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V O LU M E 10 N O 1 JA NU A RY / FE BR UARY 2012


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Tackle SARA once and for all

Our report on the latest bull proof rankings

Dairying as you’ve never seen it before 26-01-2012 14:15:35

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26-01-2012 10:38:58



Cow Talk Overalls off: Paraglider Veterinary practice: Schmallenberg virus NMR Dairy Management News Avoncroft Breeding Information/ Thompsons Nutritional News 46 Events and contacts 5 11 23 37 43

R eport 12 Cross breeding and on-farm processing are both key to the success of the Hayward family’s business


15 Roger Evans M ana g ement

16 32

New dairy database provides goals to aim for Planning – and heifer rearing – for the future of dairying in Ireland

B reedin g 20 Cross-bred bull benefits 44 December bull proofs

John Hayward “Shorthorns have a will to live, they are much easier to manage” 12

Editor Rachael Porter Resolutions Make this the year you get to the bottom of those niggling problems that are holding your herd back, or at least the ones you can do something about. Like sub-acute ruminal acidosis, for example. It’s not just milk yield that can suffer if rations are pushing up rumen pH. Health and fertility can also be depressed, along with your business’ cash flow and bank balance. So there’s plenty to gain by reading our article, which starts on page 6, even if it’s the reassurance that you’re doing everything right. Perhaps you want to take steps in 2012 to ensure your heifers calve at 24 months old? The feature on page 32 may be of interest. Or maybe you’re curious to know how your herd compares to others in the UK and want to push your business into the top 25%. A new dairy database could be just the thing you’re looking for. See page 16 to find out more about NMR’s InterHerd. There’s the latest information on a new virus that’s just been confirmed in the UK and some reassuring words from our vet columnist on page 23. Thinking of cross breeding? We’ve an article about a cross-bred bull, Reladon, on page 20. And we’ve a herd report on a unit that milks both Shorthorns and Holsteins on page 12. To brighten up even the dullest January day, we’ve our regular column from Roger Evans on page 15. He’s already thinking about grass and turnout. I’m sure he’s not the only one looking forward to some longer daylight hours!

Main article Acidosis

Special Maize

Herd report Russian mega herd




Some pointers on spotting – and tackling – a sub-acute ruminal acidosis problem.

We spoke to some experienced maize growers to find out why and how they do it.

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We visited a new dairy unit, complete with security guards and 16 robots.

J A N U A R Y / F ebruary

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26-01-2012 16:36:55


“The red and whites are defitively more placid, have a better temperament and their feet and legs are better. They can also hold their own compared to the black-and-white Holsteins in terms of milk production, often offering a plus on milk, fat and protein.” Mr. Weaver, dairy farmer at Villa Farm near Whitchurch in Shropsire

Three ‘red’ generations (from left to right): Beautiful-daughter Fatima, national Dutch champion Tulip daughter Flora and Andries daughter Florina

“Farmers can get outcross that boosts protein yield and some hybrid vigour by using red-and-white Holstein genetics. Moreover, they’re more robust, muscular cattle than their black-and-white counterparts.” Mr. van Goor, Head of Breeding Programmes of CRV

THE BEST IN REDS BY CRV: � OUTCROSS PEDIGREES � HIGH COMPONENTS* � GREAT BODY CONDITION � OUTSTANDING FEET AND LEGS � WORLDS LARGEST RED & WHITE PROGRAM * Red and white herd book cows in The Netherlands produce on average more than 28.000 kg in their lifetime with 4,55% fat and 3,58% protein!

Visit our global website to check if your herd needs some ‘red factor’. ALL SALES INQUIRIES: FREEPHONE 0800 – 783 1880


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30-11-2011 15:27:13 09:33:31 01-12-2011


Additives to protect rumen pH

Total feed costs can account for between 10ppl and 16ppl, so maximising feed conversion efficiency is vital, according to EM Effectivemicroorganisms’ Peter Townley. “We know that the rumen microbes work most efficiently when they produce acetic and propionic acids in the ratio of 3:1. But diets that meet the huge energy requirements of the modern cow require high levels of starch and sugar, which may lead to the production of lactic acid. This is 10 times stronger than the other volatile fatty acids,” he says. “Once the rumen gets into an acidosis ‘spiral’, the cow’s own buffering mechanisms can be overwhelmed, resulting in the rumen pH falling below 6. According to Mr Townley, one solution is to use a rumen buffer, such as Ostrea flour. “It has a large surface area and complex honeycomb structure and combines high availability in the rumen with a sustained action. “And its superior buffering ability –

150% more than sodium bicarbonate – means that it is able to maintain rumen pH in the optimum range of between 6 and 7 without causing an initial alkali ‘shock’, which can cause the rumen microbes to stall.” Producers struggling to maximise rumen efficiency and cow performance should also consider adding live yeast to rations, according to Biotal’s Roy Eastlake. “Additional fibre provides effective physical structure and helps reduce acidosis by promoting rumination and saliva production, but further help is advisable. Research shows that adding live yeast can be more effective than the traditional sodium bicarbonate.” The trial compared the effects of Biotal SC rumen specific live yeast with sodium bicarbonate on rumen pH and showed that supplementation with the latter was unnecessary when the yeast was fed at 1X 1010 cfu per cow per day. “Yeast tackles the cause, not the symptom, and reduces pH by positively stimulating the growth of cellulolytic bacteria and reducing acid production. In the trial, cows supplemented with Biotal SC had a lower average pH, spent less time with a low pH and had a lower pH peak. On all the main measures of pH cows fed yeast had a healthier rumen, resulting in higher yields and improved feed efficiency,” adds Mr Eastlake. See our article, which starts on page six, for more information on SARA and acidosis and how to optimise rumen pH.

Best foot forward! A pair of Bekina StepliteX Wellingtons are on their way to each of our three Christmas competition winners. Two, both from Wiltshire, are Jackie Bromwich from Pewsey and Thomas Cotton from Westbury. And the third is Joy Monk, from Camborne in Cornwall. They all voted for the March 2011 CowManagement cover, which was chosen as the overall favourite for the year by our readers. Congratulations to our winners. And thank you to everyone who entered the competition.


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Add a ‘spark’ to your herd’s winter ration

Philip Ingram: tap into ration potential

Adding the digestion enhancer Amaferm to cow diets can improve the use of this year’s silages and add as much as 2kg of milk to daily yields, according to feed company Provimi. “Early reports from this feeding season are that silages are not working as well as they should,” says the company’s Philip Ingram “While cows are eating well and intakes are good, the benefit is not being seen in the bulk tank, and the typical nutritional tweaks are not giving cows the ‘spark’ they need to get the milk flowing. “The problem, in many cases, is that cows are not getting as much energy from their forage as expected. Forages typically contain between 45% and 55% fibre and only about half this is digestible and available for milk production. There’s a lot of potential – in the form of energy – that still lies ‘untapped’ within forage. It’s likely that this year fibre digestion is low and, if it can be improved then the extra energy released could top up requirements and help improve yields in a profitable an efficient way.” Dr Ingram is drawing dairy producers’ attention to Amaferm, a feed additive and the only one registered in the EU as a digestion enhancer for dairy cows. Extensive trials have shown that it can improve feed efficiency and boost milk yields by making better use of the fibre portion in the diet. “The variable silage quality and its lack of ‘performance’ makes this an ideal year to include Amaferm in diets,” he adds. “It is a natural feed additive that works by unlocking extra energy from the fibre portion of the diet. “It provides specific rumen microbes with the nutrients they require to accelerate and increase fibre digestion. “The increase in the energy available from the cow’s feed translates into an increase in milk production,” he adds.


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26-01-2012 16:35:05



Ration mixing, additives and buffers, and mo nito

Is it time your herd to Sub-acute ruminal acidosis is costly and largely unseen. Here are some pointers on spotting the problem, as well as some tips on tackling it – once and for all – and reducing its impact on your milking herd’s and business’ performance. text Rachael Porter


linical acidosis is rarely seen in UK dairy herds, but the less severe sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) is common among early and mid lactation cows, according to KW nutritionist Richard Wynn. Unnoticed by many, he estimates that SARA could be costing the UK dairy industry £25m each year. “One of the challenges is that there’s little information on the actual incidence and the cost of SARA in this country, and that makes it much easier to overlook,” he explains. “Where figures are available from a range of feeding systems elsewhere in the world, multi-herd studies have shown incidences ranging from 11% to 26% in early and mid lactation cows. “A combined German and Dutch study in 2004, for example, found 11% of early lactation cows to be experiencing SARA, rising to 18% in mid lactation. And a 2008 report from Iranian farms using TMR feeding found the incidence as high as 28%.”

Fermentable rations There’s also the tendency to feed increasingly fermentable rations as yields increase over time. But unless alternative feed ingredients are used, or other actions taken, the risk of SARA increases. Even cows fed mainly grazed grass can be at risk, Trial work in Ireland with grazing cows fed low amounts of concentrate found rumen conditions were ‘normal’, in other words non-SARA, in only 47% of cows. “Based on these figures, it’s possible that 20% of early and mid lactation dairy cows in the UK could be experiencing SARA,” continues Dr Wynn. “And with DairyCo estimating 1.81m cows in the UK, that’s around 168,000 cows that could be losing around 1.5 litres/day to SARA, worth £68,000/day (at 27ppl) to the industry as a whole, and equivalent to £25m each year.” And the total cost is undoubtedly much higher once treatment costs and the impact on cow health and culling rates are taken into account.



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mo nitoring are all key to controlling condition

d took the ‘acid’ test? Ration roulette: don’t leave it to chance. Check your ration and your cows regularly for indications of SARA

SARA is implicated in reduced fertility and a higher incidence of lameness, along with an increased susceptibility to mycotoxins and pathogenic bacteria. These can all result from an acidic rumen environment. In addition to depressed milk yield, the main symptoms of SARA include poor cudding, loose dung, variable and low feed intakes, poor fibre and grain digestion (indicated by quantities of either in the dung), and sometimes low butterfats. Correctly formulating rations to produce the right balance of energy release in the rumen is the first step in helping to keep SARA under control. But just as important is accurate and thorough ration mixing to ensure cows actually eat the planned ration. Recent data from Frank Wright Trouw indicates that only 15% of rations are actually consumed as formulated, with 73% of farms failing to mix the ration correctly and 54% showing signs of cows sorting out the finer feed ingredients (usually the concentrates) in preference to longer chopped forage. “It’s also important to be aware of ration changes that could increase the risk of acidosis, such as inconsistent use of different silage cuts, or maize grains becoming more digestible as time in the clamp increases,” adds Dr Wynn. “Pay close attention to the chop length of straw to minimise sorting (aim for 5cm), and include a moist feed or liquid feed if rations are dry or unpalatable. Both will help mask unpalatable feed ingredients, bind finer particles to the forage and promote consistent intakes. And make sure the ration contains enough structural fibre to stimulate rumen function and promote cudding. This is essential to ensure good production of saliva.”

