries with BVD control”


espite vaccines and other control measures, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) still remains a major drain on the UK cattle industry. It causes huge fertility problems, suppresses the immune system and can cause calf deformities. Professor Joe Brownlie from the Royal Veterinary College would like to see the UK ‘beat’ BVD. “It’s important we get rid of BVD,” he says. “It would bring productivity, health and welfare benefits. “We’re lagging behind other European countries here. Scandinavia is BVD free – a status it has achieved by getting rid of all persistently infected – or PI – animals. PI animals are reservoirs of infection.” Professor Brownlie fully supports the Scottish initiative that, from later this year, will ban the movement of PI cattle. “This initiative will force many producers into better BVD control and surveillance – in Scotland and in the north of England. “And this control must operate on a regional or community basis. It’s far more effective than individual farm control, particularly in densely


CM04-NMR-main article 8


populated areas such as Cheshire or the south west. BVD is directly contractable from animal to animal so getting rid of BVD in a region lowers the risk of the infection coming back.” When it comes to control procedures, there is no doubt that vaccination plays an important part. “It’s well worth vaccinating cattle for BVD if it’s done properly but, like any vaccination programme, it’s rarely 100% effective. There’s always some level of breakdown and for this reason we need to employ other tools.” Biosecurity, routine surveillance and the identification and removal of PI animals are required.

Avoid ‘one-off’ tests “Bulk milk tests are useful for surveillance but they mustn’t be ‘one-offs’. Instead they should be carried out regularly to allow the vet to build up a picture of the herd’s ‘normal’ antibody levels,” adds Professor Brownlie. Deviations from this can then be picked up and interpreted. And from this information, the vet and producer will know if further investigation is needed. The main focus should be on youngstock using routine blood testing so infected animals are picked up as early as possible to minimise the damage caused. And tag-and-test services, where a small tissue sample is taken at the time of tagging and tested for BVD antigens, are highly reliable. Switzerland has used a tag and test approach to eradicate BVD in its dairy herds. Jane Montgomery from XL Vet practice Lambert Leonard & May in Cheshire is developing a more


03-06-2011 15:29:17

ools can help reduce – or even eliminate – BVD

t ime’ on BVD comprehensive BVD control service for clients that she hopes will help to stamp out the devastating consequences of the disease. “It’s a complicated disease and if there’s a PI animal in the herd it will provide a constant threat to herd mates and neighbouring cattle. That’s why it’s important that we tackle control within a region and not on an isolated farm. To get 100% control we have to find and remove these PI animals. Far too many producers are still under the illusion that they’ve controlled BVD once they’ve vaccinated their herd.” She supports the use of bulk milk tests for milking herds. “Measuring the bulk milk antibody level is an easy way to establish a herd’s level of exposure to BVD and routine testing is an inexpensive method of monitoring any changes. Bulk milk PCR testing for BVD virus, on smaller groups (less than 50 cows) is also a useful method of detecting any PI animals within the milking herd. I plan to use tag-and-test much more as it is a practical, cost-effective and accurate way of identifying potential PI animals and active infections.”

BVD Monitor NML – part of the NMR group – has recently added BVD Monitor to its disease surveillance services. The first step involves quarterly monitoring of BVD antibody levels in bulk milk samples to establish the current status. Subsequent deviations from this will guide the farm’s vet to further action if necessary. “Bulk milk samples for detecting BVD antibodies are highly reliable,” says NML’s Healthcheck

manager Steve West. “If the herd is exposed to the virus, competent – ‘healthy’ – animals will produce high levels of antibody, which will be detected by the antibody ELISA test and indicate that there may be an active infection within the herd. “It’s vital that routine tests are carried out so ‘normal’ levels for the herd can be detected and unexplained deviations pursued.” Around 98% of all herds send bulk milk samples to NML for payment purposes so no further sampling is needed for users of BVD Monitor. NML will automatically take a quarterly sample for testing and send the results back to the producer and their vet. “This makes BVD Monitor a seamless and costeffective service,” adds Mr West. Within BVD Monitor, NML also provides ELISA blood testing for unvaccinated youngstock aged between eight and 18 months old. ELISA tests can also be carried out on individual cow milk samples to pinpoint active infections or potential PI animals. “We’ve also included a tag-and-test option to help PI identification or to confirm calf BVD status,” adds Mr West. “Ideal for youngstock and beef cattle, an ear tissue sample is collected as the tag is applied.” Results from tag and test will flag up potential P1 animals. Other causes for the antigen being present, such as a very recent infection of a naive animal, must be ruled out and this is done by isolating the animal and blood testing three weeks later. The same or higher levels of antigen in this second test would indicate a PI animal. Vet interpretation is important at this point. l

Jane Montgomery: “To get 100% control we have to find and remove PI animals”

BVD factfile When a naïve, pregnant cow becomes infected with BVD virus in the first 120 days of gestation, the foetus becomes infected and becomes ‘tolerant’ to the virus and cannot eliminate it. It becomes persistently infected throughout the rest of the pregnancy and for the rest of its calf and adult life. It sheds huge quantities of the virus and transmits the disease when it comes into contact with other animals. The majority of PI animals will scour, waste away

and die during the first 18 months of life. Some will survive, go on to breed and give birth to a PI calf before entering the milking herd. Once a PI calf infects other animals they will become (acutely) infected, show clinical symptoms and subsequently produce antibodies that give some protection against further challenge, although it is not lifelong protection. These acutely infected animals can also become an infection risk and a potential source of the BVD virus to other animals.


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03-06-2011 15:29:43


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21-04-2011 11:02:26

O V E R A L L s

Name: Location: Number of cows: Hobby:


Darren McMurran County Down, Northern Ireland 320 Rally driver

Darren McMurran: “It’s pure escapism... and just great fun”

Gravel grinding to unwind text Rachael Porter


life-long interest in cars is what fuels Darren McMurran’s passion for rally driving – well that coupled with the huge amount of fun he has. It’s a welcome diversion from running the 320-cow herd, based at Banbridge in County Down, which he manages in partnership with his brother Stuart. “Rally driving is pure escapism for me – it’s a release,” he says. “I get two days away from the farm and it’s also a good way to socialise and visit different places in Northern Ireland. But the bottom line is that it’s just great fun.” There are four or five ‘local’ car rallies each year and Darren likes to take his 1980-registered Ford Escort to at least four of them. There’s not much preparation on his part and no training as such, but he will drive his day-to-day car around the rally routes prior to race events and make notes of corners, turns and cambers to assist his co-driver Niall Bell – a local fireman. “I’ve always wanted to be a rally driver, but never a co-driver. I’m a terrible passenger.” Darren was introduced to the sport by a friend and attended his first rally as a spectator almost 15 years ago. But now, thanks to Belfast-based David Greer Motorsport, he takes part.

“David repairs my Escort after a race and makes sure it’s not going to let me down on the day.” Darren used to race in a Talbot Sunbeam, but he wrecked it (his words). “The brakes failed and I hit a wall and wrote it off.” Car wrecking aside, Darren remains unscathed and says he’s never been hurt when rallying. “Niall and I take it easy. We race fast, but we don’t take it too seriously. “We’re not in it to win – we don’t spend enough money to do that. We run a car that we can afford and our main objective is to have a good time out there on the course.” It could be an expensive hobby. “As expensive as you want it to be. But I have a budget and I stick to it, so it’s relatively inexpensive for me. “And it’s worth every penny because I absolutely love it.” He can justify its place in his life on a practical level too. Skills picked up when tinkering under the car bonnet transfer to the machinery shed on the farm. “All engines work on the same principles and my hobby certainly has its uses on a cold winter morning when the scraper tractor won’t start.”


