Page 1


February 2019

New Products

Innovative milking cluster Pages 56-57 Volume 66 Issue 2


Vital nutrition. Right from the start.

Improving calf and heifer performance optimises health, future cow yield and reduces rearing costs, worth up to £150 per cow.


A 14-page focus on boosting performance Pages 34-47

VITAMILK and VITA Start products enhance calf health and increase growth pre- and post-weaning. This is important for future milk yield and is achieved by the action of a unique health package, care+.


Report on all the latest pieces of kit Pages 48-51

SEMEX CONFERENCE 0330 678 0982

All the highlights from Glasgow Pages 20-23 MILK PRICES

Pages 52-54

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25/01/2019 11:01

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Inactivated vaccine with Histophilus somni and Mannheimia haemolytica leukotoxoid in injectable emulsion for cattle. COMPOSITION PER DOSE (2ml): Mannheimia haemolytica Biotype A serotype A1, inactivated cell-free suspension containing leukotoxoid ELISA > 2.8 (*)/dose and inactivated Histophilus somni Bailie strain MAT > 3.3 (**)/ dose (*) A minimum of 80 % of vaccinated rabbits show ELISA value of > 2.0; the mean ELISA is > 2.8. (**) A minimum of 80 % of vaccinated rabbits show a log2 MAT value of ≥ 3.0; the mean log2 MAT > 3.3. INDICATIONS: For the reduction of clinical signs and lung lesions caused by Mannheimia haemolytica serotype A1 and Histophilus somni in calves from 2 months of age. ADMINISTRATION ROUTE: For subcutaneous use. DOSAGE: 2ml/calf at 2 months of age. This 2 ml dose should be repeated after 21 days. Vaccinate calves by subcutaneous injection in the prescapular area. It is preferable to administer the doses on alternate sides. ADVERSE REACTIONS: A transient rise in temperature (up to 2 ºC) after each vaccination can occur but this resolves after 4 days. Vaccinated animals might show a local swelling at the injection site of 1 to 7 cm after administration of the vaccine. This swelling will have disappeared or be clearly reduced in size by 14 days post vaccination, however in some cases swelling may persist for up to 4 weeks after the second administration. CONTRAINDICATIONS: Do not vaccinate unhealthy animals. Do not use in case of hypersensitivity to the active substances, to the adjuvant or to any of the excipients. WITHDRAWAL PERIOD: 0 days. SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS: Only healthy animals should be vaccinated. Allow the vaccine to reach a temperature of +15 to +25°C before administration. Shake before use. Special precautions to be taken by the person administering the veterinary medicinal product: This product contains mineral oil. Accidental injection/self injection may result in severe pain and swelling, particularly if injected into a joint or fi nger, and in rare cases could result in the loss of the affected fi nger if prompt medical attention is not given. Store and transport refrigerated (+2 to +8 °C) and protected from light. Do not freeze. For more information, please refer to the package leafl et. PACK SIZES: 10 doses vial (20ml) and 50 doses bottle (100ml). FURTHER INFORMATION: Further information available from SPC or on www. MARKETING AUTHORIZATION NUMBER: 17533/4005. MARKETING AUTHORIZATION HOLDER: LABORATORIOS HIPRA, S.A. Avda. La Selva, 135. 17170 Amer (Girona) Spain. Tel. (972) 430660 - Fax (972) 430661. LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE: HIPRA UK&IRELAND, Ltd. Foxhall Business Centre, Foxhall Lodge, Foxhall Road, Nottingham - NG7 6LH - UNITED KINGDOM. LEGAL CATEGORY: UK: POM-V.ROI: POM. Use medicines responsibly. Under veterinary prescription, consult your veterinary prescriber for further advice.

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a word from the



t’s a fair bet Jeremy Corbyn didn’t consciously have the industry at the forefront of his mind with his huffing and puffing refusal to work with Government unless the Brexit ‘no deal’ option was removed. But, unwittingly, he may have. After the overwhelming rejection of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, and refusal to seek an extension to Article 50, the chances of a no-deal departure on March 29 have increased. And you only have to turn the radio on to hear Parliamentarians making the no-deal case and suggesting it would present a manageable outcome, to which the resilient Brits would soon adjust after two or three years of job losses and belt tightening. This must be avoided at all costs, says not only the NFUs, but food and trade organisations right across the spectrum. Members of the UK Farming Roundtable (i.e. 14 of the major farming unions, the Tenant Farmers Association, industry councils and associations) ‘categorically do not share such a view’. And the understandable fear is that defaulting to World Trade Organisation tariffs would put the future of sectors like agriculture at the whim of our lords and masters in Government, where trust and accountability don’t ride high, but where electoral votes and survival do. Little wonder the NFU is issuing dire warnings about the threat posed by the relaxing of import tariffs, so any food, from anywhere, at

different standards to ours, could come in. The ultimate is that our exports would be taxed at prohibitively high rates, while imports would be tax-free to keep the electorate happy. The dairy industry could be left particularly high and dry, especially in spring, because of its inability to export liquid milk to processing plants abroad when we are maxed out here. And quite what Northern Ireland will do with the normal milk that crosses the border, let alone any surplus, is anyone’s guess. That’s assuming that Southern Ireland would want it anyway, as the way volumes are trending there, they may be maxed out too. We are, therefore, facing a situation where the current welcome gains in the marketplace may well fail to have an impact on these shores, being eroded by volumes that cannot be handled and politicians that cannot be influenced!

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Dairy Farmer, AgriBriefing, Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park, Caxton Road, Preston, Lancashire PR2 9NZ Origination by Farmers Guardian, AgriBriefing, Unit 4, Fulwood Business Park, Caxton Road, Preston, Lancashire PR2 9NZ. Printed by Precision Colour Printing, Halesfield 1, Stirchley, Telford TF7 4QQ. No responsibility can be accepted by Dairy Farmer for the opinions expressed by contributors.

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p1 Leader.indd 1


1 25/01/2019 08:55


CONTENTS February Volume 66 Issue 2

24-25 Global Dairying

Switzerland Swiss demand for cheese keeps its producers afloat



4-6 8-9 16-17 62-63

14 52-54 56-57 58-59

Latest News Cowmen Comment Potter’s View Good Evans

Politics Watch Milk Prices New Products Workshop Tips

10-12 On Farm

Recommendations Master Breeder recognition for high type and production herd



**DF Feb p2 3 Contents.indd 2

FEBRUARY 2019 24/01/2019 11:41




Breeding & Fertility


Dry cow priming

A focused look at improving performance across your herd

Premier Nutrition’s Mark Hall discusses minimising pitfalls after calving



Partnerships Sam Kirkham, of Albert Goodman, offers tips on protecting the future of your business

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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p2 3 Contents.indd 3


3 24/01/2019 11:42

NEWS News in brief

Semen stolen in unique theft JIt must go down as one of the most unusual thefts: professional thieves have stolen hundreds of pounds of semen straws from a farm in Cossington, Bridgwater. Some 60 straws were taken with an average price of £30-£35 each, according to reports. All of the sexed semen was taken, but the flask was left behind, leading to speculation the thieves had their own and knew what they were doing.

Need to tackle the critics JDairy needs to unite to tackle the challenges it faces today, with commoditisation and the increase in critics of dairy a result of the industry not doing as good a job as it should to protect and promote itself. Speaking at the Semex Conference in Glasgow, Ash Amirahmadi, UK managing director of Arla Foods, called on the sector to create a campaign everybody could get behind. n For the full report, see p20.

Bluetongue moderated JScientists at the University of Liverpool have used mathematical modelling to identify why the 2007 UK outbreak of bluetongue was smaller than it could have been. A new paper published in Scientific Reports suggested a combination of geographic location, weather conditions and existing animal movement restrictions helped limit the impact.