PAL scores If forage fibre levels are low, or silage potential acid loading (PAL) scores high, Dr Wynn recommends adding extra chopped straw to the ration, as well as switching some of the energy to digestible fibre feeds like sugar beet feed and soya hulls. If starch is needed, use slower release sources like maize meal or caustic soda-treated wheat (sodawheat), and take care if feeding concentrates in the parlour – the high intake rates mean less saliva is produced per mouthful, creating less buffering in the rumen. “And if the risk of SARA is high, include a rumen buffer to help stabilise rumen pH,” he says. “A live yeast can also be added to enhance rumen function, but where SARA is occurring the combination of both a rumen buffer like Acid Buf


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26-01-2012 16:19:23



Alkalising product is a useful tool for tackling SARA Home-grown farm feeds specialist FiveF has developed an ‘alkalizing’ complementary compound feed product to help producers control winter acidosis. When added to damp forage sources, AlkabupHa rapidly releases ammonia to neutralise excess acid in the diet. The company says that including it in the diet will improve rumen performance and boost dry matter intake, as well as contributing extra protein and macro minerals. “High quality, well fermented grass and maize forages often produce high levels of lactic and other fermentation acids and this is very challenging nutritionally for the cow,” says the company’s Malcolm Graham. “But by feeding this product they can now produce diets with much lower underlying acidity and ‘kickstart’ a chain of events that will improve animal performance and health.” The alkaliser is actually 90% protein, but also contributes significantly to the

and a live yeast, such as Vistacell, is important. “Many KW customers are now routinely using a combined yeast-plus-buffer Tom Halton: keeping a close eye on his cows and their ration

calcium and magnesium requirements of the animal. “Its formulation ensures excess acids in the diet are quickly turned into ammonium salts, which are then metabolised as a highly effective rumen degradable energy and protein source. This improves rumen function, as well as helping to reduce the requirement for high protein feed ingredients like soya and rape meal,” explains Mr Graham. He adds that the amount of the feed additive required depends to a certain extent on the pH, moisture level and fermentation acid content of the dietary forages. “But in general terms, the ideal feeding level will be between 500g and 1,200g per cow per day. The maximum recommended amount is 1,500g per day with other animals rationed pro rata to feed intake, body weight and acid load risk. “It is simply mixed into the ration like any other feed ingredient and can be

product, such as Vistacell AB, throughout early and mid lactation, with the typical 1.5 litre/cow milk production response worth around 40p/day. For a cost of just 11p/cow/day, that’s a great return on investment, not accounting for the other benefits such as cow fertility, health and longevity.”

Sub-clinical signs The ‘fuel’ going into Tom Halton’s cows was too rich and although a serious acidosis problem wasn’t obvious, the sub-clinical signs were there. “We saw the odd cow with ‘bubbling’ muck, but the big give away was the fact that the cows simply weren’t milking as well as they should have been on the ration that we were feeding them,” he says. With the advisory support that comes with being part of the KW Compass Programme, Tom set about tackling the sub-clinical acidosis problem in his 600cow herd, based at Rode Farms near Congleton in Cheshire, with help from nutritionist Michael Marsden. “We took a close look at the ration and the cows. We examined mix quality and now ensure that the straw is incorporated properly. We add it to the mixer wagon first and at the end of mixing it’s chopped to the length of a short pencil, which is


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J A N U A R Y / F e b ruary

Malcolm Graham

fed out immediately. The acid load reduction effect will develop over a couple of hours at the feed barrier.” The net cost of using the alkaliser is between 5p and 15p per cow per day, after allowing for the underlying protein and mineral value it contributes to the diet. “And this is before the benefit of any increased forage and feed intakes are factored in with regard to both performance and overall health,” adds Mr Graham.

ideal. It’s not too short so it provides the ‘scratch factor’, but it’s not so long that the cows can ‘sort’ the ration either. And we also add a yeast product – Vistacell – at a rate of about 50g per cow per day.” Cows also have free access to tubs of bicarbonate of soda: “The cows’ uptake is a good indicator of how the ration is performing and whether or not SARA is rumbling in the background. Cows will eat more of it if there’s an acidity problem. “So when we see that happening, we take another look at the ration and the cows,” explains Tom. Today the cows are looking well and Tom says that he’s seeing the milk yield and performance that he expects to see from the TMR. “The cows are cleaner too. They tend to swish their tails a lot if they’re suffering with SARA, which flicks muck up on to their backs. So again, we do keep a close eye out for dirty cows.” He stresses that there’s no one solution when tackling acidosis and SARA. “We’ve taken a combined approach – looking at the ration’s structure as well as its ingredients. “Monitoring is also vital too and this means watching the cows, their ration, their muck, and milk output.” l

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27-01-2011 10:37:39

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26-01-2012 10:49:39

O V E R A L L s

Name: Location: Number of cows: Hobby/sport:


Neil Brown Staffordshire 130 Paragliding

Neil Brown: “It’s good to get up there and get away from it all”

Gliding ‘high’ text Rachael Porter


eil Brown is one producer who really knows how to put his ‘problems’ into perspective – usually when he’s several thousand feet above his farm. Paragliding is his passion when he’s not grounded on his 130-cow unit, based near Seighford in north Staffordshire. It all started in 1995 during a holiday in Tenerife – that’s where he saw a couple of people paragliding close to his resort – and he decided there and then that he wanted to give it a go. He’s since been back to Spain to paraglide, but most of his airborne adventures are UK based these days. Parts of Wales, Shropshire and Derbyshire are regular paragliding destinations for Neil. And he also has a motorised unit so he can take off from his farm. “I prefer gliding, rather than using the motor, as it’s so much more peaceful and relaxing. But taking off from the farm is the next best thing and it’s good to get up there and get away from it all. It’s a real high.” He can travel as far as 100 miles at altitudes of up to 11,600 feet (more than two miles up) with the motor, reading air maps and riding the thermals along the way. “You really have to concentrate on what you’re doing – there’s no margin for error – so it’s a great way to unwind and forget about work and the day-to-day grind. And there’s not a moment to think about his fear of heights either. “Once you get above 200 or 300ft, you seem to forget that you’re up in the air. It’s not like climbing up a tall ladder – you don’t think about falling,” explains Neil, who some people may remember was featured on the BBC’s Countryfile programme back in 2009. Training was essential before he took up the sport – a course lasting between eight and 10 days is required before you can fly solo. And there are additional, advance pilot courses too, such as air map reading. “It’s important to take these courses to stay safe and to maximise your enjoyment.” He says that despite first impressions it’s not a dangerous sport. “The worst I’ve had in 15 years is a twisted ankle and a bruised wrist from a bad take off. The gliders themselves are incredibly strong and there’s virtually no chance of them failing mid air.” Where you land can be problematic, however. Neil once found himself in a secret military compound that was not marked on his – or any other – map. “I landed on the brigadier’s lawn, of all places. There were a few awkward questions and a red-faced chief of security. But they saw the funny side and were impressed at how far I’d flown to get there. The base was somewhere in Bedfordshire, which is about 150km away and I’d broken a motorised gliding record. I think I even had my photo taken with the brigadier to celebrate!”

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J A N U A R Y / F ebruary

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Three-dimensional herd is central to an integrated family-run business

Dairying in 3D and adding value

The Hayward family Cross breeding and onfarm processing are both key to the success of this well-known family unit, where both Shorthorns and Holsteins are milked. Herd size: Expanding to: 100-tonne cows: Average yields:


which breed reins supreme and why good longevity – the 127 240 six 8,500kg and 10,000kg


ohn Hayward’s Hooton herd of pedigree Shorthorns is renown throughout the UK, with cows and heifer regularly gracing – and winning – in the show ring. But did you know that his family-run unit also has a Holstein herd, is leading the way with cross breeding and has on-farm processing? With sons Matt and Chris on board, the mixed herd, which is based near Tuxford in Nottinghamshire, is also producing top-quality heifers, has recently invested in a new milking parlour and is now looking to expand cow numbers from the existing 127-cow herd – a 60:40 split of both Holsteins and Shorthorns – and they’re all pedigree. The Holstein herd has its own prefix – Hootonex. John admits that he’s a Shorthorn man: “I try to be loyal to both breeds, but my real passion is with the Shorthorns. When I first started dairying I had no intention of milking Shorthorns, but I inherited some from my parents and the whole thing grew from there.” He says that there are notable differences between the two breeds, which are easy to see when they’re milking side by side in the same herd and particularly when they are recorded separately. “The big advantages with Shorthorns are their health and fertility traits – they’ve a will to live. They’re much easier to manage than the Holsteins.” Matt says that the breeds are contrasting. “The Holstein has a will to milk, but can be fragile when it comes to health and fertility. The converse can be said for the Shorthorn and the trick is to use the best



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We visited a mixed Shorthorn and Holstein herd to find out

result of sound health and fertility – are allowing the family-run business to make the most of strong heifer prices. text Rachael Porter

genetics to breed a cow with good health and fertility, as well as plenty of milk. And we’ve managed to do that time and time again with our cross-bred cows.”

Separate recording John says that there is about 1,500kg difference in average yield between the two breeds – the Holsteins currently average around 10,000kg and the Shorthorns around 8,500kg. In fact the Hooton Shorthorns topped the NMR annual production ranking for the breed in 2011 and, interestingly, the breed is the only one that saw somatic cell counts

and calving interval fall in 2011 and it also has the lowest scores for these parameters of all the recorded breeds. The breed average for somatic cell count is 178,000 cells/ml and the calving interval stands at 399 days. It’s a true reflection of the breed’s tendency toward good health and fertility, according to John and the secretary of the Shorthorn Cattle Society, Frank Milnes. “A similar SCC and calving interval trend was seen in 2011 in Shorthorns in the US and again it was the only breed to see a reduction, as opposed to an

Hooton Fairy Duchess 31 EX96 – the highest classified cross-bred cow in the country


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Red factor: Shorthorns perform well along side Holsteins. In many ways the two breeds complement each other

increase. Milk from the Hooton herds is predominantly bottled on farm. John and his wife Ann set up the bottling enterprise 20 years ago and today it’s grown to the point where it consumes 60 to 70% of the herd’s output. A full range of milks and creams are sold locally, to power stations, old people’s homes and other similar establishments. Milk is also sold to two local ice-cream makers – Blytons and Thaymars. This side of the business is Chris’ domain now. Matt focuses on the cows, with John very much at the front end as far as breeding is concerned.