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A change of direction – and breed – means that less is definitely more

The full Monty Ian Sharman Switching direction and changing breed has driven down costs and is paying dividends on this family run unit. A reduction in output is proving to be more profitable. Number of cows: Quantity of land: Breed: Targeted feed rate:

A complete system overhaul on one Nottinghamshire-based unit has bucked the trend towards increasing output. After Southwell

a total appraisal of their system and a switch to Montbeliardes the Sharman family’s herd is on track to realise a 5ppl increase in profit. And added benefits are reduced labour and feed

300, rising to 400 210 hectares Montbeliarde 0.25 kg/litre

costs – and less stress. text Phil Eades


he system at Ian and Steph Sharman’s New Holbeck Farm, near Southwell, used to focus on achieving high outputs from a 300-head herd of pedigree Holsteins. The cows were housed all year round and fed a ration based on maize and grass silages and fodder beet. More than 80 hectares of maize was grown on rented land and the farmed area totalled 324 hectares.

Knife edge “It was high input, high output and high stress,” says Ian. “We were getting more than 10,000 litres per cow, but at a price. Feed rate was 0.4kg/litre and cows were on a knife edge as they were pushed so hard, leading to high vet bills. We were

dealing with high levels of most of the common problems. We pushed and pushed but the profits didn’t follow. “And overhead costs were astronomical. We had one man effectively employed all year feeding cows and spreading slurry and the telehandler was clocking up more than 3,000 hours per year. Contract bills were high as all forage was conserved. “So we decided to change to ensure a better work:life balance and also make sure we were making money.” Ian had been considering the reintroduction of grazing and reduced dependence on bought-in feed – either concentrates or forage. Two events coincided to

accelerate the decision. “My son Tom was due to come back to the farm and we wanted a system that he would be happy to come back to.” The other factor was the opportunity to change milk buyer to Stilton cheese maker Long Clawson Dairies. If he was to change buyer it would be essential to exploit the contract, specifically with regard to all-year-round production and

Move over: Holsteins are being sold as they calve down



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03-06-2011 15:20:07

Sea change: four trips across the Channel have been made to buy Montbeliardes

high milk protein. “High yielding Holsteins were not, in my view, the breed to make the most of the new contract so it was time to look at making some big changes.”

Montbeliarde move As Ian used Promar Farm Business Accounts, he and his consultant David Burns had comprehensive data upon which to base planning decisions and so a thorough review of the system was carried out. The first decision was which breed should be milked. Cross-breeding was one option but it would devalue the long-established pedigree herd. The options for switching breed were eventually honed down to Friesians or Montbeliardes. After several herd visits they chose Montbeliardes. “The breed ticked all the boxes. They are excellent convertors of forage into milk with a high protein percent. And they have excellent longevity and are generally easy to manage. Bull calf and cull cow prices are also very good. We estimate calf values alone are worth an extra 1ppl on gross margin.” To begin with, 12 heifers were imported from Ireland and averaged 8,000 litres at 4.2% fat and 3.5% protein . So the family decided to move the whole herd to Montbeliarde. “And the best option was to change as quickly as possible,” explains David Burns. “The milk price benefits could be realised quicker as would the cost

savings. I think Ian was rather surprised when I asked him if he knew where he could find 400 cows and heifers.” The answer lay in France where Ian has been working with Guilhem Brouzes of Coopex Montbeliardes to source stock. Four trips to France have been made, buying animals by the lorry load, with the selection criteria being overall merit and milk protein. There are now 300 Montbeliardes in the herd and this will rise to 400 by the end of this year, with Holsteins being sold as they calve down. The opportunity has also been taken to simplify the entire farming system. “We wanted to reduce stress across the whole system, make the most of the new contract and farm in a sustainable way so this meant a return to grazing and a programme of major cost reduction,” explains David. So this spring grazing has begun again with a vengeance. Around 80 late lactation cows were turned out in early March onto a paddock grazing system, with the whole herd out in early April, and averaged 17 litres from grazing. They are still averaging 16 litres from grass with an overall feed rate of 0.13kg/ litre despite the current shortage of grazing. “In the winter we will feed a TMR based on grass silage and fodder beet with a little maize. We will take all the expensive ingredients out of the diet and currently target an annual feed rate of 0.25kg/litre. We have a lot of heifers and I expect feed rate to come back further as the percentage of cows increases.”

The maize area has been slashed to just 12 hectares and grass silaging costs will be reduced as fewer cuts will be taken to supply the 3,000 tonnes required. Around 1,200 tonnes of fodder beet is being grown on contract. Variable costs have also reduced with lower feed and vet bills. Cell counts are running at 100,000 cells/ml fewer than 2010 year. Replacement rate is predicted to fall from 22% to around 15%, meaning fewer heifers are required and releasing more grass for the cows.

More profit Ian is delighted with the results so far. “These were enormous changes, reversing a treadmill we had been on for several years, but with David challenging us every step of the way and with decisions based on accurate information we are on target to increase milk price by 2.5ppl and cut costs by a similar amount. “The whole system is also more relaxed with less pressure on people and animals alike. We are also less dependent on skilled labour, which leaves us less exposed to the labour market. “We will be producing one million fewer litres but will be more profitable. The farmed area will be closer to 210 hectares and we are less exposed to the impact of feed price increases. “Had we not changed systems I suspect we would have sold up. But in our case it is certainly true that less is actually more and I think we’re now well placed to stay in dairying for the long term.” l

cow man ag e me n t

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Roger Evans, our award winning columnist and Shropshire-based producer, shares the highs and lows of making this year’s first-cut silage and pulls a tractor driver’s leg.

Strip tease I

t’s been a strange sort of year from a field work point of view. Our first big job in March was to spread muck on 17 hectares of land, plough it, work it and drill spring wheat. The two of us on that job worked long hours and a weekend to get the job done lest the weather should break. It didn’t break for another six weeks so with hindsight we could have done it at our leisure. So that’s ok then. The next big job is silage. I get twitchy about first-cut silage. We hope to make a 1,000 tonnes of first cut. Farming press can be full of advice about fertiliser, grass varieties, stage of growth, nitrogen levels, but in the end it all comes down to the weather and possibly your contractor, neither of which you have any control over. It’s quite a vulnerable position for your business to be in, the difference between 1,000 tonnes of excellent silage and a 1,000 tonnes of crap can determine whether you have a good or bad year financially and there’s little you can do about it. If the good Lord sent down a thunderbolt every time someone told a lie, agricultural contractors would be extinct in a fortnight. So we have the six-week drought and silage time is approaching and you know deep down that the longer the dry weather goes on the more likely it is to break. So we start talking to the contactor and he says we’ll cut yours on Thursday, pick it up Friday. First cut takes a day and a half, so my son has the excellent idea that we only cut as much as they can pick up in one day – about 30 hectares or so. We do that and it goes quite well. We lose an hour because the additive won’t flow and eventually the pump burns out. This, of course, is my fault, because I hadn’t mixed the additive properly. There’s no apology forthcoming when they change the barrel later on and find that someone has wiped his oily hands with paper towels and put the paper in the barrel and the pump isn’t burnt out at all, it’s just clogged up with paper. As evening approached the one young trailer driver is going faster and faster and they reckon he’s on a promise and needs to get to the fair. He’s dropping his loads at the clamps so fast you’d think it was a drivethrough McDonalds. At about 7.30pm I make my first big mistake – I send my son to fetch fish and chips and a can of coke each for all of them. This brings the whole operation to a halt and it’s at least half an hour before they get going again. That half an hour proves to be critical. We do get it all safely gathered in, but we spend half an hour putting the sheet on in the wind, the rain and the dark. Well, it’s nearly all safely gathered in. The man who does the mowing, a tractor driver renown for his skill, has inadvertently left a strip of uncut grass in one field about two feet wide and 100 yards long. He’s mortified. He says it was a wet patch. In the interrogation in the pub I say it’s hiding a curlew and nest. His colleagues on the silage gang say it’s a stewardship strip. He’s even more mortified when I tell him you could see it on the satellite pictures on the weather forecast.