**DF Feb p4 5 6 News.indd 2

Chaos to follow a no-deal Brexit


no-deal Brexit would have serious implications on agriculture, and the dairy industry in particular, with current Government thinking likely to put the industry into what can only be described as meltdown. That is because a no-deal, twinned with the likelihood that the Government would look to mitigate food price inflation by reducing import tariffs to zero, would mean the UK dairy industry would allow product in from every country, while our

exports would have tariffs applied of between 40-80%. Routine exports of liquid milk from Northern Ireland into Southern Ireland could be also disrupted, as could mainland milk during the spring flush when our processing capacity is full. Roundtable A UK farming roundtable, consisting of organisations representing farmers and growers from all agricultural sectors across the UK, recently warned that a no-deal departure from the EU in March 2019 ‘would be disastrous, not only for our farmers, but for

the public too, who rely on our ability to provide them with a sustainable, safe and affordable supply of high quality, British food’. Minette Batters, president of the NFU, said: “Agriculture is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing industry, food and drink, which is worth £113 billion to the UK economy. Volatile farmgate prices and interrupted supplies would put not only the 500,000 farming jobs at risk, but the many firms that supply these farm and land management businesses. “Leaving without a deal on March 29 will lead, very quickly, to a struggling farming sector.”

Clamp down on air pollution JDefra has launched what it says

is ‘an ambitious new strategy to clean up our air and save lives’. Agriculture is targeted heavily, but Defra insisted that there was a commitment to support farmers’ efforts to tackle air pollution, and promised it would provide farmers with support to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions.

Funding has been available through the Countryside Productivity Scheme to help farmers purchase manure management equipment including low-emission spreaders, and the scheme is due to run again in 2019. Funding is also available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for slurry tank

and lagoon covers for farmers in priority water catchments. Defra said: “Agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia gas which can travel long distances, be damaging to the environment and combine with other pollutants to form fine particulate matter pollution, which is harmful to human health.”

markets than some other dairy commodities, and it is that lag which has resulted in this milk price reduction for February.”

was too early to predict what would happen to prices. “We remain focused on delivering as much stability as we can – something reflected in the scale and timing of our recent milk prices movements. “As we look to the year ahead, we are concentrating on delivering growth to deliver dairy prosperity for our members.”

First Milk price drop JFirst Milk has announced its member milk price will reduce from February 1 by 0.25ppl to 27.5ppl for the liquid standard litre, or 28.43ppl on a manufacturing standard litre. Jim Baird, vice-chairman and farmer director, said: “The impact of downward pressure in the markets during the latter part of last year has taken longer to influence cheese

Stability He added dairy markets had recovered in recent weeks and there were signs of more stability ahead, but the uncertainties over Brexit meant it

FEBRUARY 2019 24/01/2019 14:02


Market takes buyers by surprise


gainst pre-Christmas expectations, the market was moving quickly upwards in the first two weeks of the year, with butter and cream prices increasing rapidly. This was an unusual trend in January, and whereas commodity buyers believed prices would fall in the New Year, both butter and cream increased. Cheese has yet to rise, but at least it moved from trending down in recent weeks into neutral to up. Responsible for the change in sentiment were four positive Global Dairy Trade auctions, with the latest

being up more than 4%, the largest increase for a year, plus EU intervention stores being effectively empty after 80,000 tonnes of the 100,000t remaining was sold in early January. This was against positive drivers from falling EU volumes, although those in the UK were at record levels, and looked set to increase further towards April. Nevertheless, the lag factor in the market meant that milk prices continued to fall, with First Milk being the latest to announce a drop in its price by 0.25ppl from February to 27.5ppl for the liquid standard litre. Most others were in the 28ppl-29ppl zone.

Defra market failure JDefra does not have enough staff to open up new markets for UK meat and dairy products, according to industry bodies. Katie Doherty, policy director at the International Meat Trade Association, raised the alarm during an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee hearing about the promotion of British food and drink. She explained that the process of getting access to a new market like China involved several steps, such as completing

questionnaires which require huge amounts of data to be collated, and having UK controls or plants inspected by the country receiving future exports. “It is having staffing in Defra to be able to be complete those questionnaires to get the process started,” she said. “For meat globally, we do need that additional resource from Government. It is not something industry can do, because a lot of it is Government-toGovernment discussions.”

Cheesemakers drop prices JCompetition in the cheese sector remains intense. A.J. and R.G. Barber is to reduce its milk price by a further 0.5ppl from Feb’19, according to The company said it kept the level of decrease to an absolute minimum, as it fully appreciated the current cost pressures being experienced on-farm. Furthermore, the record levels of Cheddar of Irish origin imported into the UK, and the stockpiling of

this Cheddar that has taken place as a contingency for Brexit, has complicated the position still further. This latest reduction takes the manufacturing standard litre down 0.52ppl to 29.13ppl, with liquid standard decreasing by 0.5ppl to 28.09ppl. Wyke Farms confirmed it was to reduce its milk price by 0.65ppl from Feb’19, taking the manufacturing standard litre down to 28.99ppl and the liquid standard to 28ppl.

Holstein UK Presidents Medal Award winner announced JThe prestigious 2018 Holstein UK President’s Medal Award has been awarded to Jess Mills, from the Derbyshire Holstein Young Breeders (HYB) Club. It was presented

at this year’s Semex Conference. The President’s Medal is regarded as an ‘Oscar’ of the dairy world and is designed to ‘recognise and reward young talent and highlights individ-

uals who are the dairy farmers of the future’, said Holstein UK. Jess won an engraved medal and a trip to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, kindly funded

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15/11/2018 14:24


5 24/01/2019 14:02


Most British consumers still positive about dairy


new survey has revealed 88% of British adults were positive or ambivalent about dairy. Products such as milk, cream and cheese are a mainstay in people’s diets, with some increasing their intake in the last two years.

Research commissioned by Dairy Farmer’s parent company AgriBriefing found 70% said they felt positive or more positive about eating or drinking dairy, and this had not changed in the last two years. Only 10% of the 2012 respondents said they had reduced their intake in the last two years,

and 2% said they had become vegan. Three-in-10 of 18- to 24-yearolds said they felt more negative about eating/drinking dairy products than they did two years ago (28%), compared with every other age group, 25-34 (16%), 35-44 (8%), 45-54 (11%), 55-64 (5%) and 65+ (8%).

And the taste of non-dairy alternatives did not seem to be pushing people to make the switch from dairy. Only one-in-10 said they preferred the taste of non-dairy alternatives. n The Dairy Products Survey was commissioned in January 2019 by AgriBriefing, in conjunction with the BBC.

Scottish Gov counters no-tariff plan Highest JThe Scottish Government has off-

ered Defra Secretary Michael Gove an alternative to dropping all food tariffs to keep food prices down in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Late last year, it was reported Number 10 and the Department for Exiting the EU had asked Defra to look at a plan to drop food tariffs for all World Trade Organisation

members if a deal with the EU could not be reached. Unilateral drop Several studies have shown a unilateral drop in tariffs would be ‘disastrous’ for UK farmers. Following MPs’ rejection of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus

Ewing wrote to Mr Gove to ask him to consider ‘targeted use’ of tariff rate quotas (TRQs) to ensure a continued supply of affordable food in a no-deal Brexit. TRQs would allow limited amounts of agricultural produce from across the world to enter the UK with low or no tariffs.