Cross breeding John is also into cross breeding, within the Shorthorn herd, using red Holstein and Swedish Red. And he’s pretty good at it. He bred the highest classified crossbred cow in the country – Hooton Fairy Duchess 31. She was classified EX96 – the highest for her breed – and she gave 13,000kg in her latest 305-day lactation, at 4.3% butterfat and 3.3% protein. “I was one of the first breeders to use red Holsteins on my Shorthorns and one of the first to use Swedish Red. Today I’m using predominantly red Holstein and Shorthorn sires on my Shorthorns. And I’m looking for type.

“If type is right then they should be able to milk well – and for many lactations.” Longevity is certainly good across both breeds. In reply to the question of average age, John jokes that it’s too high: “That’s why we have so many heifers to sell – we don’t need them all as replacements.” He has six cows that have broken through the 100-tonne production barrier, including two Shorthorns.

Parlour investment Large volumes of milk and long milking times prompted investment in a new Westfalia 16:16 herringbone parlour, which was installed in November 2010 with computerised feeding, conductivity testing and yield monitoring. “We’re looking into the possibility of installing an automatic heat detection system, possibly later this year,” says Matt. This parlour replaced a 30-year-old 6:12 herringbone. “Milking was taking eight hours a day. “We’ve slashed that to just four hours with the new parlour and there’s spare capacity to cope with the proposed increase in cows.” The figure in mind is between 50 and 60 extra cows for the first phase of expansion, with a view to a second phase

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that will push numbers up to between 230 and 240 head of milkers. “We’re looking at about five years before we’re milking those kinds of numbers – we’re in no great rush,” says John. “We’ve a new shed to put up first – loose housing for all the young stock, dairy followers and beef cattle.”

Heifer sales At the moment the business is focused on selling freshly calved surplus heifers, with an in-calf heifer selling recently for £3,200. Holsteins are sold at Beeston and Shorthorns are sold at the twice yearly Shorthorn Society sale at Chelford. “Prices are extremely good at the moment, so we’re in no hurry to expand. Things are going well financially and long may it last. We’re just focusing on keeping a tight rein on costs,” adds Matt. The plan is to grow the business’ bottling enterprise in line with herd expansion and to also sell a little more to the two local ice-cream makers. “We’ll be looking to push our ‘brand’ a little more when cow numbers increase,” says Matt. “In our experience, if the price and the milk quality are right then people will buy our milk.” l

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Shropshire-based producer and award-winning columnist Roger Evans insists that size is everything when it comes to breeding the best cows for a grassbased system. And he reveals that he has two friends.

Size matters A

friend of mine was telling me that the bulls he is choosing to use on his cows now will be expected to drop the height of his heifers by 13 centimetres. This intrigued me. It intrigued me so much that I got out a tape measure to see just how much 13cm is. It’s about two or three hands on a horse, which is a strange analogy for me to use because I know about as much about horses as I do about metric measurements. Still intrigued, I looked in some semen brochures and, if you have a good look, there aren’t many Holstein bulls that will do that. Most bulls are ‘plus’ for stature. But why is he looking to make his cows shorter? Possibly because, like me, he sees a dairying future based on smaller, livelier, more active cows that can get out and graze effectively. And because, like me, he sees that as the only way forward if family farms are to have a sustainable future. We will all see, or have recently seen, figures that show that chasing cow yields with purchased feeds is not the way forward and probably hasn’t been for some time. Like it or not, we must all look to get more milk from forage and grazed grass. We are not talking about marginal benefits here – we are talking about the possibility of £200 a cow profit. And that’s just by using what we can grow on our own farms to better effect. On this farm with 180 cows, well, you can easily work that out and, just as easily, work it out for your own herd. If our farm was suitable we would go down that route, but we don’t have enough land around the parlour, or what they call a ‘grazing platform’. We have identified two difficult points in our farming year: dry weather in mid to late summer and poor cow housing in the winter if there are too many cows in milk. So we are hoping to move towards milking 200 cows, producing the same total volume of milk, with a large group calving from February onwards. This will give us two months with fewer cows in the buildings and another group that calves in September, which will be dry in those two ‘arid’ summer months. It’s not a true grazing, all-in-milk-all-out-of-milk system, but we are going to do what we can. So what sort of cow do we need? Well, she needs to be competitive and ‘busy’ and, if she only has to produce 6,500 litres, she doesn’t need to be that big. Which brings us back to where we started and the issue of cow size. If I can’t work out how my friend found a Holstein bull that would reduce his cows’ stature by 13cm then it’s possible that you can’t either. But we can look elsewhere. We can use British Friesian; we’ve got a half-grown bull calf up the yard. We can cross breed, we’ve done that. I’ve got another friend (yes, that’s two friends I’ve got) who has some Shorthorns. He advertised two bulls and could have sold nine. And all to people with Holsteins who had never had a Shorthorn before. Ironically we are faced with going in the opposite direction to that which our native beef breeds have had to go. They had to increase size, but reducing it can be done a lot quicker.

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J A N U A R Y / F e b ruary

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26-01-2012 11:55:12


‘Real-time’ data provides targets worth aiming for

Goals to go for Many of the targets quoted to producers are yawn-inducing – unrealistic and questionable as to their real value. What is now proving far more realistic – and grabbing producers’ attention– is actual comparisons drawn from the performance of 25 individual parameters in 500 herds. text Karen Wright

James Hanks

ow in its second year, data collected from a cross section of 500 commercial dairy herds with NMR monthly records has been gathered and analysed by PAN Livestock Services at the University of Reading. It is now being put to practical use to compare the performance of milk buyer groups, adviser groups and individual herds and it looks at ranges – top and bottom 25% bands for all 25 parameters including production, fertility and health. “It’s a very current and representative large-scale sample of commercial dairy herds in the UK,” says James Hanks from Reading. “It gives a true picture of performance and, in particular, the scale of difference in each parameter. As the data sources and calculations are

identical for each herd we are creating a level playing field so true differences show up.” Speaking at the British Cattle Breeders Conference in January, Dr Hanks reported emerging trends from a subset of 359 herds that were included in both the 2010 and 2011 database studies. “Looking at just a few, we can start to see an increase in culling rate but a drop in calving interval in the top and bottom 25% bands. And cell counts have dropped slightly, as has the proportion of cows with more than 200,000cells/ml and chronic high cell count cows. “The data are going to be increasingly valuable to the industry over time but the comparisons with individual herds are already stimulating discussion and

Figure 1: Example herd performance compared with targets from 500 herd study to September 30, 2011. Note – target is the value achieved by the top 25%. The range is the difference between the top 25% and the remaining 75% of herds. Arrow indicates herd’s performance in past three months Room for ‘worrying?’ ‘improvement’ ‘excellent’ (T) ± (R)




(t)arget ± (r)ange


cull/death rate (%)

21 ± 11


% cows calving sold or died within 100 days



% cows served 80 days after calving

59 ± 26


% cows pregnant 100 days after calving

33 ± 17


calving -1st. service interval (d)

82 ± 37


calving interval (d)

408 ± 28


age at first calving (y)

2.2 ± 0.4


conception rate (%)

37 ± 13


% service intervals 18-24 d.

38 ± 15


% service intervals >50 d.

20 ± 19


milk/cow/year (kg)

8,953 ± 1,283


average protein (%)

3.33 ± 0.13


average fat (%)

4.12 ± 0.27


305-day yield (kg)

8,515 ± 1,555


average SCC

158 ± 91


% SCC >= 200

18 ± 11


% chronic SCC >200



% dry period cure (H-L)

80 ± 14


% dry period protection (L-L)

90 ± 10


CM01_NMRFeature 16

progress,” adds Dr Hanks. “For each parameter we focus on the level achieved by the best 25% of herds. This level, currently achieved by one in four herds, is set as a realistic and achievable target. We also look at the figure that 75% of herds achieve to indicate the difference between “good” and “poor” performance.”

No excuses “Using the current performance of herds is so much less controversial than figures quoted by some expert committee or consultant. Telling a producer that his herd’s cell count is 250,000cells/ml usually generates excuses but little reaction. But saying a herd’s SCC is in the bottom 25% nationally is far more effective and leaves less room for excuses.” It’s this range in performance that should prompt producers to find out where their own herd sits. Dr Hanks quotes the latest figures on age at cull – a good indicator of longevity – which shows that cows in the best 25% of herds Figure 2: Spread in somatic cell count in 500 black and white commercial dairy herds for the year ending 30 September 2011

herd somatic cell count (0,000)


650 600 room for improvement worrying? 550 excellent 500 450 249,000 400 350 158,000 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 herds 1 to 500

2 0 1 2

27-01-2012 16:21:35

Herd strengths The data are now being used directly by NMR’s InterHerd+ dairy management program where producers, their vets and advisers can benchmark herd performance for each parameter against those of the 500 study herds, as shown in Figure 1. “They can see just where they are for each parameter and work out the strengths and weaknesses in their own herd.” And Dr Hanks emphasised the importance of seeing so many parameters. “No herd is top or bottom across the board,” he added. “If we look at a broad range of parameters then it’s usually possible to mix positive with negative messages. Being able to tell our producer that, in contrast to the herd’s poor SCC performance, the level of heat detection is in the top 25% of farms is equally important. The producer feels good for

being recognised for heat detection and, hopefully, somewhat embarrassed about the SCC performance. “Producers should know where their herd is ‘excellent’ or where there’s ‘room for improvement’ or where the level is ‘worrying’ for each of the parameters. Then it’s a case of discussing the reasons and prioritising areas that warrant intervention.” Sometimes there may be a justifiable reason for the herd not being in the top 25% for a particular parameter – or the investment in time and money to get there may not be worth the possible gain in performance. Taking one parameter – cell counts – Figure 2 shows the range and possible ‘achievement’ bands for somatic cell counts for the year ending September 2011. “What’s important is that the information is visible and performance is discussed so producers can prioritise their management.” Dr Hanks and his team have already compiled data for other breeds as well as the Holsteins and these can be viewed on www.