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Golden girls consistently rise to the top at De-Su

Genetic gold mine The Gold family at De-Su is an exceptional cow family and has De-Su Oman Goli ( O  M a n x B W M a rs h a l l )

produced some fantastic bulls, including Goli. Read on to find out more about one of the first Dutch tested sons of O Man.

Production proof: 116 daughters in 95 herds (source GES April 2011)

text Marieke de Weerd Kg M % fat % prot. Kg fat Kg prot. PIN PLI +514 +0.05 +0.02 +24.5 +18.6 £39 £181 Longevity: SCC: Calving ease: Temperament: Milking speed: Fertility:

+441 days –18 108 95 102 100

Conformation traits: 80 daughters in 67 herds 88



dairy strength




feet and legs


total score




chest width


body depth




condition score


rump angle


rump width


rear legs rear view


rear legs side view



foot angle




fore udder attachment


front teat placement


teat length



udder depth


rear udder height


central ligament


rear teat placement


Complete package Goli is the complete package, a high production bull with low somatic cell scores and is very easy calving. His daughters have exceptional longevity and are strong cows with great dairy strength and well above average body condition score. Goli sires daughters with shallow udders with high rear udders and a strong ligament. Teat placement and fore udder attachment are also good. You can use Goli on almost every cow. Goli is available from Avoncroft by calling Freephone 0800 7831880


c Vc o EETEE ow wm m aaLn n T aajg gaeenm mueean nrtti sj1 eu/ p2 nte2 e mb 02 00 91e 1r

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f it is critical for a modern cow family to prove itself in a commercial dairy setting, then the Gold family at De-Su is clearly successful with the high ranking proven bull Goli. De-Su Oman Goli was among the first Dutch tested sons of O Man, combining a high milk yield with good components, and Goli’s full sister confirms the transmitting abilities of the cow family. Just like Impuls, Fiction and Cricket, some of the other O Man sons at CRV in the Netherlands, Goli appeals when you are looking for high milk yields with good components and sound type.

Consistent producers Goli descends from an American cow family based at the commercial herd, De-Su Holsteins, which belongs to the Meyer family and is based in Iowa, in the US. “For four or five generations now, this family has consistently produced our top cows – quite an achievement in a milking herd of 1,200 cows,” says Darin Meyer. “They are really good commercial animals, just average size as two year olds, but they keep growing till they are four or five year olds. “They are very mobile with good fertility and they age well. And udder texture and teat placement are very good. But overall it’s just a very consistent family.” Interestingly the Gold family arrived at De-Su in the 90s in the shape of Kerndtway Lead Gretchen, a Leadman sister to Kerndtway Goldfinger. Full sister to Goli is De-Su Oman 6121 VG86, who has become a revelation in the breeding industry during the past year as, at the same time that her progeny proven sons arrived, her younger sons shot to the top of the genomic lists. Oman 6121 yielded 13,540kg of milk with 4.3% fat and 3.2% protein in her first 305-day lactation. The full siblings

De-Su Oman 6121 and Goli both are progeny of De-Su BW Marshall Georgia (sired by BW Marshall). Georgia scored VG88 at the age of six and she completed two enormous lactation records. Her first lactation amounted to an impressive 14,102kg of milk with 4.2% fat and 3.4% protein. Georgia is out of the very well-known De-Su Patron Gold EX90. In her second lactation, she was classified excellent. At the age of nine, she was again rewarded with EX90. Patron Gold achieved a lifetime production of 93,145kg of milk with 4.0% fat and 3.3% protein. When we look further into Goli’s pedigree, we find Patron Gold’s dam Kerndtway Lead Gretchen VG87 (s. Leadman), who produced more than 60,623kg of milk. By means of Secret daughter Kerndtway Goldust VG86 (lifetime yield of more than 42,000kg of milk), we finish up at Miss Milk-Key Gold Mine EX91. Gold Mine’s sire was Marshfield Elevation Tony. Like Patron Gold, Gold Mine was also capable of producing a lot of milk during her lifetime. She achieved a lifetime total of 94,823kg of milk with 4.0% fat and 3.2% protein in six lactations.

Breeding pattern All the production traits of Goli are high: high milk yield with high and positive components, resulting in a lot of kilogrammes of fat and protein. The sires in his pedigree are all high milk yield transmitters and low for milk contents, except for O Man. Goli’s production proof, therefore, bears a strong similarity to his sire O Man. Goli is very easy calving so is therefore an excellent choice for use on maiden heifers and his somatic cell scores are low. For daughter fertility and longevity he is in between O Man and BW Marshall.

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De-Su Oman 6121 VG86-2yr is Goli’s full sister

Goli daughter An 73, maternal grandsire Grandprix

are well covered as well. Here again, we see the influence of his grand sire BW Marshall. His great grand sire Patron also delivered excellent udders, which makes the mating of Goli’s cow family with O Man a perfect compensation mating for udders. You can use Goli on almost every cow. Suitable matings are, for example, matings with daughters of Goldwyn, Shottle, Canvas, Paramount, Switch, Onedin and Grandprix.

Kerndtway Goldust (Secret)

Kerndtway Lead Gretchen (Leadman)

Kerndtway Goldfinger (Wister)

De-Su Patron Gold (Patron) De-Su BW Marshall Georgia (BW Marshall)

De-Su Oman Goli (O Man)

This means that Goli daughters have exceptional longevity and average fertility. Goli sires tall, strong cows with a lot of chest width and body depth. With great dairy strength and well above average body condition score, Goli daughters show a lot of similarities to O Man daughters with a difference in De-Su BW Georgia VG88, dam of Goli

De-Su Oman 6121 (O Man)

Goli daughters

rumps – Goli transmits average rump angle, but with a lot of width. Here, we can see the influence of BW Marshall. A big difference with O Man is Goli’s great udder transmittance. Goli sires shallow udders with high rear udders and a strong suspensory ligament. Teat placement and fore udder attachment

Ardy van den Ham is milking two Goli daughters from the test period. And they do really well. Akke 94 VG85 is projected to complete a first 305-day lactation of 8,882kg with 4.31% fat and 3.47% protein after 276 days, while Joke 28 GP83 is projected to complete a firstlactation of 8,873kg with 4.54% and 3.50%. This results in a lactation value of 124 for Akke and 125 for Joke. “I am definitely going to use Goli again. My two Goli daughters perform really well with respect to production and type. I expect them to live for a long time,” Ardy says. Joke 29 is out of a GP+78 Grandprix dam. With her own score of GP83, Joke 29 scores a lot higher. Major improvements made are for frame and dairy strength. Akke 94 VG85 is also classified a lot better than her GP80 dam by Celsius son Amarillo. Akke 92 is now in her fourth lactation and is an average production cow with a VG85 udder. As a heifer, she was somewhat narrow in the front and lacked body depth. Her Goli daughter has, for a heifer, the desired width to the front and back with average body depth. And she has an even better udder (VG87). “The Amarillo dam has a low milking speed and bad temperament, but her Goli daughter has a much improved milking speed even above average, I have to say,” adds Ardy. l

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Fitting filters: are you using the right size for your milk volume? Page 20 World first: rotary robot powers up in Swedish parlour. Page 22

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Is your parlour fitted with the correct filter for your herd?

Put a sock in it! Bactoscans creeping up? Could it be a filter sock problem, which is clogging up your plate cooler and affecting milk quality? That was certainly the case on one Cumbrian unit. Read on to find out more. text Rachael Porter Edward Harrison and his correctly sized filter


ize matters – or at least it does when it comes to milk filtration. To help maintain a low Bactoscan and remove unwanted particles from milk prior to the bulk tank, it’s essential to have a suitably sized and well-maintained milk filtration system. “Milk filters are installed in the milk delivery line between the milk pump and the tank. They do not filter out bacteria or chemicals, but they do remove the small foreign particles of dirt, straw and paper towelling that would otherwise enter the milk tank and affect milk quality,” explains Dairy Spares’ Tim Evanson. Generally they do an excellent job. “But where herd size or milk yields have increased, filters may now have become too small to cope, and they can split or burst. This lets foreign particles through to the plate cooler where they can cause restriction, and also into the bulk tank, leading to higher Bactoscan levels and the possibility of milk price penalties.”