Welsh farmers go back to school JWelsh farmers were gearing up to take ‘the farmyard to the schoolyard’ to help educate youngsters on where their food comes from. Welsh dairy farmer Abi Reader, who has been part of the Cows on Tour movement since it started five years ago, said it was about a group of local farmers going into

schools and teaching about food and farming ‘in as fun a way as possible’. The roadshow (May 13 to 19) will kick off with a visit to one school each day around Wales with the help of nearby farmers offering the loan of machinery, livestock and teaching. In the evenings the team

will be raising money for RABI and the DPJ Foundation with activities such as football and rugby matches, tug of war, and a sack race – as well as food and refreshments from local farmers. And for schools which cannot be involved during the roadshow, educational kits will be left with local farmers.

volumes on record

JDecember milk volumes are predicted to come in at 1242 million litres, which would be 23.24m litres (1.91%) more than 2017. Volumes for the calendar year would be 14,777m litres, which would be 0.5% more than 2017, the highest ever. However, AHDB was predicting that ‘upward pressure on feed prices and downward pressure on milk prices was still expected to impact milk yields in early 2019’. “As such, we have reduced our forecasts for February and March, and 2018/19 in total is currently expected to come out in line with 2017/18,” it said. At the time of going to press, its 2019 milk forecast was coming out slightly ahead of 2018 figures.

London tube ban on cheese and butter adverts likely JAdverts for cheese and butter are likely to be banned from London’s transport network as part of the London Mayor’s war on junk food, according to The Evening Standard.



**DF Feb p4 5 6 News.indd 4

From February, adverts for junk food will be axed at tube stations and bus stops as part of a policy to tackle soaring rates of childhood obesity. Food high in fat, salt or sugar

would be banned as part of the move, with the controversial nutrient profile model created by Public Health England (PHE) being the criteria used. The PHE model has been highly

criticised for demonising certain food categories, including yoghurts, butter and cheese, effectively categorising them as junk food, while ignoring the positive attributes of dairy products, such as calcium.

FEBRUARY 2019 24/01/2019 14:02

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Andrew grew up on a Cheshire dairy farm before attending Harper Adams and going on to manage pedigree and commercial herds. He secured a job with breeding company Genus, where he eventually became sire analyst, but now he has undergone a complete turnaround and has returned home to manage the 350-cow herd.

The cows are in good nick, keeping condition and holding in-calf too. I’m over the moon



**DF Feb p8 9 Rutter.indd 2


he year began with a bang, literally, thanks to residents in the local town who thought it a great idea to welcome in 2019 by releasing some lanterns. Unfortunately, one of these decided to land on our transformer, shorting out the electrics, and it was lucky the straw shed was further away. But if it wasn’t the electrics, these things are inherently tempting to cattle, which don’t think twice about consuming them along with their internal wires. Despite this, there is still no sign of these dangerous things being banned. On a much more positive note, the girls are flying. We have never sold so much milk before, as we broke the 10,000-litre/day barrier and, importantly, our average yield per cow per day is the highest it’s ever been, just shy of 30 litres. The cows are in good nick, keeping condition and holding in-calf too. I’m over the moon with how they are holding, our pregnancy rate is rolling at 25%, up from 18% a year ago, and our last report had us at 28%. Fresh milk is key to high yield per cow. The team, by which I mean our staff, RMS staff (Alex has a special mention here) and Nantwich Vets are all key to this performance and, without input from these, we cannot achieve these standards.  We use Sexcel semen, up until now purely on maiden heifers, but our results show no difference to conventional semen and, chatting to some other farmers, they have seen the same results. As a result, I plan to use some Sexcel on the milking herd, very selectively, looking for problem-free calving and natural heats with cows that are in good condition, and we’ll see how we go. About 12 months ago, I listened to experts and did all the sums showing what level of sexed semen I should use, supplementing with beef semen on the bottom end, giving us a great predicted revenue stream.

But roll on nine-plus months when our beef cross calves started hitting the ground, I was jovially told it was the poorest price for calves like this in nearly 20 years. Best laid plans and all that. However, I am really pleased with the calves we are turning out. I put all my selection intensity on calving ease and particularly gestation length for the British Blues I use. Any day extra in the calving pen waiting on a birth is costing me money and is growing that calf, and I certainly don’t want to have to pull calves, as the moment I do I am impacting the dam’s chance of hitting full performance in the next lactation and her chance of getting back in calf next time round. Products Speaking about research and data, the one thing I really don’t like about coming home is the deluge of cold callers. While I have no issue with people selling products, I do have concerns with the robustness of the information they give me. When I ask for scientific papers to prove their claims, many salespeople start to stutter and splutter. Flash pictures of cows and the arbitrary pie chart tell me nothing. It seemed 2018 was the year of the two-litre promise: use this or feed that or spray the other and your cows will go up by two litres. I was confused – was everyone selling the same two litres or, if I used all the products, could I expect my herd to be averaging 40kg/day? I do put a lot of emphasis on our own data, trying to keep a tight rein on actual performance of our cows with milk recording being a very important time of the month. We test for Johne’s disease and we are working on a strategy to get fully clear. We only have a handful with positive tests, but every one is one too many.  Cell count is the next most read column on our milk sheets and sees me spending time devising individual strategies for problem cows.

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:19


Andrew Rutter’s cows have a rest (above) and (right) lining up in the milking parlour.

Farm facts rFarm size: 121ha rHerd: 350 pedigree Holsteins rSoil: Heavy clay rRainfall: 820mm rMilk buyer: Muller non-aligned

It is a great way to quietly look through the herd and tends to highlight two groups of cows: ones which are not doing the work you want them to, maybe making them a consideration for culling long-term and, on the flip side, really good cows. These invisible ones don’t have huge peaks, but produce great lactations, get in-calf first time and run high quality tests and low cells. You need to appreciate these girls, as they are the ones that keep you going as you are sweating away on problem cows. Our big investments in 2018 included a foot crush and set of clippers, so Andy’s nail and hair salon is now open for business. Clipped tails make such a difference at milking and the general cleanliness of our girls is so much better. The future is definitely cordless clippers, no worrying about wires in water or muck and you are completely mobile. The crush itself is so easy to use and anything that shows any sign of not being 100% can be seen straight away. It’s a pleasure to work with and I think this is all adding to our improved fertility.

The feed situation remains challenging. Our silage is fantastic and, as a result, cows eat it quickly, so we are trying to ration it out with brewers grains, straw and now fodder beet. Fodder beet is a great ingredient, but cows need a bit of time to develop the taste for it. After the first week, it looked like a disaster, with them sorting the fodder beet out to leave aside, a bit like my daughter when you try to feed her something new. Scroll forward a week and they try to sort it out to eat first. I am really enjoying working with the family again. I was a little concerned to begin with about how this would all work out, but turns out business decisions are debated, normally pretty quickly, as we all seem to think the same way. Emma and I are very happy to learn from Dennis on the land and buildings where he has so much knowledge. In the rare cases where there is more of a disagreement, we all vote and then Mum tells us precisely what is going to happen!


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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p8 9 Rutter.indd 3


9 23/01/2019 09:04

ON FARM The Sloan family moved from Ayrshires into Holsteins and now have a respected herd doing

High type herd can turn out the goods


ryce, Anne and son Robert Sloan and his wife Emma farm in Cumnock, Scotland, in partnership under the Bryce Sloan company name, and their herd is well-established within the UK dairy industry. In 2018, the family was awarded the prestigious Master Breeder herd status by breed society Holstein UK, which reflected the culmination of 45 years of breeding Holstein cows under the Townlaw prefix. Master Breeder criteria require high standards on classification scores and production traits, as well as having troublefree cows and herd longevity. Bryce started his move into Holstein bloodlines in the early 1970s and, today, the Townlaw herd comprises 43 Excellent and 74 VG cows. Over these years, the herd has been transformed from its world famous Townhead Ayrshires into one of the most respected

From left: Emma, Robert, William and Bryce Sloan.