There will be some good and poorer performance parameters in each herd

Good practice Thirty two herds in the Coombe Farm Milk Pool, supplying organic milk to Waitrose, are already using the database to provide targets and ranges for each herd. It has also compared cell counts of the milk pool herds with the 500 herds in the study, as shown in Figure 3. “This shows how well Coombe is doing as a group,” says Dr Hanks. “None of their herds fall in the bottom 25% and many are in the top 25%. This means that they can demonstrate to Waitrose that their overall performance is good and currently improving. Where individual herds within the Coombe group are performing poorly there is an element of peer pressure that provides an incentive to improve.” Figure 3: Herd SCC’s of 32 Coombe farms (orange lines) compared with the 500-herd sample 500 herd sample


400 350 herd somatic cell count

average 7.5 years of age or older when culled while in 25% of herds the average age at cull is below 5.9 years, a difference of 1.6 years. “This is a huge difference and one that should make advisers and producers reach for their own figures to see just how they are performing.”

300 250

best 25% <158,000

median 203,000

worst 25% >249,000

200 150 100


1 11 21 31 41 51 61 71 81 91 101 111 121 131 141 151 161 171 181 191 201 211 221 231 241 251 261 271 281 291 301 311 321 331 341 351 361 371 381 391 401 411 421 431 414 451 461 471 481 491 501 511 521



CM01_NMRFeature 17


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26-01-2012 11:01:38

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26-01-2012 11:57:52


In recent years the popularity of cross breeding has increased

Using cross-bred bulls gives half the hybrid vigour

Cross-bred bull benefits With Montbeliarde, Holstein Friesian, Brown Swiss and MRI blood in his pedigree, Woeste Polder Reladon is immediately interesting. And interest in cross-bred bulls appears to be increasing in many other countries. text Annelies Debergh


n three months Woeste Polder Reladon achieved a place in the top 10 of the most sold bulls in The Netherlands. Such

popularity generally doesn’t arouse any interest. But it’s different in this case, because

with Reladon – as a son of the Montbeliarde bull Redon and Fitlist daughter Woeste Polder Anoeska 30 – it involves a true cross-bred bull. On a farm visit to producer Jack Houbraken, CRV product manager Jan Hiddink and CRV classifier Marc Cauwenberg happened to track down the cow family of Reladon. Jan admits that the demand for cross-bred bulls comes from the market and is the driver behind CRV’s work with cross breds. “There are still three cross-bred bulls in quarantine at CRV.”

Breeding decisions

Woeste Polder Reladon, a true cross-bred bull

Jan is not surprised that the use of a cross-bred bull such as Reladon has shot up in such a short period of time. “I think that a number of producers are searching for different blood lines,” he says, pointing to the hybrid vigour and the high protein inheritance of a bull such as Reladon. “That happens because cross-bred bulls often appear to have good conception rates. That also plays a part.” In recent years the popularity of cross breeding has increased. Xsires’ Hans Kerkhof says: “We import bulls of different breeds into The Netherlands that are suitable for crossing with Holstein cows. “We keep all crossing breeding plans open and which plan the producer uses



CM01_AvoncroftFeature 20

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26-01-2012 12:10:09

Jack Houbraken: “Another Fleckvieh half brother of Reladon into AI” For 15 years Jack Houbraken has been crossing with other breeds. Fleckvieh, Brown Swiss, Montbeliarde and MRI are the breeds that, alongside the traditional Holstein, have a chance in his herd. “The pure Holstein was too milk focused,” explains Jack. “By crossing with other breeds you gain in fertility, strength, and feet and legs. Udder quality also increases. The shape of the udder can vary, but the quality is usually better.” To correct the faults of an individual cow, Jack chooses a matching breed, so for bull mother the VG88 Woeste Polder Anoeska 30 (62% Holstein, 25% Brown

Swiss, 12% MRI) a Montbeliarde was chosen. “Anoeska 30 really could not be bettered.” So he points to her feet and leg score of 91 points. In her fourth lactation the Fitlist daughter achieved 11,444kg of milk with 4.77% of fat and 4.15% of protein and she produced 33 good embryos from two flushings. “The high protein is bred in this cow family. With Montbeliarde bull Redon I wanted to support the protein.” Redon son Reladon also has a place on this unit. “The first calves from him have now been born.” Meanwhile a son

of Van Anoeska 30 with Fleckvieh bull Imposium left for CRV’s breeding programme.

depends on the herd and the unit.” At Xsires, cross-bred bulls don’t fit in. “Cross-bred bulls go against every theory of hybridisation. So you don’t achieve the maximum effect of hybrid vigour and return for the cross. There is also concern about the spread of the descendants of cross-bred bulls.” With the use of cross-bred bulls the hybrid vigour effect does apply, albeit to a lesser extent than with a totally different breed. Gerben de Jong, head of the Animal Evaluation Unit at CRV, confirms this.

“In Denmark the top bull is a cross bred. But Kian and Sunny Boy are actually not pure bred.” The New Zealand branch of CRV, CRV Ambreed, has experience with testing cross-bred bulls. Of the 120 bulls tested each year, 10 have both Holstein and Jersey blood. “By using a cross-bred bull you still get 50% of the hybrid vigour,” says Peter Berney, referring to the popularity of cross-bred bulls. Peter is marketing manager in CRV Ambreed. “These bulls are used particularly by producers who want to profit from hybrid vigour, but don’t have the time themselves to make the optimum crosses between breeds.” Cross-bred bulls owe their popularity to their good fertility results. “Because you are using bulls on cows that have a low relationship score with the bull, you

often see the fertility results are high. The results are very good, particularly with cows with a high inbreeding score. Because of the grass orientated farm management, a year between calvings is the aim and good fertility scores are very important here.” Peter is positive about the final breeding results. “In New Zealand 25%, on average, of the top 30 bulls are cross bred. “These top bulls often have 75% Holstein blood and 25% Jersey blood. Bulls with a higher percentage of Holstein blood do have better breeding results.” He says that the disadvantage of working with cross breeds is the great variation in offspring. “The spread is often large. There are very good daughters, but also offspring that clearly perform below expectations.” l

Hybrid vigour “With a bull with 50% Holstein blood and 50% blood from another breed you get half the hybrid vigour effect. The advantage with some Holstein blood is that you have to allow less for characteristics such as productivity. The producer does gain the advantage in the area of fertility, life expectancy and other figures.” Jan also says that the use of cross-bred bulls fits in with the tendency towards bigger farms. “With the increasing number of milking cows, producers are looking for cows that are easy to manage.” Then the aspect of simplification in the breeding comes into play. “Producers are now often using eight or nine breeding bulls, but that is also changing. I am already seeing farms with 300 milking cows that are still using two bulls. We shall see that more in the future. In that case it can be two or three Holstein bulls, but also a Holstein and a cross-bred bull.” The phenomenon of crossing is not new. The dairy cattle sector is the only one in which crossing rarely occurs, says Jan.

Fitlist daughter Anoeska 30, dam of Reladon

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CM01_AvoncroftFeature 21


26-01-2012 12:10:26

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Cattle vet Ed Hewitt from the Ayrshire-based Armour Vet Centre, which is part of the XL Vet Group, takes a timely look at health and welfare issues that impact on dairy herds across the UK. In this issue he tells us what there is to know, so far, about a new virus that could pose a threat to UK herd health.

Don’t panic, just keep a close watch over imported stock and their calves

Virus threatens fertility R

eports of a new virus that affects cattle are not a signal to panic, but producers – particularly those who have recently imported stock from The Netherlands or Germany – should keep a watchful eye for symptoms. Since the summer, both the Netherlands and Germany have reported outbreaks of Schmallenberg virus – a vector-borne disease in cattle and sheep, with clinical signs such as fever, reduced milk yield (up to 50%), loss of appetite and condition and, in some cases, diarrhoea. More than 160 beef and dairy herds were affected in The Netherlands and although the cattle recovered in a matter of days, there have now been reports of foetal abnormalities and spontaneous abortion. So its impact on fertility and milk yield are the big worry here. The virus was isolated in a UK lab in late January and, as CowManagement went to press, the disease had also been confirmed in four sheep flocks in eastern England – in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Producers need to be aware of calves born between summer 2011 and now and report any abortions and deformities. This is not a notifiable disease in the UK. But producers should be vigilant and inform their vet if they think they see Schmallenberg virus symptoms. Stillbirths, malformations or nervous disease in newborn calves or foetuses, born to imported animals, should be sent for screening to the AHVLA.

The encyclopaedia Schmallenberg virus Cause


The cause is thought to be a vector-borne virus, spread by biting flies and midges.

There’s no treatment for this virus and cows recover in a matter of days.


The risk to UK herds

The symptoms are poor appetite, increased temperature and a drop in milk yield. Cows appear unwell. In newborn ruminants and foetuses, suspect cases are considered to be cases of limb and brain defects, shortening of the hamstrings, deformation of the jaw, or newborns with paralysis, neurological disorders, exaggerated movements or blindness, feeding difficulties and poor balance.

As the virus is thought to be vector borne – like Bluetongue – the risk of spread at this time of year is negligible. During the vector season, however, the risk level is likely to rise. This will depend on what the vector is and its distribution. It is also difficult to quantify the risk of introducing the disease into the UK through imports of cattle. But given the numbers of recent imports during the risk period, and the current distribution of the disease in northern Europe, it is a real possibility that disease will be found in the UK cattle herd. The risk of spread is difficult to quantify until the full epidemiological characteristics of the disease are known.