Filter options Producers have two filter options – reusable or disposable filters. Reusable filters are suitable for herds from 60 up to 250 cows, unless doubled up in a twin installation. Between milkings, they should be rinsed off and washed in specialist cleaning solution. And during the washing cycle, they can either be replaced with a special washing filter or exchanged for a clean set. “Prior to us, both the wash and milk filters should be checked for perforations, cleanliness and



CM04-special filters 20


restriction by milk stone build up. And they should be replaced annually or at the first sign of wear,” stresses Mr Evanson. For larger herds, he says that disposable filters are needed. These are housed in a stainless steel case and supported on a spring or cage. The filter can be a sock, in other words open at one end, or a sleeve, which is open at both ends. These socks/ sleeves are manufactured from cotton or bonded fibre, with the latter being available in many grades or strengths. Milk flows from outside the filter and into the centre through the sock/sleeve. The cage supports the filter from the forces of the milk flow, preventing it from collapsing. “Large modern parlours are usually fitted with compressed air purge systems to clear the delivery line of milk at the end of milking prior to washing. In these systems, filter socks need to be stronger – of 120g in weight rather than the standard 75g,” says Mr Evanson. “Apart from milk volume, one of the key factors affecting how soon a filter becomes full is the cleanliness of teats when the cups are applied. Weather conditions and the type of bedding used can also have an impact. “Removal of this surface material is affected by the pre-milking routine, with a wet wipe followed by a dry wipe being the most effective technique. So this can be an area to focus on if filters appear extremely dirty.”

pumps and larger delivery lines. “All this leads to the requirement for a larger capacity filter. “As a rule of thumb, the filter surface area for herds of up to 130 cows needs to be around 310cm², for up to 200 cows around 450cm², and for herds of up to 500 cows, around 1,200cm². A milk filter that was too small caused problems for Cumbrian producers

Too small He says that the larger the herd, the greater the volume of milk, and generally the higher the flow rate because bigger parlours have higher capacity milk


03-06-2011 14:47:07

Size matters: make sure your parlour’s filter can cope if you’ve increased herd size or milk yield

Clean reusable filters well between milkings

Edward and Graham Harrison, of Wood House Farm near Penrith. They are milking 320 cows, averaging 8,500 litres, through a 32-point rotary Fullwood parlour. However, the stainless steel filter was splitting the sock during milking, allowing foreign particles to partially block up the plate cooler. This not only reduced its efficiency, but it also put a strain on the milk pump. The problem was instantly resolved by simply replacing the filter with a large Emperor stainless steel milk filter and sleeve with a surface area of 1,200cm2. Graham realised the filter had been acting as a bottleneck holding back the

“Filter capacity is not greatly reduced for the next milking. “The milk filter is an often overlooked piece of equipment in the milking parlour, despite influencing parlour performance and having a direct impact on physical milk quality,” adds Mr Evanson. “So check that the size and quality of filter is adequate, particularly if herd size or yields have been increased since it was first installed. Always ensure a clean filter is fitted for washing. And if the filter splits or looks ‘stressed’ following milking, then a larger replacement must be an immediate consideration.” l

milk flow though the plate cooler. After fitting the larger filter he has also installed a larger plate cooler and Bactoscan levels have fallen by more than 10%.

Check size “Disposable filters should be changed just after milking and before washing, and then again at the beginning of the next milking,” explains Mr Evanson. In practice, however, the economic secondbest option is to replace the filter at the end of milking and before the wash cycle. The filter is then left in place ready for the next milking.

Filter check: can yours cope with your herd’s milk volume?


CM04-special filters 21


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03-06-2011 14:47:26




Automatic milking in rotary parlours

Revolving robot A robot developed for use in rotary parlours is making light work of twice-daily milking on one Swedish unit. Read on to find out more about how this innovative technology is freeing up time to spend on other vital areas of dairy management. text Rachael Porter


t may be a test phase, but it feels like the real thing for Stefan and Karin Löwenborg. A robot – DeLaval’s AMR system – has been milking their 300cow herd since April 2010 on their farm in southern Sweden. And since they began milking their herd using the industry’s first revolutionary automatic milking rotary they are now thinking about expanding cow numbers towards 500. “This piece of kit means that the repetitive days of standing on concrete in the pit for several hours are gone. Dairying is now a more desirable occupation on our unit. At least we’d like to think so,” says Stefan. He’s also impressed by the possibility of increasing cow numbers to up to 800 milkers with no extra investment in the parlour. “Our AMR installation is capable of milking up to 90 cows per hour and can operate for nine hours at a time, twice a day. And this comes without the need to hire new employees and make further financial investments,”

he adds. “We developed the system with large-scale producers’ needs in mind,” says DeLaval’s Andrew Turner. “That’s why the AMR is all about keeping costs down and working as effectively as possible. It ‘frees up’ producers to focus their time and energy on their own personal and business priorities rather than being confined by daily milking routines,” he adds.

Looking for UK farm And the company’s Bob Ellis agrees: “This lack of confinement also allows producers with large herds to have a life – it can hugely improve their lifestyle. It also removes the stress of finding and keeping good reliable staff to milk the herd. “The only manual task required twice a day is to move the herd to the collecting yard prior to milking – the robot does the rest. The herdsman or manager is then free to get on with other vital husbandry and management tasks and is only called back to the parlour if there are any problems.”

He adds that the system is compatible with most, but not all, DeLaval rotary parlours and that the company is looking for a farm in the UK to pilot an AMR. “So if you think you may be interested, give us a call.” Karin Löwenborg would certainly urge producers with a compatible parlour to give it a whirl. She thinks that the robot can also be a good way to attract and keep quality labour. “People who want to work on a dairy farm are interested in the animals, so if you offer them the opportunity to focus on that aspect of the job instead of making them milk all day your unit becomes a more attractive workplace,” she says. “And it’s also a fun job for those who enjoy working with technology and computers.” While there have been some challenges with the system along the way, since it is still a test installation, Stefan praises the help he has received from the company’s service technicians. “They have really been very supportive,” he said. “They can change components quickly if something isn’t working properly.” The Odensviholm installation has been part of a ‘pilot phase’, which is now close to the final stages of development and the first stages of commercialisation. “The robotic rotary is not just an innovative piece of equipment – it represents a completely new management system. We are focusing on making sure that the upcoming commercial installations can reap the benefits from this technology,” adds Andrew Turner. “We’re certainly reaping the rewards,” says Stefan. “We’ve got our lives back. And during the next few months, as we focus on areas of management that we’ve been unable to really concentrate on before, those business rewards will grow.” l

Revolving revolution: automatic milking in rotary parlours is now possible



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Valiant Milking Parlour.qxd:RISING FEED A3.qxd



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care products you in the parlour? They may appear cheap but some products simply don’t pull their weight in the parlour. For instance, our post dip Valiant Barrier protects teats for up to 12 hours - long after iodine has stopped working. And in tests it proves to be ten times more effective than iodine. Along with all other products in the range, Valiant Barrier provides an instant kill and is effective against a formidable army of bacteria*. If you are ever tempted to economise, just take care. 'Cheap' hygiene products are unlikely to be has hardworking as you or Valiant in the parlour. *Streptococcus uberis, Staphylocococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Coagulase negative Staphylococci, Prototheca zoopfi, MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhimurium, Vaccine virus Supported in Europe (Directive 98/8/EC) as a Veterinary Hygiene Biocide used for ‘Teat Disinfection’. Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

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The cost of reseeding must provide a reasonable return on investment