Holstein herds within the UK. As Bryce points out, it is a far cry from its early beginnings. Pedigree He says: “The Ayrshire herd was based at Townhead, my father’s home farm, and I wanted to establish a different enterprise at Darnlaw and purchased four pedigree Holstein heifers. “We looked for cattle with

sound pedigrees and good breed character with the ability to convert fodder into large volumes of milk. “Most importantly, heifers had to have good feet and legs, with sound long-lasting udders. “Back then, I worked alongside my father Robert, and it’s been a lifetime’s work. “Although we did not start out with the intention of having a Holstein Master Breeder herd,

The farm’s light and airy dairy facilities have proven beneficial to the herd’s health and wellbeing.



**DF Feb p10 11 12 On Farm.indd 2

that is what we have achieved. It is a tremendous honour for everyone involved having developed our own cow families, and today I work alongside my son Robert, who runs the day-today operation of the business.” In 2018, Townlaw Holsteins was placed first on combined production and inspection in the Scottish herd’s competition. The 190-cow herd averaged 11,910kg milk at 3.99% fat and 3.14% protein, with the herd being milked through a robotic system. In the past 18 months, eight cows have achieved the 100 tonnes milestone, and average lifetime herd production per cow sits at 45,612kg. Welfare The Sloans built their greenfield dairy facility seven years ago, incorporating two robotic milking machines, and have since added a third. The results have proven beneficial on animal health and welfare, as well as making things easier for humans, explains 36-year-old Robert. “Cows are much more relaxed and are presenting 3.4 times per day through the Lely equipment,” he says. “The building incorporates automatic scrapers and the system includes fully integrated computerised technology for milk recording and health monitoring. “The Holstein cows do not have to stand in collecting yards prior to milking and the family and staff do not have to spend long hours in the milking parlour. “There are less metabolic concerns, as the cows receive feed on

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:21



ON FARM 12,000kg at over 4% fat. Bruce Jobson reports.

The performer Theearly earlyhigh high performer

The Holsteins receive a TMR ration which includes grass silage, wholecrop wheat, super grains and a 23% blend.

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makes a man healthy, BenjaminFranklin wealthy and wise.”

Bryce Sloan also runs 65 Jersey cows to fulfil his milk contract.

each visit to the robot and this has aided digestion.” The Townlaw herd is fed Mole Valley Feeds from the company’s new £6 million mill at neighbouring Coylton. Cows receive Mole Valley Influence 19% protein concentrate from day one to day 150. During the second stage, from day 150 to day 200, cows receive a combination of Influence 19 and Royal 21. In the third stage, from day 200, the cows receive Royal 21. Robert says: “We are aiming for our cows to maintain a consistent, high lactation curve. “It is important to have a top quality ration and a ‘hard’

concentrate being fed through the robot. This helps entice cows to visit the robot on at least three to four occasions per day.” Three years ago, the Sloan family decided to introduce Jersey animals in order to fulfil a milk contract opportunity with their milk buyer Graham’s Dairies. This resulted in the purchase of 30 Jersey heifers from Denmark, 20 animals from the Bluegrass herd, four from the Logan herd and four animals from Izzy and Colin Laird, Blythbridge. Bryce says: “We work closely with independent company nutritionist John Barnes to ensure the diet and rationing

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p10 11 12 On Farm.indd 3



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Tel: 01472 371471

25/01/2019 11:03

ON FARM is correct for both our Holsteins and our Jerseys. “The latest results for our Holsteins are encouraging, with 305-day yields currently averaging 12,228kg milk at 4.05% fat and 3.19% protein, while the Jerseys are averaging 7000kg at 6.05% fat and 4% protein.” The Jerseys are now milking in their third lactation, explains Robert. “The Holstein cows are all milked through the robot and our Jerseys are milked twice per day through the milking parlour,” he declares. “We have 65 Jerseys, sufficient to fulfil the milk contract, and we are pleased with the performance achieved during first and second lactations. Strategy “The Jerseys receive a different diet, with Influence 19 in the parlour at a rate of up to 5kg per day. The Holsteins and Jerseys cow are housed in separate cubicle systems and bedded on rubber matting and sawdust. Cow comfort, correct nutrition and animal welfare are important considerations as part of our overall management strategy.” Robert pays particular attention to the breeding programme, with Holsteins targeted for 24 months of age at first calving. Genomic sires are predominantly used across the herd and current sires in use include Pharo, Bloomfield, Tatoo and

Calves are grouped in large pens in the recently constructed calf-rearing unit.

Secretariat. Jerseys heifers freshen at 23 months with the Sloan’s own homebred Jersey animals now coming on stream, states Robert. “We use sexed semen and tend to buy a large batch from one particular sire for predominant use,” he adds. “We have used a lot of FDL Barcelona, as he has good type, increases production and offers positive percentages. We have 16 heifers in the pipeline, the most Barcelona calves in Scotland. We are also using another Barnabas son, River Valley Victorious.” To complete their set-up, the Sloans decided to build a new calf-rearing unit in 2018. The building is high, light and airy and incorporates automatic milk feeders. Calves are grouped in large pens, bedded in deep

The Sloans’ extensive cattle housing facility.



**DF Feb p10 11 12 On Farm.indd 4

Dairy unit’s windbreak curtain. .

straw, have room for exercise and social interaction, and each individual section can be cleaned out separately. Health Robert says: “The building has only been in operation for the past six months and we are already seeing positive aspects, such as continued growth patterns and better animal health. “The environment is excellent for calves, with rearing, feeding and management aspects being part of our design consideration.” The family employs two members of staff, Scott Paterson and Cameron McGregor. The Sloans own 300 acres and rent an additional 200 acres. First-cut silage consists of 300 acres being harvested exclusively for the milking herd. The farm is 600ft above sea level and has about 60in of annual rainfall.

Harvesting high quality forage is an essential management aspect. Robert says: “We aim to take a high quality first cut silage and generally target the last week of May and beginning of June. “We pay great attention to detail regarding our herd rations and this is reflected in the yields and herd health status being achieved. “The management system is now fully-integrated from birth through to milking status.” The Holsteins receive a TMR ration that includes grass silage, wholecrop wheat, super grains and a 23% bespoke blend. The herd also receives 0.8kg of nutritionally improved straw (NIS) and 3.75kg of caustic wheat to target maintenance +24 litres of milk. The Jersey herd receives 1kg of NIS, 1kg of caustic wheat and 2kg of the bespoke blend.

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:22


PLAN AHEAD FOR EARLY TURNOUT Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassadors explain how they have managed forage stocks over winter and their plans for spring.



fter a year of weather extremes which resulted in reduced stocks of forage, combined with rising concentrate costs, dairy farmers across the UK are hoping for early turnout. But this is not guaranteed to be the case. Planning ahead to manage existing feedstocks, making the most of early grass and putting vaccination and parasite control strategies in place can all help manage workloads and costs.

PLANNING FOR TURNOUT l Plan parasite control: Take into account seasonal and farm risk, particularly for youngstock in their first grazing season. If vaccinating calves for lungworm, they should be more than two months old and require two doses of vaccine four weeks apart with a second dose at least two weeks before turnout, so plan accordingly l Monitor feedstocks: Calculate conserved forage requirements and stock using the AHDB feed and forage calculator ( drought-feed-calculator), and plan options to fill feed deficit if there is a slow start to spring l Grass management: Strategic application of fertiliser in late February will help stimulate grass growth, but take soil temperature and conditions into account.