CM01_VetColumn 23


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26-01-2012 12:01:38


The Essential Elements of Winter Dairy Rations Take the quick dairy survey. Tick if you answer yes to any of the questions: • Feeding maize-based rations? • Feeding brassicas in the diet? • Poor calf vitality? • Too many retained placenta? • Poor conception rate? If you answered yes to any of the above, read on to understand how you can boost your herd performance Getting dairy cow feeding and management right can mean the difference between profitability and loss; and getting it right means taking into account a whole host of factors and paying attention to the smallest details. If you were to sit down and take the quick survey above, chances are you might tick one or more of the boxes. Maize silage and brassicas are useful components of a winter dairy ration but maize, for example, is known to be generally short of important trace elements such as selenium and cattle fed brassicas have four times the dietary requirement for iodine. So tick the top two, and you might also be ticking the boxes below. That’s because iodine, selenium and cobalt supplementation is essential in the run up to calving and service. While dry cows are sometimes treated like the ‘poor relation’ when it comes to feeding, they actually need close attention, believes James McCulloch, of Agrimin. “Ensuring over-wintered dry cows are getting not just the right nutrients but also sufficient trace elements plays a vital role in calf viability. Dietary deficiencies in trace elements like selenium and iodine can severely affect newborn calf viability; iodine deficiency in particular can also raise the risk of stillborn calves,” says James. Agrimin 24.7 Iodine.Selenium.Cobalt is specially designed for intensive dairy animals at drying off and in dairy heifers three months pre-calving, as well as suckler cows in copper sufficient areas. Just one 160g bolus, easily administered, supplies the

animal’s full daily requirement of each essential trace element for 180 days, giving real peace of mind. “Agrimin 24.7 Iodine.Selenium.Cobalt is an ideal choice for dairy cattle where additional copper supplementation is not needed, an important consideration as many rations now oversupply copper to dairy animals. The bolus lies in the reticulum and gradually erodes, giving a consistent supply of trace elements, helping ensure easier calvings, strong, healthy calves and optimised conception rates,” says James. “Analysis of forage samples will help determine the trace element requirements for the herd and help guide what supplementation regime to adopt. Recent analyses of silages made in the 2011 season in Wales, for example, showed selenium levels of 0.05 mg/kg DM – a long way short of the desired level of 0.10 mg/kg. “Low selenium status can also compromise the iodine status of cattle, which in turn increases the risk of poor viability of newborn stock. Brassicas contain low levels of iodine and can contain high levels of goitrogens which are substances that interfere with the take up of iodine in the body, thus suppressing the function of the thyroid gland,” warns James, who adds that low levels of iodine and selenium can also compromise cattle fertility, with knock-on effects for getting cows back in calf later in the season. “We have worked with a number of dairy farmers who have been struggling with calf viability and vigour, as well as issues with getting cows back in calf. Where trace element deficiencies have been the cause, our sustained release boluses have made a dramatic difference not just to calf mortality rates but to calving index and subsequent yield performance in those cows.”

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CM01_p26.indd 2

26-01-2012 12:06:31


First-hand experiences: we spoke to some seasoned maize growers to find out which varieties theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re growing this year. Page 28

CM01_SpecialIntro 27

26-01-2012 11:46:49



Maize growing producers from across the UK share their experiences

Words of maize wisdom We spoke to some experienced maize growers, based throughout the UK, to find out how they select the best variety to grow on their unit. Read on to see if you can pick up a few pointers that could help you to navigate your way through the maize-growing maze. text Rachael Porter

Looking for yield and quality For the Symms, of Rookery Farm near Tarporley in Cheshire, increases in hectares, cows, slurry storage and milking capacity are all part of the investment that is creating the opportunity for son Stuart and his family to earn a living alongside his parents David and Rosemary. Underpinning the expansion of the 180-cow herd to 220 head (by autumn 2012), is a focus on forage production, with increased maize yields an important part of the strategy. With the structure of the enlarged business taking shape, the aim is to maintain a healthy Holstein herd, with emphasis on longevity rather than pushing for the highest yields, and with

as much milk as possible coming from forage. To this end, the farm grew more maize in 2011 than ever before and – in a year when maize crops in the area were variable at best – achieved an estimated yield of between 42 and 45 tonnes/acre. “We grew 20 hectares of Troizi in 2011, drilled at the end of April and harvested before the end of October,” adds Stuart. “We follow the recommendations of BCW, who supply our maize seed, which included the application of nitrogen in the seedbed and pre- and post-emergence herbicides. It’s fair to say that this combination of variety choice and best practice delivered a bumper crop when many others in

David (left) and Stuart Symms (right) and BCW’s David Harris, with Troizi in the clamp



CM01-special farmers 28


Name: Location: Herd size: Maize area: Variety grown:

The Symms family Cheshire 180 20ha Troizi

the area struggled. Our harvesting contractor certainly reckoned ours was the best crop he’d seen that season,” he adds. The family plans to grow a similar area of maize in 2012 and are definitely sticking with the same variety. “It really was an exceptional crop – like no maize crop that we’ve ever grown before,” says David, who would recommend the variety to other producers with a similar soil and aspect. Forage maize contributes 50% of the winter ration and is also buffer fed through the summer to provide a consistent supplement to grazed grass. This is particularly important as the Symms are incentivised through their milk contract to produce as much milk protein as possible. Maize is now followed by Italian ryegrass, drilled into the stubble, to provide out-wintering for the replacement heifers. This is proving to be a very successful policy, keeping the heifers significantly healthier and helping towards a consistency of diet that ensures good conception rates. With maize ground being rotated around the farm, there is ample opportunity to establish new grass and clover leys, which are also key to producing as much milk as possible from forage. Aber High Sugar Grasses feature strongly in the mixtures, with hybrids grown with red clover for silage, and diploid perennials with white clover more commonly used for grazing.

2 0 1 2

27-01-2012 10:05:23

Managing maize after maize Growing continuous maize on relatively heavy land presents its challenges, but with 270 milkers reliant on the crop for half their forage ration Cheshire-based producer David Brown needs to ensure reliability in his cropping. Sub-soiling before ploughing – whenever

necessary – is a key action, according to David. He grew 45ha of the high-feedvalue variety Utopia in 2011 after it outyielded other varieties at New Dairy Farm, Elton, in 2010. David balances applications of farm yard manure with potash in the seedbed and

Harvesting high-feed-value maize variety Utopia

Maize did well in a poor growing year An extremely experienced maize grower with 20 years of experience, Clwyd Williams selects the varieties that he grows on his unit, based on dry matter yield, starch and earliness. In 2011 he grew 16 hectares of maize, made up of between four or five different varieties, of which five hectares were Acumen – a new early maturing variety from Limagrain and supplied by Wynnstay.

“It was the first year that I grew it and it was a difficult maize growing year, but it did really well – I was very impressed. It had higher yields than the rest and a better cob on it – which is where the starch comes from – and that’s important when you’ve 160 cows to feed,” he says. Clwyd says that maize grows fairly well on his land, although the drought at the start of the growing season was a problem: “And it would have certainly held back

Clwyd Williams is pleased with the performance of maize variety Acumen on his unit


CM01-special farmers 29

Name: Location: Herd size: Maize area: Variety grown:

David Brown Cheshire 270 45ha Utopia

nitrogen applied post emergence to the growing crop as well as ‘down the spout’. Typically one post emergence herbicide application is sufficient. The overall strategy continues to work, with the 2011 crop ultimately performing very well. Others in the area succumbed to the combination of a dry spring followed by a lack of warmth and sunshine in the summer, according to David. “This was the 15th consecutive year of maize on this ground,” he adds. The target is to grow a crop that at between 30 and 32% dry matter is not, according to David, too dry. This compacts well in the clamp and will keep for buffer feeding the herd, which is currently averaging 9,800 litres.

Name: Location: Maize area: Varieties grown:

Clwyd Williams Ruthin in Denbighshire 16ha Acumen

yields a little bit. I can’t wait to see how it does this year in what I’m hoping will be slightly easier growing conditions.” Maize is typically drilled at the beginning of May on sandy grade 2 and 3 land, but last year good weather enabled them to drill in mid-April. “It emerged quite quickly and got off to a good start, but then we were without rain for several weeks and it just didn’t move.” That said, once the rain came, the crop took off and he still managed to harvest on October 14. The newly released 2012 NIAB Descriptive List for forage maize includes three new high yielding LG varieties from the Limagrain UK breeding programme: Vivacity, Garland and Acumen. All are early maturing and deliver high yields of starch and/or energy. This year the NIAB List does not classify varieties by maturity. Growers will only have dry matter percentage as a guide to compare the earliness of varieties. So, to give growers an indication of the earliness of the new LG varieties, the company is supplying its customers with a guide to maturity class.


2 0 1 2


27-01-2012 10:05:37



Plastic plans and conventional success Maize is a vital forage crop for Garlieston-based grower Peter Simpson, providing sufficient home-grown feed for his 490-cow herd. He’s in a marginal area and, after 10 years of growing the crop, not only is he pushing up his maize hectares, but he’s also going to grow some under plastic for the first time. Maize ‘stacks up’ for Peter Simpson

“I did try to grow maize in the late 1990s, but it just didn’t work out. I tried it for two years, but the varieties weren’t quite so well developed. “Then I gave it another go in 2003 and I haven’t looked back since.” For him, growing maize is all about maximising the amount of home-grown feed at the unit. “Maize allows me to do that – I can double crop as my conventionally grown maize is sown after a cut of grass silage is taken in early May,” he explains. This year that maize crop will be 40 hectares of Destiny – an early maturing variety that he’s grown before and is extremely happy with. And a further 33 hectares of Acumen and Award will be sown at the beginning of April under plastic. “If we have a good growing year, I’ll be looking to harvest that crop early – hopefully in mid September – and then I can sow some winter wheat behind it,” says Peter. He adds that it will cost around £222/

Earliness – without loss of yield Andrew Norris and his family have been growing maize on their 350-cow unit for the past six years and key for him is earliness – but without loss of yield. Each year Andrew selects two or three varieties: “I’m always looking for a variety to better the best one that I grew in the previous year, so I run my own little trial, for want of a better description,” he says. Karimbo took the top spot for yield and quality on the unit last year, out performing Kentaurus, which is the biggest selling ultra early (the numberMaize silage should have ‘bulk and quality’



CM01-special farmers 30

three variety in the UK in terms of sales), and Kougar. He grew 26 hectares of Karimbo, 10 hectares of Kentaurus and four hectares of Kougar. “And I’ll be sticking with Karimbo this year until I can find something to match it or better it,” he says. “I’m looking for quality and bulk – I think most growers are. It’s a happy medium. It has to have energy to justify the cost of carting it. If not, it works out cheaper to buy in concentrate. So we’re looking for a good balance.” He says that for a poor growing year, he saw a good crop: “Yields were down about 10%, but it could have been a lot worse.” He planted in April in what he describes as good conditions. “The seed was 100mm down in the soil, but in just two days it had emerged and was 25mm above the soil. It grew another 50mm, and then the weather turned cold and it didn’t move for five weeks. But it all came good eventually.” Pre- and post-emergence herbicides are applied, but that’s about all. Andrew also harvests when the plant in completely dried out and dead. “The soils are good here and we can harvest


Name: Location: Maize area: Varieties grown:

Peter Simpson Dumfries & Galloway 73ha Destiny, Acumen and Award

ha to sow under plastic and he’s looking for quality from his maize and good dry matter. “We do struggle a little up here with grass silage dry matter levels. So I want more than 30% dry matter from my maize and also a starch yield of more than 30%.” Peter’s also fairly confident about this year’s crop. “2011 was by far the worst growing year we’ve had since we started with maize. Figures from SAC Crichton Royal showed that in July, August and September we had half the hours of sunlight that are seen in a typical year. “Yet we still managed to produce a good quality crop. Yes, yield was down considerably. But the cost per tonne of dry matter was still viable. The figures do stack up for maize – even in marginal areas.”