How does your sward grow? What’s your reseeding policy, what grass varieties should you be looking to use, and what are plant breeders doing to ensure they develop varieties to meet the nutritional – and management – demands of modern dairy units? text Allison Matthews


n recent years, the reseeding policy of many producers has fallen short. With a financial output of £388 per hectare it can be difficult to focus on the potential return on investment accrued by having more productive grass. In some more favourable areas of the country, producers have successfully improved production by growing forage maize or whole crop cereals. However, maximising production from grassland is widely recognised as the most cost effective way of improving profitability. For some dairy units, increasing costs may make them consider producing more feed on the farm, reducing overheads or producing more milk per cow or per hectare. David Johnston, a plant breeding specialist from the AgriFood & Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland explains how the efficacy of grass

Ley lines: grass silage quality can be significantly improved by reseeding



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is a topic that is under constant research and review. “With the objective of producing new forage grasses, which are high yielding and offer improved nutritional quality, the AFBI has made considerable investment in its grass breeding programme at Loughgall, Co Armagh. This programme, which is jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture (DARD) and Dutch seed specialists Barenbrug, has very extensive research facilities. AFBI-bred grasses such as Portstewart, Navan, Donard and Dromore are already very widely used on farms throughout the UK and Ireland as producers increasingly appreciate varieties which have been selected and thoroughly tested under local conditions.” Thompsons’ nutritionist Stephen Agnew explains the relevance of this research at a practical level. “An additional two

David Johnston: “Grass must now have a more positive effect on production”

Stephen Agnew: “Reseeding can increase silage digestibility by up to three units”

to three tonne of dry matter per hectare per year can be attained from new pastures compared to old. “And in conjunction with increased yield, new swards also enhance the palatability and nutritional characteristics of grass. This is often evident with the digestibility value of silage seen at between two and three units higher in reseeded swards. “This increased nutrient availability to the cow helps to drive up herd performance and overall profitability, and with the current level of production costs it is essential that producers optimise grassland management in order to maximise production efficiency.”

“As a result, a portfolio of new varieties from the our programme, such as Dunluce, Dunloy and the even newer variety Drumbo, all produce massive yields with improved digestibility throughout the grazing season.” “The benefits of reseeds are visible with excellent re-growth potential in April and the retention of quality in midsummer – a time when the grazing quality in old pastures tends to deteriorate. Nitrogen efficiency is also greater in new swards with the increased potential to convert nitrogen to grass dry matter. This is realised with nitrogen uptake and demand by new swards, which is significantly greater than old swards,” adds Mr Agnew.

Market-driven standards Every element of milk production is being put under a microscope. Grass is no exception and the elements that are expected of grass by producers have impacted on the research route taken by the specialists, such as Mr Johnston. “There has been an increasing pressure to ensure that grass has a more positive effect on production. This has forced our breeders to pay more attention to early spring growth, disease resistance, digestibility and winter hardiness. “Using laboratory techniques, grass has been tested for improved digestibility at every stage in the breeding programme and there has been a strong selection in favour of grasses that produce lower levels of re-heading in mid-season. Table 1: The costs of re-seeding

re-seeding spray off spraying plough power harrow and sow rolling grass seed lime (1 tonne assumed) fertiliser required total

costs per ha (£) 49.25 13.34 50.64 56.81 21.24 111.15 49.40 37.67 389.49

New technologies “The seed industry has also shown a strong demand for late-heading varieties that have improved spring production, so as to allow earlier turnout to grazing, but without the drawback of being excessively stemmy, which was associated with traditional varieties. “To fulfil this requirement, AFBI breeders crossed early producing grasses with late heading ones, ultimately selecting late heading varieties with better spring growth. The result of this work is the variety Tyrella, a late heading diploid variety with up to 30% more spring production than varieties with similar heading dates.” Research in the more fundamental aspects of plant breeding is being undertaken by AFBI, including the introduction of new technologies including near infra red spectroscopy, which is being effectively used to breed for improved nutritional quality and image analysis that is assisting with the work on better disease resistance. “Continued investment in the programme will ensure a steady supply of new grasses that can meet the ever changing demands of the dairy industry.”l


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03-06-2011 14:07:16

“Back to basics” approach is the secret to sustainable farming “The DMI, milk yields and Crude Protein have all increased in the silage, allowing us to change cake from 20% CP down to 18%, which has resulted in significant savings. Optimize Plus has kept the silage in a palatable, less acidic form which the cows can’t get enough of.”

Maximising the nutrient content of slurry and silage can significantly reduce expensive bought-in fertiliser and feed bills. David Holt of Knightshulme Farm, Cheshire explains his success with “back to basics” farming. David’s objective is to produce as much milk as possible from his 160 acres and substantially cut back on fertiliser, which he has achieved through applying bacteria to his slurry and silage. “I am still using the same fertiliser I bought 3 years ago and the grass last season grew more consistently and for longer than previously, which I put down to SlurryBugs,” exclaims David.

David adds “Introducing bugs to the slurry and silage has led to huge savings. Farmers that don’t have the courage to do what I did should treat their slurry and just try 20 acres with less fertiliser. It is possible to do as I did and cut back the fertiliser by 2/3rds from the start, you will never know unless you try.”

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Milk and manage a large herd without having to touch a teatcup with a DeLaval Automatic Milking Rotary (AMR) Spend more time with your family and let the cows milk themselves with a DeLaval Voluntary Milking System (VMS)

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Vet Steve Borsberry, from the Solihull-based 608 XLVet Group in the West Midlands, shares some tips on disease prevention and tackling health problems in dairy herds, drawing from his many years of on-farm experience. Here he takes a closer look at a painful eye condition.

Watch closely to spot painful eye disease early

The ‘eyes’ have it P

roducers should be vigilant for signs of New Forest Eye, or Pink Eye as it’s sometimes known, all year round and not just when cattle are at grazing. Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis can, contrary to popular belief, also occur at housing, although it is more common during the summer months, particularly in youngstock that are out a grass. Young cattle – both beef and dairy – tend to be most susceptible to the disease. Indeed older cattle seem to have some level of immunity against this highly infectious disease, which is caused by a bacteria – Moraxella bovis. It is mechanically spread, predominantly by flies, but I also believe that if cattle feed close together at the trough, flapping ears can transfer the disease from infected eyes to neighbouring animals. And for this reason producers can sometimes see an epidemic even in the middle of winter when there are no flies around to spread it. It’s an extremely painful condition – infected cattle will look miserable – and it usually affects just one eye, but occasionally it can be both. I’m surprised that both eyes are not infected more often as it is such a contagious disease. The condition starts off as an ulceration of the cornea and a watery, frequently blinking eye. If left untreated it can cause severe changes in the cornea and can lead to blindness.

The encyclopaedia New Forest Eye Cause Bacterial infection (Moraxella bovis) spread by flies and other direct physical contact between cattle, such as ear flapping.

Symptoms and diagnosis It’s essential to check cattle regularly for signs of the disease. Early signs are tear-streaked faces and partially closed eye lids. Animals may also blink excessively. An ulcer will develop on the cornea. It’s extremely painful and infected animals will look miserable.

Treatment Most antibiotics can be used

and if caught early treatment can be successful, in other words the animal’s sight will be saved. Antibiotic eye creams need to be applied between two and three times a day to be beneficial. But the preferred method of treatment is an injection of antibiotic into the eyelid, which can be tricky. Adequate restraint when carrying out this procedure is absolutely essential and it’s not for the faint hearted. A NSAID can also be administered by injection to relieve any discomfort.

Prevention Fly control may go some way to helping to prevent the disease on units with a known problem. And if producers know that particular fields tend to ‘harbour’ the disease then it’s wise to avoid grazing youngstock on them.