WILLIAM WESTACOTT, HOME FARM, SEVENOAKS l Cows are milking well and fertility is on a par with last year, according to William Westacott. He says: “Being autumn calving, we bring cows in as they calve, but we were able to keep dry cows out until mid-November. We hope to turn out about 10 days earlier than usual; about the second or third week in March. “We have had a relatively kind winter so far and crops are looking well. We do get a lot of easterly winds here, but I am hoping they are not too severe this spring and do not impact on grass growth. “Forage stocks are holding up well. We

did not make any late grass silage, but should be able to eke out what we have with the help of about 35 tonnes of round bale silage and 15t of lucerne, which is extra to what we normally produce and we have plenty of maize silage. “We will incorporate 1.5kg/cow of freshweight hay into diets – the equivalent of 3-3.5kg of grass silage. This is made to sell as a cash crop, but given the circumstances, we are using it ourselves.” As William runs a flying herd, there is no youngstock to manage. Older stock will be given their vaccinations as they are due.

JAMES ROBINSON, STRICKLEY FARM, KENDAL l For James Robinson, who runs 130 pedigree Dairy Shorthorn cows on an organic system, silage production was down about 15% last year. As part of a contingency plan to extend forage as far as possible, he planted 3.2 hectares (eight acres) of brassicas, which cows were able to graze until mid-December when it became too wet.


However, when conditions improved in January, they were able to go out for a further 10 days to finish it off. James says: “This has been really useful and has been good for the cows as well. In addition, early last year we secured

100 tonnes of organic fodder beet, which we have incorporated into the diet, helping stretch forage supplies. “So far, winter has been fairly kind to us and we should be on track to turn out during the day in mid-April and at night by early May, or possibly a little earlier depending on weather.” As part of forward-planning, vaccinations will be given before turnout. James says: “The 2018-born calves, which will be approaching their first year of grazing, will be vaccinated against lungworm before they are turned out. Older stock will also be getting their booster vaccinations for BVD and leptospirosis.”

This article is part of a ‘Disease? Not On My Farm!’ series which showcases proactive beef and dairy farmers taking pride in their robust herd health and disease management approach.

This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, makers of Bovilis® BVD, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Bovilis® IBR Marker Inac, Leptavoid™ H, Rotavec® Corona, Halocur®, Bovilis® Bovipast RSP, Bovilis® Huskvac and Bovilis® Ringvac. Always use medicines responsibly. More information is available from Intervet UK Ltd trading as MSD Animal Health. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942. T: 01908 685 685 E: W:

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15 25/01/2019 11:55


ABI Kay Theresa May needs to start showing some flexibility on Brexit

We can only hope this fresh defeat will lead to a more open discussion. Farmers and the wider public deserve that


Ps have finally had a chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister’s deal, and it was not good news for Theresa May. Delaying the vote for a month over the Christmas break turned out to be nothing more than a waste of four precious weeks before Brexit day on March 29, as she ended up losing by a record-breaking 230 votes. This crushing defeat has left farming groups pleading with MPs to avoid a no-deal exit, which is the current legal default if the PM’s proposal cannot win the support of Parliament. For farmers, who are likely to need additional support in a no-deal scenario, the situation is just as uncertain as it always has been, with Defra refusing to say whether or not it will offer any extra cash. So where next? No-one really knows, but there are at least four possible options. I still believe the most likely is the PM bringing back the same basic deal but with some tweaks. Extension Even if it does squeak through on a second or third attempt, though, the Government will need time to pass the legislation required to give effect to Parliament’s vote, which means an extension to Article 50 is now becoming almost inevitable. While she continues to seek support for her Withdrawal Agreement, the PM can sweeten the pill by putting a different kind of future relationship on the table or offering MPs greater control over the second stage of negotiations. This would mean she would have to make some of her red lines, perhaps on freedom of movement, a bit more pink, but it is a very obvious way to help win round some waverers. It is worth remembering, though, even if Mrs May decides to pivot towards a Norway-style



**DF Feb p14 Politics.indd 2

arrangement, for example, her current divorce deal will still be needed to deal with citizens’ rights and budgetary issues. One other option the PM could take is to give the public another say on Brexit, either through a General Election or second referendum. She is unlikely to go for either of these choices unless pushed, but her hand could well be forced on this – or a plan to give MPs control of the process – by backbenchers with the support of the Speaker. Another way out of the logjam would be to test the will of the House of Commons to see what MPs would support. Proposal In fact, Plaid Cymru has already put forward a workable proposal to stage a series of votes on the possible Brexit options, with the least popular choices knocked out until only the most popular is left. But one thing is now clear. Whichever way the PM decides to turn next, she will need to show flexibility and a willingness to work openly across party lines that she has not yet displayed. Her natural leadership style is rigid and secretive, and early indications since the vote seem to suggest her promise to ‘reach out’ will ring hollow. If she and her advisers had any sense, they would have been working with other parties to see what kind of deal they could get through the Commons since the Conservatives lost their majority in 2017. We can only hope this fresh defeat will lead to a more open discussion. Farmers and the wider public deserve that, at the very least.

About the author rAbi Kay is chief reporter for Dairy Farmer’s sister publication Farmers Guardian

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:06

W H A T D O Y O U M E A N Y O U ’ R E A D A I R Y F A R M E R


Y O U ’ R E N O T U S I N G L A C T A I D ? . . .

...SERIOUSLY, WE NEED TO TALK C O N T A C T Y O U R A G R I - L L OY D A D V I S O R O R C A L L U S D I R E C T LY O N 0 8 0 0 4 5 8 4 8 4 4

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This month, Ian Potter looks at the likely impact of the proposed contract regulation and what it could mean for producers and processors alike, and concludes we would be better off combatting the anti-dairy lobby than spending time on regulation.

Play that card and Muller will immediately call its lawyers and chaos will prevail



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ome farmers and organisations are convinced that when it comes to farmgate milk pricing, they are being taken for a ride by their processor, irrespective of the indisputable fact that UK liquid processors (in particular) currently receive the tiniest margins of about 1%. Clearly those campaigning for legislation on contracts do not accept this fact. They also believe that in the absence of any possibility that the Milk Marketing Board could be reincarnated, the next best thing is to support Government regulation to intervene and ensure dairy farmers receive a fairer share of the existing cake, which they interpret as meaning they should receive more money, regardless of where it might come from. So the contracts farce rumbles on, epitomised by George Eustice at the Semex Conference press briefing, when he declared that part of his dairy contracts consultation might include notice periods for farmers as short as four weeks. I had a double-take when I read this. For a Minister to suggest four-week notice periods demonstrates a fundamental and embarrassing disconnect between what farmers and processors need for a smooth functioning market. It is embarrassingly, dangerously and ruinously ill-judged. Firstly, if the Government proposal really is for a four-week termination notice from farmers, then that will instantly see the re-emergence of the milk tarts and prostitutes, who no processor will want to have a long-term relationship with. Believe me, a farmer will only give four weeks’ notice once before the jungle drums beat and he will be labelled ‘unreliable’.

Secondly, the four weeks notice must apply to both parties, and allow processors to also give farmers the same notice period to terminate supply contracts. You might wave goodbye to evergreen contracts. It could also result in the re-emergence of short-term exploitative milk processors, who will take you on when they are short of milk and ditch you when there is a surplus. If four-week notice periods are implemented, it will undoubtedly set the industry back decades. And how will farmers in Arla and First Milk fare, with money invested in their co-ops? Arla farmers from across five countries, for example, have just completed their journey to become direct members with one set of rules to manage their co-operative. It has taken time to come to fruition since it was voted in and signed off by the Arla board, but it is now over the line. So, 2500 UK Arla farmers have ticked all the Government’s boxes by offering a co-operative solution and agreeing one Arla contract only to find a Government department drives a steamroller through everything it is doing. Given its incompetence on seemingly everything, is there really a clown in the land who believes Government legislating on milk contracts will take dairy farmers to some sort of new promised land? It is a fairy tale, and there is a big risk that it will make things worse for farmers. Personally, though, I don’t believe ludicrously short notice period legislation and/or pricing constraints will happen. If bad legislation is likely, Arla will fight tooth and nail for what it thinks is right for its farmers, if necessary through judicial review.