Name: Location: Maize area: Varieties grown:

Andrew Norris Lancaster 40ha Karimbo, Kougar and Kentaurus

as late as November. We harvested in December in 2010 with no problems at all,” he adds. Mid-maturity class is what he looks for. “We don’t have the growing season up here that they have in the south of France, so that’s as late as we’ll go. We did grow under plastic once, but it was too expensive and didn’t really give us much in terms of growth or yield benefit.” The family takes its maize growing advice from Agrovista’s Maurice Spence – he’s an invaluable asset when trying to grow maize in a marginal area. “It’s an important crop and makes up a fair proportion of the herd’s forage ration. We are quite reliant on it, so getting some expert advice is essential.” That said, he’s growing Karimbo again, no matter what, and also some Kentaurus. “As well as a new variety, KWS UK’s Ramirez, under Maurice’s recommendation. So we’ll see how we go with that.”

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Planning – and heifer rearing – for the future of dairying in Ireland

No quota? No problem Forget the 2012 Olympics, producers in the Republic of Ireland will be forgiven for being more focused on 2015 when milk quota will be eradicated. We spoke to the regional winner of a national calf rearing competition to find out how their plans for a quota-free future are shaping up. text Allison Matthews


ith an estimated cost of £1,377 to rear heifers to calving at 24 months, with £732 coming from total variable costs and £645 from fixed costs, the financial impact of rearing heifers to join the herd each year is huge. Economics aside, Hillsborough’s Agrifood and Bioscience Institute has shown that properly grown (good body frame but not fat) heifers, when calved at between 23 and 25 months of age,

have a greater lifetime yield and better subsequent fertility than larger heifers. In 2015 milk quotas will be removed in the Republic of Ireland, so how does a producer prepare for the inevitable situation where expansion will be rapid and investment continual?

Heifer rearing There are two ways to reduce the replacement costs per litre of milk

Nial Tallon and Stephen Agnew have the background of Tallon’s farm

produced – either by increasing the lifetime yield of the cow or reducing the costs of rearing. With ambitions to bring 100 heifers into the herd each year as replacements, producer Nial Tallon,

A pasteuriser has prevented milk wastage as quota levels are exceeded


c Vco EETEE ow wmmaa LnTnaajgg an eemm ueari enntt s1J ep /A 2Nt U2 eA m 0R 0b9 Yer / F e2 b0 r0 u 9 ary

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26-01-2012 12:14:49

From day five to 14, calves are fed pasteurised milk twice a day

from Ardcath in County Meath, explains the strategy for achieving a sustainable future for the family business. “With the goal of increasing cows numbers from today’s 470 to 500 head by the end of 2012, the aim is to get heifers calving at 24 months old at a target weight of between 580 and 600kg. This challenge has been embraced during the past three years with the introduction of once-a-day milk replacer, and more recently the investment in a pasteurisation system for cows’ milk. “This has allowed excess milk to be fed to calves due to the over-quota situation we have in the Republic of Ireland. We’re selling 7,100 litres per cow each year, with 525kg of milk solids, at the moment and are aiming to increase production to 7,500 litres with 570kg of milk solids,” he adds.

Nutritional assistance Dry cow nutrition must be considered before calving and particularly within the final 60 days of gestation, according to Nial. “Easier calving and the birth of healthier calves are the basis to getting calves off to a good start and onto our calf rearing system. Our current practice of feeding calves has proved essential in reducing the labour requirements at farm level. “Calves are fed three litres of their mother’s colostrum within the initial six hours of birth and a further three litres within 12 hours. Up until day four, calves are fed their mother’s pasteurised milk twice a day. From day five to 14,

calves are fed pasteurised milk twice a day.” At this point calves are moved onto a once-a-day feeding system where they receive four litres of milk. This is a combination of pasteurised milk and once-a-day milk replacer added at a rate of 50g per litre. This additional supplementation ensures the calves nutritional requirements are met under a once-a-day feeding system.

Rumen development Calves are allowed free access to calf starter pellets from four days old and are then moved onto calf weaner pellets at three weeks old. Nutritionist Stephen Agnew explains the impact of these nutritional decisions. “This is crucial as the starch, fibre and protein sources available in these compounds will allow for the stimulation of rumen micro-organisms and fermentation to occur. These factors help to enhance rumen development and consequently weaning weights, improving a heifer’s chance of calving down at 24 months.” Weaning is carried out at between 56 and 60 days old. Calf weaner pellets are fed until three months, at which point heifer rearing nuts are introduced at a rate of 3kg per day, plus ad-lib straw. This year straw has been replaced with maize silage, which has been well received by the calves so far. With calving taking place from January 1 to May 30, and September 1 to November 30, it is essential that an

adequate number of heifers are calving down at 24 months to fit this robust spring- and autumn-calving system. “Targets of 0.7kg per day live weight gain pre-weaning and then 0.8kg from weaning to calving need to be achieved to fit this system,” says Nial. “We have recently made breeding decisions that have improved longevity. The intention is to bring 100 heifers into the herd as replacements each year. Excess heifers, including those not calving in synchrony with the rest of the herd, will be sold to generate more income,” he adds.

The future “The aim of our business is to be as flexible as possible post 2015 as milk price will be market driven. Volatility will be a major issue as milk prices are likely to boom and bottom out as markets change. “Market pressure has led to the restructuring of milk sales, with the business now being paid for kilogrammes of milk solids. Having the ability to supply a better quality product with improved traceability and hygiene will be paramount to future progression,” says Nial. “The ability to adapt the business rapidly to economic changes is vital. Either by maximising production through increased feed rates in the parlour, or conversely by utilising grazed grass when the milk price is poor. “When this is combined with potential heifer sales we have the opportunity to continue and build on our success.” l

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CM01_ThompsonsFeature 33


26-01-2012 12:15:02

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27-01-2012 10:41:07

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26-01-2012 12:58:08


Genus takes on Silent Herdsman The electronic heat detection system, Silent Herdsman, which has been available in the UK exclusively through NMR for the past two years will now also be available through Genus ABS. “Genus ABS sees Silent Herdsman as a complimentary service to our existing technical services range of products,”

says Matt Nightingale, business unit director for Genus ABS. “Silent Herdsman is a useful addition and supports our commitment to providing fertility solutions for producers through our Genus Technical Services division. Genus ABS staff are already inseminating more than one million cows a year in the UK through the AI, AI Plus and RMS services and support producers through a number of other fertility services.” Silent Herdsman is recognised as being one of the most advanced heat detection systems available for dairy and beef herds. It uses robust collars, each of which has a processor that continuously monitors and analyses all motion behaviour in 3D. It passes information, wirelessly, to a farm PC 24/7. Using a touch-screen monitor, staff can detect cows on heat through changes in behaviour very easily. It is already being used very successfully in UK herds with results frequently showing heat detection rates in excess of 85%.

Example herd – Johne’s historical data

percentage infected


J5 (high risk)

J4, J3

J2, J1, J0 (low risk)

80 60 40 20 0 Yr1 Q1 Yr1 Q2 Yr1 Q3 Yr1 Q4 Yr2 Q1 Yr2 Q2 quarter

The latest list of NMR recorded cows producing 100 tonnes and ranked on lifetime daily yield (LDY) is now published. A full list is on the NMR website, but here are the top three for November 2011: 1 Maurward Pamela 35 from the Kingston Maurward College herd, Dorchester, who gave 112,078kg of milk in eight lactations and has a LDY of 31.08kg. 2 Alkerton Rrd Juliette from Alkerton Green Farm, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. She produced 104,892kg of milk in seven lactations and has a LDY of 28.93kg. 3 Sindles Snowball 9 from A G Lambert’s herd, Stockbridge, Hampshire who gave 103,608kg of milk in six lactations and has a LDY of 28.69kg.

Full colours

Herdwise history Johne’s disease test results, past and present, recorded through the Herdwise surveillance service are now available through NMR’s Herd Companion website. The site provides a graphical representation of the number of ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ cows within the herd and the trends from one group to another. “This is a powerful report for producers and vets, allowing them to use sound data to modify control regimes and

Long life and milk

minimise the transmission of the disease,” says Herdwise manager Steve West. “Monitoring these results shows the effectiveness of a Johne’s control programme – ideally showing an increase in the proportion of green cows. Historical data for individual cows shows up the disease profile of the animal immediately. “However, it is important to remember that changes in calf management will not be evident in terms of disease results for several years due to the slow antibody response within infected animals. And heifers born after a management change would need to be producing milk for several lactations before antibodies are likely to become evident. “Herdwise is now used by more than 700 herds. One milk sample a quarter from each cow – in many cases the sample collected through routine NMR milk recording – is screened for the Johne’s antibody.”

Nordic Star has introduced new coloured tags and ankle straps to assist herd management. “Producers have requested these so they can identify particular cows more easily such as any Johne’s cows,” says Nordic Star’s Rachael Ellis. “We have now launched a range of eartags in red, blue and white and ankle straps in red, blue, orange, yellow and green.” They are available from Nordic Star on 0800 731 9465 (or 01423 851361 from a mobile phone). Nordic Star has also produced a video on ‘Best practice for tagging calves’ that can be viewed on its website at

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

CM01_NMRNews 37

J A N U A R Y / F e b ruary

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27-01-2012 09:32:10


Farit Rakhimovo In 2009 Farit Rakhimovo built a completely new dairy unit with 16 milking robots. In 2012 he is going to double the size of this unit, bringing his total investment to ÂŁ30 million. Number of cows: Annual milk sales: Unit size: Average milk yield:


Kazan Russia

1,150 9,500,000kg 6,200ha 8,340kg, 3.9% fat, 3.5% protein

Farit Rakhimovo and Nazip Gataullin

Cows are milked 2.4 times each day

Russian mega business invests in automation despite low cost of labour

Milking with 32 robots Rakhimovo Farm is ready for expansion. Towards the end of 2012 its owner, Farit Rakhimovo, will double the size of his outfit from 16 to 32 milking robots. The young Russian wants to be less dependent on a work force and has opted for automatic milking. text Tijmen van Zessen


t the entrance to Rakhimovo Farm there is a small, plain house. The little building has one window and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the accommodation for the security guards who keep watch over the huge Russian farm. The door opens and a member of staff steps out. He calls his boss on his mobile and discusses whether the farm manager is expecting a visit. In Russia guarding property is not a

The freestall barn is divided in four sections with 120 cows per department



CM01_FarmReportRussia 38

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26-01-2012 13:39:08

Milk is collected daily by Danone

A security guard keeps a close watch

luxury. It is essential, particularly if new and properly functioning equipment is involved. Since 2009, 16 milking robots from DeLaval have been operating on Farit Rakhimovo’s farm and as many again are on their way there. And this makes Farit’s by far the biggest unit in the world using milking robots.