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Advice on making the most of liquid feeds

Harness liquid feed assets Liquid feeds have been popular with producers for many years. But with a range of blended products now being offered alongside traditional liquid coproducts from the human food industry, such as cane molasses and British beet molasses, choosing the right liquid feed is a challenge in its own right. text Rachael Porter




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rate of fermentation

e clear about exactly what you want a feed to do. That’s vital when looking at the specific types of liquid feed, according to KW nutritionist Richard Wynn. “For liquids, there are four main properties that need to be considered – binding ability, palatability, energy content and protein supply. “And you also need to be very clear about the true cost of the products, remembering to compare value per unit of energy or protein supplied, not just on a cost per tonne basis,” adds Dr Wynn. “Dry matter content can also vary widely – from 42 to 76% – and has a big impact on the ‘true’ cost, with some specifications quoted on a dry matter basis and others on an as-fed basis.” Liquid feeds are challenging some of the dry feeds available at the moment, in terms of their cost-effectiveness for supplying energy and protein. “And, as the cost of dry straights has risen, liquids are now able to stand alone and compete directly on price,” says Dr Wynn. “British beet molasses, for example, now costs around 15.5p/10MJ ME – cheaper than rolled wheat, at 17.5p/10MJ ME, and close to some of the most costeffective dry straights, such as sweet starch. “It means that in many cases ration costs can be reduced by replacing some of the expensive cereals in the diet with a good value liquid feed, and get the extra benefits absolutely free.”

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Richard Wynn: “Liquid feeds are now able to stand alone and compete on price”

Liquid feeds are highly effective in binding the different components in the ration together to help prevent ‘sorting’. It’s a problem that can substantially increase the risk of acidosis if the rumen doesn’t receive a fully balanced ration in each mouthful. Research carried out by Frank Wright Trouw, for example, found that ration sorting was a problem on 54% of the farms studied.

Prevent sorting “Cows digging ‘nose holes’ into the feed mix is an obvious sign of sorting and adding a liquid feed is an effective way to reduce that selection,” says Dr Wynn. “It’s also an important point for rations that are dry or contain a large amount of variable quality silage or cereals. Liquid feeds are often used to reduce dustiness and help to make the ration more palatable, thereby increasing intakes.” Increasing feed intake is probably one of the most common reasons for including liquid feeds and is a function of both increased palatability and improvements in rumen fermentation efficiency. The Figure 1: Rate of gas production maize silage

rate of fermentation


caustic wheat

rolled wheat

standard cane molasses

grass silage

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12 time (hours)




overall result is an increase in milk yield, with figure 1 showing how the rapidly available nutrients in liquid feeds help kick-start fermentation, particularly when added to diets low in rumen available energy. “It’s the ‘sugars’ or simple carbohydrate found in liquid feeds that supply the initial ‘burst’ of energy needed to get rumen fermentation started,” explains Dr Wynn. “The aim is to ensure that the rumen microbes have a constant supply of energy, and it’s often difficult to achieve this without a liquid feed. “In addition to this rapidly available energy, liquid feeds derived from the brewing and distilling industries contain yeast extracts that Trident research work has shown to stimulate rumen microbial growth. “It’s a benefit over and above the nutritional content, further enhancing fermentation efficiency.” Spey syrup, for example, is a co-product from selected Scottish whisky distilleries, so it not only contains high levels of protein (35% on a DM basis), but also has the majority of its rapidly available energy in the form of yeast cells.

Additional sugars When it comes to actually choosing a liquid feed, start by working out the main reason for using one. If it’s just straightforward dust suppression or preventing sorting within a ration, then small amounts of a standard low-cost liquid blend will be adequate for the job. “The only point to remember is that there are now some specific blends designed to match the protein content of balanced TMRs, so they can be added to

an existing mix with minimal need to change the overall ration formulation,” adds Dr Wynn. The main decision is then whether simple carbohydrates and additional sugars are required in the ration, or if there’s a need for extra protein or both. “Additional sugars are usually required where grass silage sugar content is low, or feeds like soya hulls are being used to supply digestible fibre rather than molassed sugar beet feed,” says Dr Wynn. “High performance dairy rations typically require a minimum of 7% rapidly available sugars and simple carbohydrates in the diet, with liquid feeds the most cost-effective way to achieve these levels. “Fed alongside good levels of starch, digestible fibre and structural fibre, it means that the rumen energy supply should be optimised without risk of acidosis. “The need for additional rumen degradable protein – the main type of protein in liquid feeds – is likely where large amounts of low protein silages like maize silage and whole-crop cereal silage are being fed. “In these situations, choosing a liquid that will supply additional protein will help to create a balance with the energy supply in the rumen.”

Improve palatability The final decisions then relate to palatability, and whether intakes need a particular boost, or if there’s a particular problem with any ration ingredients that need to be masked. As Dr Wynn explains, although all liquid feeds will generally improve the ‘taste’ of the ration and help to drive intakes, a number are either inherently more ‘tasty’. These include British beet molasses (high levels of ‘sweet’ sucrose) and spey syrup (‘malty’ taste), or contain flavour enhancers. For example, cane molasses-based blends are formulated specifically to contain flavours that will help mask less palatable feed materials, such as poorly fermented silages. “And regional availability needs to be taken into account,” concludes Dr Wynn. “British beet molasses, for example, is less likely to be available in Scotland due to higher transport costs from their point of origin in central England, with spey syrup from the Scottish distilleries less popular in the south of England for the same reason.” l

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Foxminster Holsteins take top spot Gold Cup day

Left to right: Colin Luther with his wife Barbara, his son Stuart and daughter Jacqui Dooker

The Luther’s Holstein herd, based in Poole in Dorset, has moved up 25 places into top spot in the latest NMR Annual Production Report. This herd, with 71 qualifying 305-day lactations, yielded 853kg of fat and protein and 11,771kg of milk. In second place is the Higgins family’s Wilderley Hall herd with an average of 852kg of fat and protein and 12,726kg of milk. Third place remains with Henry Lewis of Tack Farms, Herefordshire, with 847kg of fat and protein and 12,180kg of milk. The top Shorthorn herd is John Hayward’s from Nottinghamshire and the Tinker’s Park Head Herd from Yorkshire is top in the

Ayrshires. Little change was recorded in the Jersey and Guernsey breeds this year with the Mahon’s herd from Jersey and the Martel’s Guernsey herd from Guernsey remaining in top places. Nerewater Farm, Cumbria, moved into top place in the Friesian rankings. Leading the Holstein genetic merit rankings for the third year running is Grosvenor Farms’ Hatton Heath herd with a PLI of £90. Sharing second place, with a PLI of £79 are two Devon herds owned by A G Ludwell and W H Ley. All results are available to NMR customers on the NMR website using an individual password available from NMR on 0844 7255567.

Winners of the 2010 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup, Chris and Michael King, will host an open day at Two Pools Farm on Wednesday June 29. NML director Ben Bartlett will speak on Johne’s disease control. “An initiative has led to 600 producers carrying out 30-cow milk sample tests for Johne’s this year,” says Mr Bartlett. “This is a valuable starting point for a Johne’s disease surveillance and control plan. “Producers are becoming aware of the huge benefits of proactive disease control.” More details from the RABDF website.

Top daily yielders

Holsteins reach record yields

NMR’s latest listings of cows that have reached the 100-tonnes-of-milk milestone in March and April are now on the NMR website. Ranked on lifetime daily yield (LDY), the two top cows for March and April are from Nick Cobb’s herd, based in Dorchester in Dorset, and the third is from the Rudd’s herd, from Wigton in Cumbria. All three cows have completed their seventh lactation. The full list is published on the NMR website.

The latest Annual Production Report published by NMR for the year ending September 2010 shows that Holsteins have recorded their biggest increase in yield for seven years. The average is now 8,432kg of milk with 595kg of fat and protein. A small increase in somatic cell count (SCC) was recorded but the calving interval remained at

1 Chalclyfee Rudolph Ringitt EX91 – 101,177kg of milk, LDY 29.38kg/ day. 2 Chalclyfee Dante Enid VG88 – 100,156kg of milk, LDY 28.81kg/ day. 3 Cawsand Outside Debbie 11 – 102,734kg of milk, LDY 28.80kg/ day.