FEBRUARY 2019 23/01/2019 11:11


‘We need to grow the cake’

Ian Potter rIan is a specialist milk commentator and entitlement broker. Comments please to

I can hear some saying that Arla and the other co-ops will be given dispensation, as they were when the voluntary code was introduced. But play that card and Muller will immediately call its lawyers and chaos will prevail. The good (sensible) news is that further consultation has been delayed by Defra until post-Brexit, indicating it is not in a position to push the start button on this. In fact I will make a prediction: if Mr Eustice fails to hold onto his agricultural position, the whole thing will have been a storm in a teacup and will be ditched. Alternatively, he will have to wind his neck in on reform of milk contracts and take others with him. That includes processors and progressive farmers who fully understand the industry, and who will not allow jaundiced industry leaders with their personal campaigns and desire for a legacy to drive the agenda. Currently I feel there is a real chance the lunatics will take over (or are already taking over) the asylum, if the wrong decisions are made. At the recent Semex Conference, speaker Chris Walkland factually annihilated the arguments in favour of legislation on pricing. He torpedoed the myth that the UK dairy market is not transparent, and said it was crystal clear, if you know what to look for and how to read the numbers. Tellingly, he said those who don’t understand the market are the ones who want to change how milk prices are determined to a mechanism they can understand. But he warned you might move from a milk price mechanism that isn’t broken to one which doesn’t work in the first place. He calculated that for the period from January

2015 to December 2018, using an average of 10 recognised indices, the outcome was that farmers were paid +/-2-3% of what the indices say they should have been paid. Thus, discretionary pricing is not your enemy. As they say, if it ain’t broke, there is no need to fix it. As Mr Walkland pointed out, it all goes pear-shaped when governments intervene in dairy markets. Take the EU’s decision to place 380,000 tonnes of SMP into intervention, which Mr Walkland stated is a policy which has shafted the market for SMP for three years, and done nothing for the reputation of butter. His conclusion was we need to focus on growing the cake, not arguing over how to cut up the existing cake. To the NFUs, he concluded: “Your policy on contracts is wrong and divisive, and for the few at the expense of the many.” In other words, there are bigger problems for the industry to devote its time to tackling. As if to prove his point, all of this came in the middle of Veganuary. Yes, I hear you yawn, because for months I have been close to a single subject fanatic over the rapid rise of groups promoting vegan, vegetarian, and meat-free diets and how inadequate the standards are that some farmers adopt. Those who are anti-dairy and are focusing on influencing the consumer and his/her shopping habits must be laughing their socks off. They will know the industry is simply infighting at a time when it should be working together as one industry to win in an anti-dairy world. We need to do better. Focusing on the big picture and not navel-gazing on contract legislation would, I suggest, be a good place to start.

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb P16 17 Potter.indd 3


17 23/01/2019 11:11

VET’S VIEW Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can have a complementary role in helping antibiotics fulfil their function, but NSAIDs in themselves have a far bigger part to play. Vet Tamsin Thorn, of the Wood Veterinary Group, Gloucestershire, explains.

Longer term damage of untreated inflammation


ain and inflammation from injury or disease are detrimental to cow and youngstock welfare. Dry matter and fluid intake are reduced, and normal lying behaviour is disrupted. In turn, these result in poor production, be that reduced milk yield, failure to return to oestrus, or poor liveweight gains in calves.

Farm case Before: r400 dairy cows milking three times daily, with a very low first-time mastitis incidence of 4% rAntibiotic intra-mammary tubes used at 0 hours and 24/48 hours post-detection of clots; cases resolve quickly, but 75% recur within the same lactation

After: rA new protocol is introduced: ketoprofen (an injectable NSAID with zero milk withdrawal) is administered at 0 hours and 24 hours to all clinical mastitis cases, and again at 36 hours as required rAll grade 1 (clots only) and 50% of grade 2 (clots and udder swelling/hardness) cases resolve without antibiotic tube treatment rThe remaining 50% of grade 2 cases resolve faster with antibiotic and NSAID than with antibiotic alone



**DF Feb p18 19 Vet's View.indd 2

The impact of the original insult must also be considered. Examples include inadequately managed mastitic quarters that fail to return to their previous yield, and persistently lame cows that develop chronically misshapen feet. But it is not just those animals that show outward signs of pain that require treatment. To identify those affected by inflammatory processes, it is useful to understand the pathways at play. Prostaglandins form in response to cell damage and are mediated by either COX 1 or COX 2 isoforms. COX 1 prostaglandins are present in the normal body on a day-to-day basis, and are responsible for mediating gastrointestinal mucosal protection, kidney function and the synthesis of platelets for blood clotting. Injury COX 2 prostaglandins are produced in response to insults such as injury or infection, and result in inflammation, increased blood flow and hypersensitivity to pain. It is the COX 2 pathway that results in the behavioural manifestations of pain, but its role in inflammation is also significant to production. Inflammation that is not managed can result in longer term damage. For example, in infectious pneumonia in calves, inflammation causes chronic or permanent disruption to the lung tissue, which reduces its capacity to

NSAID action speeds recovery and alleviates the impact of diseases such as lameness and pneumonia Tamsin Thorn function, thereby compromising welfare and growth. The photograph on the far right shows consolidation of lung tissue. When treated with antibiotics, but not anti-inflammatories, this inflammation will persist after the infection has resolved. Such calves are often treated several times before being culled, having missed target weaning or breeding weights. In lame cows with sole or horn wall lesions, inflammation that is left unchecked will cause gradual arthritic change in the affected pedal bone. The photograph shows a foot that will never return to normal, despite repeated trimming, and will remain painful. Our first line treatment in the combat of pain and inflammation are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs target either COX 2 or both of the afore-mentioned COX pathways to disrupt the production

of inflammatory prostaglandins. As well as being anti-inflammatories, NSAIDs are also analgesic (reduce pain) and anti-pyretic (restore body temperature towards normal). These actions combine to speed recovery, improve cure rates, and alleviate the longer-term impact of diseases such as lameness and pneumonia. One of the most noticeable benefits is the reduction of high body temperatures. Animals with fever appear dull and depressed, and their feed ingestion will be significantly reduced. This hampers protein intake, on which immune function is heavily dependent. So the restoration of normal temperature and appetite is vital. When used in conjunction, NSAIDs also enhance the penetration and efficacy of antibiotics. For example, NSAIDs reverse the narrowing effects of inflammation within the alveolar

FEBRUARY 2019 25/01/2019 11:02

VET’S VIEW Left: A foot (top) that will never return to normal, despite repeated trimming, and will remain painful, and (right) consolidation of lung tissue in which, when treated with antibiotics but not anti-inflammatories, inflammation will persist after the infection has been resolved.


channels of udder tissue, allowing antibiotics to reach the seat of infection. The udder is also less painful, so more mastitic milk is released at each milking, further speeding resolution. Better still, the prompt use of NSAIDs in mild cases detected early may negate the requirement for antibiotics all together. With constant pressure to reduce antibiotic use within the dairy industry, this offers a realistic and cost-effective solution. However, like any medication, NSAIDs are not without risk of side effects. Ulceration Known effects include damage to the gastrointestinal lining, and extended off-licence use is linked to stomach ulceration. Animals that are at higher risk of these side effects may need a veterinary assessment before treatment is administered. It is vital to dose animals correctly for their weight, to administer the course exactly as prescribed, and to strictly adhere to withdrawal periods. Speak to your vet about establishing NSAID protocols for your farm’s most important diseases, typically mastitis, lameness, calf pneumonia and scour. The aim is to improve welfare, increase cure rates, reduce antibiotic dependence and maximise productivity.