Australian heifers Farit lives in Kazan, the third largest city in Russia with a population of 1.1 million, which is about two hours drive from his farm. “I’ve always wanted to work in the agricultural sector. In the Soviet era my grandfather was manager on a state farm in this region for 35

years,” says Farit. He is proud of his agricultural roots and in 2008 formed a joint venture with investors who wanted to build up a dairy unit from scratch with him. Russia’s milk production is increasing slowly because the number of cows is declining. So in 2008, to stimulate production, the authorities set up the ‘Agriculture development 2008-2012’ programme. This subsidised well-thoughtout projects with a virtually interest-free loan. Farit was eligible for the scheme, possibly helped by the fact that his father has a seat in the Duma (the Russian parliament). He invested £30 million at a net interest

rate of 1%. A huge sum that includes the cost of all the equipment, buildings, mechanisation and breeding stock – around £14,000 per cow. With 32 robots, 65 cows per robot and 8,000kg of milk per cow that is a £1.80 investment per kilogramme of milk. “We had five plane loads of heifers flown over from Australia – that’s 200 heifers per plane. And we also imported 478 head of young cattle by sea,” explains Farit, totting up the considerable sum invested. He also invested in land – 6,000ha in total. In the Kazan region land costs £335 per hectare. The unit’s buildings and installations

Big production – but still not enough milk Russia is the biggest importer of dairy products in the world. Although it produces 30.2 billion kilogrammes of milk and is worldwide the seventh largest milk producer, there are insufficient dairy products for the Russians who are becoming steadily richer. Almost half the milk is produced on farms with less than five cows. The national average herd size is 2.8 cows (see table 1). During the Soviet era these little farms were crucial for sustaining the people living in the countryside. In these more prosperous times these little farms are slowly but surely disappearing.

≤ 0.4 > 0.4 – ≤ 2 >2–≤5 > 5 – ≤ 10 > 10 – ≤ 15 > 15 no data

Figure 1: Milk density in Russia in tonnes of milk per square kilometre (source: IFCN)

To stimulate milk production, Russia subsidises the dairy industry, both at the level of family farms (100 to 150 cows) as well as via mega projects, such as that of

Table 1: Dairy farming statistics in Russia (source: IFCN)

milk production in FCPM production (billion kg) number of cows (x 1000) average milk yield per cow (kg) dairy farming design number of dairy farms (x 1000) number of cows per farm









31.52 16,557 1,900

29.50 13,837 2,100

29.27 12,771 2,300

30.66 11,873 2,600

29.48 10,425 2,800

29.28 9,647 3,000

30.52 9,129 3,300

30.22 8,800 3,400

— —

— —

— —

2,222 5.3

2,679 3.9

3,135 3.1

3,160 2.9

3,160 2.8

Farit Rakhimovo. “Rakhimovo is one of our most important clients in Russia. But we see more and more farms that milk more than a thousand cows. In Russia we have 60 clients with more than 2,000 cows,” says the marketing director for DeLaval in Russia, Bo Weifeldt. Most of the milk production is concentrated in the south west of Russia (see Figure 1). The federal republic of Tatarstan, where the Rakhimovo farm is situated, is one of the most productive regions with more than 15,000kg of milk produced per square kilometre and a production of 4,800 kilos of milk per cow in 2010.


CM01_FarmReportRussia 39


26-01-2012 13:39:20



A model of Rakhimovo Farm, with a cross-section of one of the dairy barns

occupy just 20ha. In 2008 Farit was taken by DeLaval to Mason Dixon Farms – a family run business in the US with 16 milking robots and a herd averaging 10,000 litres – to find inspiration for his plans. Farit became an instant enthusiast and wanted to set up a comparable farm with similar productivity. DeLaval supported him in setting up the farm and advised a ‘feed-first system’ with supplementary concentrates. The lactating cows are divided between two barns each with four sections of 120 cows and two robots. In Russia, where the wages are relatively low, the choice of robots for milking is not an obvious one. Rakhimovo employs 50 staff, each with an average salary of £300 per month. “It is difficult to find motivated staff who have the necessary capacity and are sufficiently reliable. Many Russians choose a job outside agriculture,” says Farit.

Training course He has devised a training course to teach new staff how to milk with a robot. But is 50 staff for the current number of cows perhaps too many when there are robots in the barns? “They don’t all work directly with the cows. We have two people looking after the feet, three for AI, two looking after young stock, one for general co-ordination of animal health and one herd manager for feeding the livestock. But we also have people involved in harvesting forage, administration, security and cleaning the buildings.” In Russia there is more uncertainly


about growing and harvesting sufficient forage than producers are used to in the UK. Average rainfall in the region round Kazan is between 500mm and 550mm and in 2010, due to drought, Farit had to buy in additional feed and forage, while the milk production per hectare was still well under 3,000kg. “And the unit will soon be operating 32 robots at full capacity. So we now have 50,000 tonnes of forage in store that’s enough top feeding the herd for two years and is meant as a buffer,” he explains. “This year we harvested 45t/ha of maize and 4t/ha of corn per hectare, the previous year that was eight tonnes and 1.3 tonnes per hectare respectively, due to the drought.”

Disciplined approach Of the total area of 6,300 hectares, 3,300ha is intended for the production of forage, 2,000ha for maize and 1,300ha for lucerne. Rakhimovo uses a good 2,500ha for corn and 250ha for potatoes. Besides maize silage and lucerne the ration at Rakhimovo consists of oilseed pulp, sunflower seed, soya, corn and supplementary concentrates. This ration supplies maintenance plus 15 litres of milk per cow, the animals must get the rest from concentrates, to a maximum of 12 litres. The herd average yield for 2010 was 8,340kg, or 25.1kg per cow per day. At the moment many of the cows are dry or in late lactation, so the production of 850-cow herd runs at 17,500kg of milk per day or 20.5kg of milk per cow.

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CM01_FarmReportRussia 40

At the moment milk production is lucrative for the Russian – the milk price is £37 per 100kg, while the cost of producing 100kg of milk is just £25. “The cost of feed and fuel are high. Including the costs for the cultivation of the forage during the past year we spent £3.50 per cow per day on forage. Depending on the level of production, that is between 12.5p and 16.5p per 100kg of milk.” Milk quality-based payment is also becoming more common in Russia. Milk with a lower bacterial count earns more. Proudly Farit tells us that in the past year his farm even carried off the Danone Cup for milk quality. “The basic price assumes 3% protein. For each tenth of a percent above that Danone pays a bonus. in 2010 we achieved, on average, 3.9% butterfat and 3.5% protein,” adds herd manager Nazip Gataullin. Nazip is responsible for something that is unusual in Western Europe – he takes a sample from each milk delivery and analyses it in his own laboratory. Corruption is not a rarity in Russia and Farit wants to eliminate deliberate mistakes. “I’d say that about three times a year we ask an independent laboratory for a second opinion.” Farit also pays his workers according to performance. Those responsible for ensuring that the cows are milked each day are paid more according to the number of milkings per cow per day, which currently averages 2.4. The number of ‘too late’ cows, the number with mastitis and the somatic cell count (now 220.000) also have an impact on the salary. Farit is conscious that the performances on his farm cannot yet compare with those on a Western European dairy farm. “The average production per cow in this part of Russia is less than 5,000kg of milk per year. So we are producing relatively efficiently, but things could be better. “In breeding we aim strongly at increasing productivity with bulls such as Bonair, Lobby, Larez, Diabolique, T-Derek, Harmony and various Russian O Man sons. We must also work hard to reduce calf losses. For every 100 heifer calves born only 75 will end up in our milking herd.” If Farit succeeds in raising the technical results to the Western European level, then he will cash in on the current market situation. “Our interest subsidy is based on a 12-year loan and I’m expecting that we shall pay off our debts in 11 years.” l

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26-01-2012 13:39:30

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Balanced bull with added benefits Big Winner is a beautifully balanced bull from the Super Star family with six generations of VG or EX cows. The past three generations have averaged more than 103,000kg of milk. His great grandmother, who was a VG89 daughter of To-Mar Blackstar, had a lifetime production of more than 10,000kg of fat and protein. The grandmother of Big Winner, Pinkpop Star 5 EX90, was a real show celebrity as a young cow with many successes, particularly her super udder EX93 points. A superb udder that can be combined with high production – Pinkpop Star 5 averaged almost 35kg of milk for each production day with a lifetime production of more than 100,000kg of milk. And she produced 5.10% fat and 3.63% protein. The mother of Big Winner, Big Super Star 25, is a daughter of the successful bull Lucky Leo and is like her mother EX90.

Red genetics

Kingfarm Holsteins Alida 444, daughter of Big Winner

Big Winner transmits good all-round type with high components, +0.17% fat and +0.11% protein, exceptional longevity +504 days, good fertility and healthy hooves and excellent workability traits. In short, if you want to book profits across the board then you should not miss Big Winner. Big Winner is available from Avoncroft priced at £18.50 per straw.

Pinkpop Star 5, grand dam of Big Winner. Lifetime production 101,377kg

Delta Fidelity has been in the top of the red-and white rankings in Holland for more than three years and maintains this position with his great combination of type and production of +238 kg of milk with a high protein percentage of +0.16%. Topspeed Kodak is in second place right behind Fidelity. He is an example in terms of lifetime production, because he had a super score of +782 days longevity, his daughters are healthy (–11 SCC, 107 hoof health) and he inherits a balanced production with very easy calving. Fidelity and Kodak are available from Avoncroft as both conventional and sexed semen. InSire red-and-white bull Fasna Asterix transmits +540kg of milk, +429 days longevity and 110 calving ease. Asterix is also the highest available polled bull. For full details Freephone Avoncroft on 0800 7831880. Fidelity daughter Astrid 51: 9,633kg milk, 4.82% fat, 4.01% protein

Highest newcomer Oosterzicht Grand Son of Jefferson, Oosterzicht Grand was the highest newcomer in the Dutch rankings in the December index run. Grand offers good fertility, high longevity (+362 days), favourable cell count (–7) and lots of milk (+469kg). He is also very easy calving, making Oosterzicht Grand daughter Juliana 114


CM01_AvoncroftNews 43

him suitable for use on maiden heifers. He has positive scores for frame, legs and feet, and has excellent udder scores. With the productivity of Jefferson and the health traits of O-Man, Grand has the potential to breed cows that can achieve high lifetime productions. Grand is available from Avoncroft priced at £17 per straw.