428 days. Both the Jersey and Ayrshire breeds recorded increases in average milk yield to 5,744kg and 6,640kg respectively. Contrary to trends in other breeds, the Shorthorns recorded a significant fall in average SCC and calving interval to 176,000 cells/ml and 397 days respectively.

New Nordic Star manager Nordic Star, one of the NMR group of companies that supplies ear tags for livestock, has appointed Rachael Ellis as product manager. A new post, Rachael is based in the Harrogate office but is responsible for the sales and marketing of the product portfolio nationwide. Prior to joining Nordic Star, Rachael spent seven years as customer sales

support manager for a medical company. “I’ve already visited some producers to get an insight into the strengths of the products from the end users,” says Rachael. “It’s clear that Nordic Star tags are favoured for their quality and retainability, value for money and for the customer service.”

Rachael Ellis, product manager Nordic Star

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

CM04-NMR news 33


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Good communication is key to successful staff and dairy business management

Stop, look and listen

It’s not just about managing cows any more. Larger herds with increased labour requirements means that dairying success depends heavily on people management skills. And even one-man bands have a ‘team’ – including their vet, nutritionist and any relief staff – to co-ordinate. So, what’s the secret to successful team management? text Rachael Porter


c Vo EETEE w c o mw aLn m T aajgn an eamg ueeanm rtei nse 1 t/ p2jtem u2 ne 0 0b9e2 r0 1210 0 9

CM04_ManagingPeople 36

03-06-2011 15:27:09


s your staff turnover high or does your herdsman lack motivation? Perhaps your team – comprising employees or otherwise – just isn’t gelling and things just aren’t moving forward. Well, believe it or not, it’s time to take a close look at yourself – and not your employees or support staff. “At the heart of problems, or indeed success, in managing a team is communication,” says LKL’s George Gordon. “It’s a core element to managing people – be they your own team of staff or people who you contract in to support the herd and business, such as the vet and the nutritionist.”

‘Soft’ skills Sounds obvious but a lot of people get it wrong – they’re not good at communicating. Yet the larger the herd and unit and the larger the team, the more important communication becomes – it’s vital. And for that reason, some investment in better communication is just as vital as success as investing in cow housing or a new parlour. “The good news is that it’s much cheaper – it costs very little or even nothing at all to become a better communicator,” says Mr Gordon. “And the really good news is that improving your ‘soft’ people skills can really pay dividends for your business. The benefits can be huge.” LKL runs a four-day programme for herdsmen and herd managers to help develop communication and leadership skills. And this is spread over several months so delegates can go back to their units and apply what they’ve learnt to practical situations and then come back to discuss how it went and learn from their peers. Improving and developing your communication skills starts with a selfassessment. How good a communicator are you? “Be honest and identify your good and bad points. Are you really a good listener? Are you assertive, or aggressive or submissive? “Once you know that, you can work on listening more and improving your people skills.” Listening really is vital, according to Mr Gordon. “It’s a skill that will get you a long way to getting the best from people and also helps aggressive and submissive ‘managers’ to become more assertive, rather than flying off the handle or avoiding problems and confrontation.” “Everyone assumes that good communication is about talking, but

George Gordon: “Improving ‘soft’ people skills can pay dividends for your business”

Charles Skelton: “Feed back is important, particularly if it’s positive”

really it’s about listening and responding appropriately. In other words, it’s about being assertive and leading your team in a professional manner. And it’s about negotiating solutions to problems on the farm and learning how to give praise and criticism in appropriate ways to your team. “And it’s up to you – the owner, herd manager or herdsman – to lead by example. If you listen to your staff or contractors then they will respond better to you. If you’re calm, fair and assertive then people will tend to mirror that behavioural style too. It’s a win-win. You ultimately have more chance of getting things done the way you want them done, with the team happy and working to a high standard.”

courses saying that their new skills and approach have helped on the domestic front also. “Farming can be isolating – for whole families and not just the people working every day on the farm. This can have a ‘pressure cooker’ effect and magnify every little niggle and problem. So listen – and communicate.

Personal relationships If communication is bad, things don’t get done, people get frustrated, relationships can become strained and staff leave. “It’s all too common. Someone, usually the manager, isn’t happy about how something is being done. But rather than deal with is assertively, they behave passively and store up their frustration – until everything comes to a head and results in an uncomfortable confrontation and an aggressive outburst.” “This isn’t good for staff moral – or the business. How can things settle and improve if staff come into the team and leave it through a revolving door? What’s needed is stability – a solid team with good rapport,” says Mr Gordon. “So think about your style of management and how you come across to other people and try to improve it – it’s not hard to make progress.” He says that most units could benefit from better communication: “Even where it’s already being done well, things can always be better.” The rewards can also extend into personal relationships, with feedback from those who’ve attended LKL’s

Team building Promar consultant Charles Skelton agrees – good communication is vital. “It’s the basis of good management, but it doesn’t always come easily to producers. They may be very good stockmen and excel at managing cows and the business, but managing people is a completely different ball game.” He says that he’s often asked for advice on sorting out staff issues and problems that, ultimately, stem from poor communication and team rapport. “And I can sometimes help, but it’s really down to the person in charge – be that the owner, manager or herdsman, to take control and lead by example. “I’ve worked as a herdsman myself and so I know that good, clear instructions are appreciated. Feed back is important too, particularly if it’s positive. A pat on the back costs nothing and can go a long way to boosting moral. “And remember that communication isn’t just verbal. Investing in some white boards and pens can be money well spent – even if they’re only used to pass on information to the relief milker about tubed cows or to leave reminders about other husbandry issues or tasks,” says Mr Skelton. It’s the small things that can really make a difference and help to retain and motivate staff and build your ‘dream’ team. Listening and communicating well will create an environment that people want to work in – they’ll be loyal and you’ll get the best from them. And you could close that revolving door once and for all. l

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CM04_ManagingPeople 37


03-06-2011 15:27:20

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InSire genomic selection CRV’s genomic selection programme success The first practical results of genomic selection in The Netherlands were published in CowManagement in March. A comparison was made between the August 2010 genomic breeding values of 64 InSire bulls and the December 2010 breeding values, including daughter information of these bulls. These first results were very encouraging for the reliability of CRV’s genomically selected InSire bulls. Delta Atlantic (Ramos x O Man)

Reliable data

With genomic selection, the reliability of a genomic breeding value for total merit of a new-born calf is already more than 60%, for production traits 70% and for longevity  more than 50%.  CRV  pre-selects more than 2,600 young bulls by using genomic selection and this means that a broad view is taken of the top bulls, with special attention given to variation in pedigrees. A selection of InSire bulls available to UK breeders follows. For full details call Avoncroft for free on 0800 7831880 From top to bottom: Delta Belfast (Ramos x Lightning) Delta Bonanza (Bertil x Ramos) Burton van de Ven-red (Twister x Shottle)

Now, following the April index run, CRV has compared the genomic breeding values of 160 bulls with their first-daughter proof. Once again the data shows that genomic selection by CRV is very reliable. There’s very little over estimation and out of the 160 sires, 110 bulls (69%) increased their NVI score compared to their daughter-based breeding value. This confirms that CRV uses a solid approach of estimating the breeding values by not using phenotypic information from bull dams.