Use CYDECTIN® 10% LA with Flectron® Fly Tags for extra growth and reduced handling1 Speak to your animal health advisor today about how CYDECTIN® 10% LA and Flectron can benefit your herd 1. Initial results from an on-farm study to compare season-long and routine fly therapy – in press/results on file CYDECTIN 10% LA SOLUTION FOR INJECTION FOR CATTLE contains moxidectin. POM-VPS. FLECTRON FLY EAR TAGS FOR CATTLE 935 MG contains cypermethrin (cis 50:trans 50). POM-VPS For further information please see the product’s SPC or contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly ( MM-04050

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19 12:17

25/01/2019 11:02

CONFERENCE As ever, this year’s Semex Conference in Glasgow tackled some of the big issues facing the industry, and this time UK contract regulation and milk marketing captured the audience.

Producers ‘have been price-takers for too long’


he issue of milk contract changes and legislation featured heavily, with Defra Farm Minister George Eustice and NFU president Minette Batters both stressing the need for legislation. However, they were not getting things all their own way. Dairy analyst Chris Walkland disagreed with them, stating the focus should be on growing the size of the dairy financial cake for all, rather than arguing over the division of the size of the cake that is already here. This call was also effectively echoed by Sue McCloskey, of Fair Oaks Farm, in the US, with the successful added-value milk brand Fairlife, and by Arla’s UK boss Ash Amirahmadi.

Changes to contracts are overdue. Dairy farmers are captives of the processors George Eustice Mr Eustice said: “Changes to dairy contracts are overdue and inevitable as dairy farmers are captives of the processors. “Farmers either need the ability to walk away from a processor or, if you are to

George Eustice called dairy farmers ‘captives of the processors’.

commit for the long-term, they need to commit to how that price is calculated.” Risk Ms Batters said voluntary codes did not work and regulated contract terms for dairy farmers would help rebalance the risk within the supply chain. This would place farmers in a strong position to develop sustainable relationships with their buyers to be commercially focused, innovative and competitive.

She said: “Farmers have been price-takers for too long. Once Brexit negotiations are out of the way, my god have we got to grow up and have a serious conversation at how we do regulate dairy contracts. Things have got to change.” But while Mr Walkland agreed with the principle of tightening up on ‘the minority’ of unfair contracts, he warned that when it came to changing pricing mechanisms there was a risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and the

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FEBRUARY 2019 23/01/2019 11:13


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Chris Walkland unions shooting the industry in the foot. That was because his analysis of the fairness of discretionary pricing (the current way prices are determined, which the unions want to scrap) showed the prices farmers have received since 2015 are within 2-3% of what a basket of global, EU and UK prices, formulas and indexes say they should have got. Arguments He said: “This tolerance is not an unfair one. Beware of throwing out something that is not broken for something that does not work in the first place. But the arguments look set to continue for some time, as Mr Eustice confirmed that contract reform has been delayed until after a Brexit deal is finalised. In the meantime, though,

the issue was also masking work in other vital areas, said Mr Walkland, and did nothing to grow the market, secure new consumers or increase farmer prices, because it did nothing to encourage better ways of doing business or adding value higher up the supply chain than the processor. On that front, Mrs McCloskey showed the perfect way forward for the industry, with her story of how her and her husband’s Fair Oaks Farm had launched the Fairlife brand in conjunction with Coca-Cola and was taking the US by storm. She said: “Milk has lost its way in the US over the last 20-30 years. There used to be a hail of goodness around milk that we have allowed other people to steal. We have had to look at milk in a new way, and our Fairlife brand has broken

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Minette Batters called for change.

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23/01/2019 11:17

CONFERENCE the mould. Cheap milk prices in supermarkets say to consumers that milk has no value. “We tell them that Fairlife is incredible stuff [with 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, and half of the sugar], and show consumers how to get brilliant nutrition for their families. “We do not just have consumer fans of the brand, they are evangelical about it.” Fairlife is now in 98% of grocery stores in the country, with innovation in new products now giving consumers a ‘better milk for the home’, a ‘better milk for growth’, a milk for ‘better fitness recovery’, for a ‘better nutritious treat or snack’, and one for ‘better weight management’. The company is also extremely open with consumers in everything it does, with a policy of communicating the facts to consumers, and with tours,

restaurants a ‘cowfe cafe’ and even a new hotel on the site. The Fairlife brand and partnership with Coca-Cola was ‘the most ambitious journey of our life’, she said. “We are honoured, excited and quite frankly humbled to be on that journey with The CocaCola Company,” she added. “In this new lightning-speed, integrated world of ours, partnerships are critical to success. I have always valued partnerships and we would not be where we are today without our farming partners, science partners and now our Coca-Cola partners.

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“We signed a deal on November 12, 2012, which was the proudest day of our lives.” Frequently mentioned the conference was the issue of consumers abandoning dairy in favour of plant based alternatives, which was also contributing to the size of the cake diminishing. Ash Amirahmadi, boss of Arla’s UK business, said that the industry ‘has not

Vegans, backed by big business, are casting doubt in consumers’ minds about us

Persistent “It had taken eight years of research and discussions and of hoping to sell to them without success. “But I was patient and persistent because I believed Coca-Cola was the greatest brand and beverage company

A born leader.


in the world and only it could truly make our dream and destination a reality. “I had Starbucks, Pepsi and the Dr Pepper Snapple group at our door, but I insisted with my team on a relationship with Coca-Cola. “Finally, when the Coke R&D folks invited us to present our milk concentrate dispenser and Athletes Honey Milk, I met the people I could work with.


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23/01/2019 11:18

CONFERENCE done a good enough job of making itself relevant and exciting to consumers”. He told his audience: “People do not understand dairy, and the vegans, backed by big business, are casting doubt in consumers’ minds about us. They are not going to stop. “If we do not take action to put across our messages, to protect and promote, then we will be in

trouble. We need to change the conversation, make the industry exciting and one that consumers want to be a part of. “People are not necessarily against dairy, they just find plant-based more exciting at the moment. Challenge “So we have to modernise the category, and appeal more,

especially to young women.” Nuffield scholar and journalist Tom Levitt stated that veganism was not the biggest challenge to the dairy industry, it is that milk does not fit with modern eating habits. “The market for milk is evolving, not disappearing,” he said. “We do not have the eating habits of our childhoods any more, and we have lost our monopoly.

“Put a label on it and brand it, because people would value it more that way. “Milk as a cheap low value product can be changed through marketing and branding. “Supermarket own label will never add value as it is perceived as a poor man’s food and the milk aisles are not attractive. “The focus should be on promoting and creating desirable milk brands.”