2 0 1 2


26-01-2012 15:33:14



Dakota takes top spot, but will genomic bulls rule the rankings in April?

It’s all change at the top Top dairy breeder and NMR/RABDF Gold Cup finalist Willy Ley shares his thoughts and views on the most recent – and the next – bull proof rankings. text Rachael Porter


e admits to being somewhat distracted by what’s to come when looking at the latest proof run. Willy Ley already has an eye on the April 2012 rankings, when genomically evaluated sires will be added for the first time. “I’m just eager to see how the rankings look – I suspect that the genomically evaluated bulls will dominate, but seeing will be believing. It’s exciting times for dairy breeding, and I’m sure there will be some controversy too.” But back to the December proofs. What caught Willy’s eye and why, apart from the fact that the rankings will never look the same again?

Top spot Well, there’s a change at the top, for starters. Topping the list of the Holstein bull proof rankings, published by DairyCo Breeding+, is the high production bull ALH Dakota moving up to number-one position. Ranked on Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) and demonstrating exceptional all-round performance, this Oman son manages to combine high daughter production (Predicted Transmitting Ability for milk, 1,035kg and 33.5kg protein) with outstanding health and fitness traits. Daughters continue to demonstrate low cell counts, although it is improvements in their fertility (Fertility Index 0.8) and lifespan (LS 0.5) which have elevated Lynbrook Jancen


Willy Ley

Dakota from second position. His Lifespan Index is among the best of the top 50 PLI bulls, and his PLI is now an impressive £258. “His lifespan certain is good – that’s what grabbed my attention and he’s certainly one to dabble with,” adds Willy. “He’s not badly priced either, at £18 a straw.” In second position is former number-one sire, Lynbrook Jancen, who shares Dakota’s exceptional transmission of longevity and has a PLI of £242. “He’s certainly in demand. I’ve not managed to get hold of any straws yet – I keep ringing up the AI company though and I’ll get some eventually.” In third position is Oman grandson, Morningview Levi, who made his debut in April 2011. Sired by Buckeye and out of Morningview Oman Libby, he is the best daughter fertility improver (FI 5.1) in the top 10. “I might use him – his percentages are

Morningview Levi


CM01_BullProofs 44

positive and he’s my sort of bull. But there are so many good bulls out there and you can’t use them all!” Best of the British breeding and convincingly earning his place in the top 10 is Ballycairn Tiergan, who is establishing himself among the very best bulls worldwide. Now with 71 UK daughters milking in 47 herds, he improves his SCC Index to –18 and with a Type Merit of 1.8, he is the highest type transmitter of the top 10 PLI bulls. Also the highest ranking Goldwyn son and the highest ranking bull without Oman blood, he weighs in with a PLI of £216. Bred by Andrew McCollum in Northern Ireland, Tiergan is out of the UK’s former number-one PLI cow, Ballycairn Garter Tinnie VG87.

Genomic bulls It all makes good reading for Willy, who has cows in calf to this sire and is looking forward to seeing progeny on the ground. So, back to those genomically evaluated bulls. Willy says that he began ‘dabbling’ two years ago and his first ‘genomic’ heifers are just beginning to mature. “I used one or two Oman sons with high scores. “I’m relatively comfortable with the technology – there’s got to be something in it. But there’s also got to be a sting in the tail somewhere – there usually is. Maybe milking speed or temperament? Only time will tell.” As of April 2012, DairyCo will publish two main lists of Holstein bulls. The first will feature bulls with milking daughters contributing to their index and the second will comprise young bulls with no milking daughters. ALH Dakota

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0.8 0.4 5.1 –0.9 3.5 –0.1 –1.2 1.4 1.7 2.9 3.4 4.6 6.0 4.6 4.0 2.1 –1.2 2.6 2.4 0.9

1.45 –0.19 1.01 0.90 –0.01 1.02 0.84 0.86 1.30 0.73 0.48 0.51 0.76 2.65 1.11 0.61 –1.24 1.41 0.50 0.26


1.7 — 1.3 0.5 2.8 1.9 1.7 2.2 0.8 0.3 1.3 0.9 1.6 0.4 1.1 0.8 1.9 — 0.7 0.2


0.5 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2


–11 –11 –20 –23 –8 –3 –1 –15 –18 –22 –19 –22 –21 –24 –12 –13 –17 –23 –11 –14


258 242 233 227 222 220 219 217 216 213 212 211 211 208 207 207 204 201 200 200


–0.08 +0.00 57 +0.16 +0.11 54 +0.03 +0.04 48 –0.03 –0.02 52 –0.01 –0.02 49 +0.21 +0.08 56 +0.01 +0.08 55 +0.11 +0.10 51 +0.19 +0.07 46 +0.12 +0.09 51 +0.02 +0.06 45 +0.08 +0.02 39 +0.19 +0.06 40 +0.15 +0.11 42 +0.01 +0.00 49 +0.03 +0.08 46 +0.13 +0.06 52 +0.00 +0.07 40 +0.07 +0.03 44 +0.04 +0.07 48




+33.5 +24.4 +25.2 +29.5 +26.6 +23.1 +29.6 +24.0 +18.6 +23.5 +24.1 +18.4 +15.2 +17.9 +26.1 +24.2 +24.0 +21.9 +21.1 +25.0


79 +1035 +34.0 74 +461 +31.4 74 +665 +28.5 73 +956 +34.8 74 +877 +33.9 76 +497 +37.2 73 +704 +29.0 73 +472 +28.0 92 +397 +31.3 77 +485 +29.4 74 +582 +24.4 74 +529 +27.7 74 +320 +28.0 70 +287 +23.5 76 +810 +33.0 74 +534 +23.8 68 +585 +34.0 73 +505 +19.7 73 +585 +29.2 78 +599 +27.0


Dairy Daughters Genus Semex Alta WWS UK Cogent Viking Genetics Semex Genus WWS UK Viking Genetics Genus Dovea Genetics Alta Avoncroft Genetics



Durham Manat O Man BW Marshall BW Marshall Mark Sam Aaron BW Marshall Garter Lukas Mtoto Patron Durham O Man Morty Durham Manat O Man Ito Jesther


O Man O Man Buckeye O Man O Man O Man O Man O Man Goldwyn O Man O Man O Man O Man Goldwyn O Man O Man O Man Goldwyn O Man O Man


ALH Dakota Lynbrook Jancen Morningview Levi Co-op Oman Logan Mainstream Manifold Ufm-Dubs Alta Esquire Long-Langs Oman Oman Co-Op Oman Loydie Ballycairn Tiergan D Omar Crockett-Acres Eight Coldsprings Garner Gran-J Oman McCormick Pirolo Goldwyn Wyman D Oblat Morningview Legend Lynbrook Classic Guarini Regancrest Alta Iota Woudhoeve 1042 Impuls

functional traits

prot. kg

mat. grandsire supplier

fat kg






0.01 0.51 –0.20 –0.17 0.46 0.78 0.21 0.51 0.97 0.76 0.16 0.48 1.42 1.52 0.47 0.73 1.78 1.81 –0.03 0.33 0.22 0.39 0.80 0.85 1.09 1.22 1.68 2.29 –0.13 0.52 0.11 0.37 –0.20 –0.62 2.42 2.36 1.79 1.57 0.01 0.19

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

“Only bulls with a reliability of at least 65% (and 10 milking daughters) feature in the first list, and bulls whose indexes have reliabilities of more than 40% feature in the young sire list,” explains the head of genetics at DairyCo Breeding+, Marco Winters. “Genomic indexes have reliabilities somewhere between 55% and 65%,” says Mr Winters. “When more information goes into the calculation of the genomic index, and when the heritability of the trait is high (such as production traits), the reliability will be at the higher end of the scale.” Bulls that have genomic data included will have a ‘G’ label alongside the evaluations, to make them distinguishable

from bulls with conventional proofs. “But we won’t be talking about ‘gPLI’ as some other countries do. “This is because we believe that in the near future, all bulls will have genomic data included in their proof.” Young bulls will also be listed on a separate list, to clearly distinguish these from daughter proven bulls at this stage. “This is to highlight the difference in reliability that still exists,” adds Mr Winters. And how will the daughter-proven list look? He’s not expecting a dramatic change. “High reliability bulls won’t change at all. Lower reliability first-crop bulls will see a little more change, but nothing out

of the ordinary. So the top 10 should still look familiar.” That said, the top end of the young bull list will indeed be higher than the top daughter proven bulls. “However, the very top daughter proven bulls are not that far behind the top genomically evaluated young bulls.” DairyCo Breeding+ is publishing a leaflet to help producers understand not only genomics but also how they should use the new bull rankings and make good breeding decisions about which sires to use. It will be sent out to producers in April and includes a useful, easy-to-follow ‘dos and don’ts’ list for looking at genomic indexes. l

New top sires for other dairy breeds British Friesian


British Friesian producers have a new number one sire with which to expand their breeding repertoire, in the shape of UK-tested Morcourt Hilton. Breaking through the £200 Profitable Lifetime Index barrier, this son of Tittenser Hylke combines impressive production figures with solid traits for fitness.

The top three Jerseys reshuffle slightly to reveal a new number one this run in Danish-bred, DJ Broiler (PLI £204). Broiler transmits excellent daughter fertility, fitness and type.

Danish-bred DJ Broiler takes top honours in the Jersey rankings

Ayrshire Finnish Ayrshire, Asmo Tosikko takes top honours in the Ayrshire rankings with a PLI of £191 and combines high production with good cell counts (SCC –23).


CM01_BullProofs 45


26-01-2012 13:28:16


SHOWS AND EVENTS 2012 March 2: March 4: March 7: March 7: March 24-25: June 29-30: September 4-5:

Soil Association Annual Conference, Royal Horticultural Halls, London SIA, Paris (France) Precision Farming Event, East of England Showground, Peterborough Agro Nord Show, Års (Denmark) Expo Bulle, Bulle (Switzerland) All Holland Dairy Show, Zwolle (The Netherlands) Livestock 2012 (formerly the Dairy Event), NEC, Birmingham

Dairy cows eagerly tucking into their winter ration Picture: Harrie van Leeuwen

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