Conservative estimates

Table 1: Black-and-white and red-and-white InSire bulls



black-and-white bulls Suarez Atlantic Content Bluejay Sunrise Emerald GoFast Bonanza Gravity Award rf Belfast Ammo Stan Boston

259 249 244 243 235 234 230 207 205 196 191 189 186 165

red-and-white bulls Camion Benjamin Asterix p Burton

223 216 192 112

On average the daughter-based breeding values in April 2011 are 13 points higher than the genomic breeding value of August 2010. The results also show that 69% of CRV’s InSire bulls have higher breeding values as proven bulls than their genomic breeding values indicated. This confirms that the genomic breeding values are conservative estimates. In short, the genomic breeding values of CRV’s InSire bulls are reliable estimates of their true genetic merit. Table 2: Average differences between August 2010 genomic breeding values and April 2011 daughter-based breeding values for 160 bulls

trait NVI kg milk kg fat kg protein frame dairy strength udder feet & legs longevity (days) somatic cell count


CM04-Avoncroft news 41

difference +13.2 +76.8 +3.5 +3.0 +0.2 +0.7 +0.1 +0.1 +20.5 +0.2

j u ne

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03-06-2011 14:08:15




Controlling and preventing disease can help to maximise milk from feed

Improving feed conversion efficiency Here, in the third of a series of articles looking at feed conversion efficiency, we explain why the parameter is set to become increasingly important for UK dairy businesses and how it can be improved. Topic 1: What is FCE and why is it so important? Topic 2: Breeding for FCE Topic 3: Health and FCE – a holistic approach Topic 4: Non-feed and management factors Topic 5: ‘Chemical’ and ‘physical’ ration factors


f you want high feed conversion efficiency you need healthy cows. So says vet Ed Powell-Jackson, from Somersetbased Synergy Farm Health. “Equally achieving high feed conversion efficiency and rumen performance can help promote better health so the two are inextricably linked.” “Anything that affects a cow’s health is likely to have an impact on feed intakes and milk yields. Sick or ailing cows don’t perform as well and don’t use feed as efficiently. And healthy cows will have higher dry matter intakes and so produce more.” Ed suggests this point is well illustrated by considering the impact of lameness. Lame cows are less inclined to walk and so are less likely to eat. And they will not want to spend time standing at the trough, or waiting for an opportunity to feed. “Problems around calving can have a huge impact in intakes and feed use. Infections such as metritis and mastitis will put cows off their feed. A difficult calving will reduce appetite for a while and problems like LDAs have a detrimental impact on feed intakes.

Health and efficiency There are many aspects of herd management that can influence feed conversion efficiency (FCE) and in this – the third in our series on improving this KPI – we take a close look at its close link with herd health and the important role played by vets. text Rachael Porter

liver plays a vital role in the utilisation of food and anything that affects the liver will reduce feed utilisation and FCE as feed is ingested, but not utilised,” says Ed. But in the same way that health can affect

feed intakes, FCE and yield, so diet will have an effect on health. He stresses the importance of managing the impacts of negative energy balance and body condition score and suggests that the aim must be to limit the extent and duration

Energy balance Recent research by NML confirmed that cows with Johne’s disease had considerable lower yields than uninfected cows. “It is also important to consider the impact on endoparasites, such as liver fluke. The Pasture perfect: cow health and FCE are inextricably linked



CM04-seriesFeedEfficiency3 42

03-06-2011 15:18:42

maintain high health status should be seen as a single exercise as they are highly inter-related. Low FCE can be used as an indicator of health problems in the herd,” stresses Ed.

Well-mixed ration

Ed Powell-Jackson: “Low FCE can be used as an indicator of health problems”

of early lactation negative energy balance so that cows get settled into lactation and start cycling again. He also urges the need to avoid excess body condition in late lactation and dry cows as this increases the risk of body fat mobilisation, which can precipitate fatty liver problems. “Perhaps the biggest impact of nutrition is on rumen health and the prevention of SARA and clinical acidosis. The rumen is the engine of dairy production and maintaining an optimal rumen environment is crucial. A well functioning rumen will digest feed more efficiently but can also play a role in prevent problems such as LDAs and laminitis. “Managing a herd to optimise FCE and

According to Keenan nutritionist Bruce Forshaw, there are two principle aspects of diet formulation that impact directly on rumen health and cow health and the objective must be to provide the correct chemical formulation in the optimal physical presentation. “It is essential that the cow gets all the nutrients she wants whether energy, protein or the vital trace elements – minerals and vitamins,” says Bruce. As well as ensuring adequate total energy and protein, it is important that the balance of rapidly and slowly digested feeds is supplied to ensure effective rumen fermentation. “But it is just as important to get the physical presentation of the diet right. Physical aspects of the diet such as forage particle length and diet density are crucially important as they affect the way a diet is processed in the rumen and how well the ingredients are digested. “The uniformity of distribution of

Antony Edwards (left), his mother Caroline (right) and Bruce Forshaw (centre)

different sized particles also has a huge effect. The better a diet is mixed before the cow eats it, the more quickly rumen fermentation will start. This is particularly important with small, dense particles.”

Improved intake One farming family to benefit from a focus on herd health and FCE is the Edwards family from Howley, near Chard in Somerset. The farm carries a herd of 90 MRI cows and since son Antony came back to farm with his mother Caroline two years ago the focus has been on increasing production and this has involved working closely with both the nutritionist and vet. They invested in a second-hand Keenan 140 diet feeder in 2008 and fitted the PACE system in May 2010. “We wanted to improve intakes and provide a more consistent feed,” explains Antony who feeds wholecrop pea and barley silage, grass silage and a blend through the feeder. “The other thing we have done is upgrade the parlour from a four-point abreast to an 11:22 herringbone. We have also stopped feeding concentrates in the parlour.” Ed Powell-Jackson now visits the herd monthly. “The changes to feeding have had big benefits, particularly the move away from slug feeding of concentrates and better diet presentation. “Herd health has also improved and calving interval is now close to 365 days. By getting more control over feeding we are seeing fewer fat late lactation cows. We have also tackled the fluke problem, which will have improved FCE.” Overall average daily yield per cow has increased by five litres per cow with no impact on reproduction or cow health. And FCE has risen steadily during the past year as well leading to improved margins. “There is no doubt that treating cow health and FCE as an integrated subject can lead to significant physical and financial benefits,” concludes Bruce. l


CM04-seriesFeedEfficiency3 43


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SHOWS AND EVENTS June 23-26: June 29: June 30-July 2: July 12-14: July 18-21: September 6-7: October 5: October 18: November 16: December 8:

Royal Highland Show, Royal Highland Centre, Newbridge Gold Cup farm walk, Two Pools Farm, Iron Acton, Gloucestershire National Danish Show, Herning (Denmark) Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate, North Yorkshire Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells, Powys Dairy Event and Livestock Show, NEC, Birmingham The Dairy Show, Shepton Mallet, Somerset Welsh Dairy Show Nantyci Showground, Carmarthen Agriscot, Edinburgh, Scotland Northern Ireland Winter Fair, Balmoral Showground, Belfast (N Ireland)

Working hard: Montbeliardes grazing and earning their keep Picture: Phil Eades


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

Editorial team Chief Editor Jaap van der Knaap Editor Rachael Porter Phone 01394 270587 E-mail Editing, design and production Veeteelt Contributing writers Phil Eades, Roger Evans, Allison Matthews, David Matthews, Marieke de Weerd 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

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


ADF............................................................23 Alta............................................................45 Ancotec......................................................34 ATL..............................................................6 Avoncroft/Thompsons..................................2 Batchelor Enterprises...................................39 Biotal..........................................................35 Boehringer Ingelheim..................................48 Boer, De.....................................................32 Boumatic....................................................18 Cowcare Systems..........................................6 DeLaval......................................................28 dp Nutrition..........................................34, 38 Durable......................................................34 Enviro Systems......................................28, 44 Farmacy......................................................40 Farmplus.....................................................44

FiveF...........................................................32 Genus...................................................24, 25 Impact........................................................40 Lallemand.....................................................7 Micron Bio-Systems....................................44 Milk-Rite....................................................32 Mueller.......................................................39 NMR..........................................................47 Paxton........................................................38 Pearson......................................................40 Regent........................................................44 Semex........................................................10 Spinder.......................................................38 VDK...........................................................34 Vervaeke....................................................28 Vetoquinol..................................................14 Westpoint...................................................40


F e e d i n g sp ecial July/August (July 14th) – We focus on feeding – both now and looking ahead to autumn. And we’ll also have our regular vet column and the latest instalment from Roger Evans.

Photographs by Veeteelt Photography.

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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CM04-contacts 46

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CowManagement June 2011  

CowManagement June 2011

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