We do not just have consumer fans of [Fairlife], they are evangelical about it

Milk as a cheap low value product can be changed through marketing

Sue McCloskey

Tom Levitt

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27/11/2018 11:19 16:04 23/01/2019

SWITZERLAND Cheese consumption in Switzerland is helping support its milk producers, and those with grazing pastures in the high Alps get government support too. Chris McCullough reports. Peaceful grazing in the Alps produces top quality milk ideal for cheese production.


wiss people consume a whopping 20-25kg of cheese each per year, which is good news for the country’s dairy farmers who are fighting a daily battle to survive. At the last count, there were 51,600 farms in Switzerland, 22,000 of which were dairy, with an average size of 18.6 hectares. These are home to 587,000 dairy cows producing 3.5 billion kg of milk per year. Switzerland produces about 185,000 tonnes of cheese per year with more than 450 varieties, including the popular Emmentaler, Le Gruyere and Sbrinz brands,

and imports another 58,000t to satisfy the population of 8.5 million people’s hunger for cheese. About 29% of Swiss farms are based in the mountains, where a significant percentage of dairying is based, but this type of farming brings its own set of unique challenges. Relying on the strong desire for cheese in Switzerland, dairy farmers such as Reto Theiler, his wife Silvia and five children, spend summer milking their herd of 50 Brown Swiss cows at 1250 metres above sea level on the Abnistetten Alp near the village of Entlebuch. There had been no cheese produced at this farm since 1948,

It takes about 70 litres of milk to make 6kg of cheese at Reto’s farm.



**DF Feb p24 25 Swiss.indd 2

so back in 2011 Reto decided to replace a 260-year-old barn with a new structure integrating cow housing, cheese production facilities, milking parlour and a living apartment for the family. Cows are milked twice-a-day in the four-point abreast parlour, and yield about 25-30kg of milk per day with 3.4% protein and 4.3% butterfat. Reto says: “All our milk goes into making cheese, butter and cream. It takes about 70 litres of milk to produce 6kg of cheese. “We employ Thomas Hofstetter to look after all the milk and cheese production, and my wife and I look after the marketing aspect.

“Our cows produce top quality milk grazed from the alpine meadows in summer, but if it gets too hot we bring them indoors and feed them hay.” When produced, all the cheese is turned five to six times per day to give it shape, substance and flavour. Reto’s farm produces four varieties of hard and soft cheese, which they sell to private customers, hikers and retailers. “A lot of people buy the cheese from our farm shop when they are hiking in the mountains,” says Reto. “Up to 80% of our cheese is sold through two retail chains which pay us 12 Swiss francs [£9.20] per kilogram and sell it in their stores for 22 francs [£16.86] per kilogram. If customers buy it from our farm shop they pay 18 francs [£13.80] per kilogram for the cheese.” In comparison to fresh milk sales in Switzerland, a farmer receives about 60 franc cents (46p) per litre for ordinary commercial milk, but those milking cows in the Alps receive an extra 18 cents (14p) per litre from the Government.

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 14:30


Swiss demand for cheese keeps its producers afloat


SWITZERLAND Selling cheese for 12 francs per kilogram (£9.20p/kg) is the equivalent of receiving 90 franc cents (69p) for one litre of milk. Delving deeper into subsidies, a dairy farmer receives 330 francs (£252.91) per cow if they are grazed for more than 100 days in summer. A farmer in the Alps receives an additional 400 francs (£306.56) per cow for farming in a difficult terrain. Trapped Reto says he is very satisfied with life as a dairy farmer and does not want to be trapped in the European Union style of farming. “Consumers appreciate the work we farmers do in providing food,” he says. “We have a decent family lifestyle with five months spent up in the Alps and seven on our lowland farm. Our Government also supports us well and with the huge appetite for cheese in Switzerland we can generate a decent income each year.

“However, it’s not all so positive, as we do farm in difficult conditions in the mountains and rely on making good, tasty and saleable cheese to survive,” he adds. When the summer grazing period in the Alps is over, Reto takes his cows to his lowland farm for winter where they are kept in a tie-stall barn. He says: “We have 40ha in the Alps and rent a further 20ha for youngstock. There are another 30ha owned in our lowland farm which is normally used for hay and silage production to feed the cattle during the cold winter. “During winter, we produce commercial liquid milk and receive 60 franc cents per litre [46ppl] for it. I am somewhat concerned about the price and whether it will stay at that level. “Switzerland does import a lot of cheaper cheese into the country, and some people will travel across the Swiss border to do their shopping for less money,” he says.

The Brown Swiss breed is favoured by Alpine farmers for its superior milk quality.

Reto Theiler spends five months of the year milking cows on his farm 1250 metres up in the Alps.




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18/01/2019 14:30 06/12/18 14:38

MILK SOLIDS As dairy processors focus their payment schedules on milk solids rather than volume, perhaps it is time to rethink economics beyond ppl. John Allen, of Kite Consulting, gives us his thoughts.

Find efficient way to lift milk solids output


hat I want to look at is whether farmers should be targeting high percentage solids to deliver a higher milk price per litre, or should they target high volume to maximise total solids yield and, therefore, returns? While we need to think about new ways of monitoring farm performance and target setting, there is confusion in the industry when it comes to identifying which approach is more profitable. In reality, should we be looking at performance in terms of total fat and protein production, as this would also help prepare herds for future markets where milk volume may not be the ultimate business target? Let us look at the figures in the panel (below), which gives a farm cost breakdown by litre, energy corrected milk (which partially accounts for constituent content) and by kilograms of solids. Bear in mind, though, the current market values fat over protein, as consumers have come back to consuming more butter and dairy fat products, whereas the global availability of protein is forecast to be restricted in the long run and,

Milk solids output can be increased in a variety of ways.

consequently, protein prices are likely to trend upwards longer term. So, should we be driven by kg milk solids? Yes, definitely, since output measured in kilograms of solids is a key profit driver. The more kilograms of butterfat and protein produced at an economic cost of production, the better. The key consideration, however, is how those kilograms

Metrics for assessing performance rAverage butterfat: 3.9% rAverage protein: 3.25% rSolids per cow: 749kg rMilk sold: 3,453,791 litres rAverage herd size: 332 rCalculated yield per cow



**DF Feb p26 27 John Allen.indd 2

(milk sold): 10,291 litres rNet cost of production (energy corrected milk): 25.76ppl; 26.49p/kg rNet cost of production (solids): ÂŁ3.46/kg

of milk solids are produced and, on some farms, this may be achieved by selling more litres of milk at lower milk quality. For example, if you can increase yields and maintain butterfat and protein, that’s great. If, as typically happens, milk constituents fall, then calculate the kilograms of solids to work out if you are selling more per cow, per hectare or per pound invested, maximising your returns to the most limiting factor on-farm. It is easy to follow the wrong performance measurement when considering milk solids. Many farmers who want to maximise their milk price will opt for the production of higher constituent percentages.

However, based on maximising efficient output per cow, often the best returns come from lower constituent percentages, resulting in a lower milk price per litre, but with more overall volume and, therefore, greater total solids output, delivering greater overall returns. Maintenance Some would argue a cow with a higher bodyweight will require more energy/input for maintenance than a smaller animal, but the more milk solids a cow produces, the lower the maintenance cost per kilogram of solids – dilution factor. Efficient high-yielding cows can be really profitable animals and there is huge potential from bringing a

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:08

MILK SOLIDS Evolution not revolution is required on most farms that are getting the message on solids John Allen 650kg Holstein giving the national average of 600kg solids/ year to one giving 1000kg solids per year within the same system. If the limiting factor is cow places, which it is in many types of UK system, making each cow as efficient in producing milk solids, and therefore as profitable as possible, makes complete sense. The key thing, as I alluded to earlier, is farm businesses need to establish their limiting factor, for example, land, cow places, labour, capital, and they need to establish how to maximise returns to this. To assess the best approach for their herd, businesses need to monitor the current cost of producing solids, if on a solids-based contract, and establish the marginal costs of increasing their returns at varying values for solid components. While it is important that New solids targets for herds 6000 . Yield (kg) Butterfat (%) 4.5 Protein (%) 3.6 Milk solids (kg) 486 Milk income/cow (ÂŁ) 1,883 Milk volume (p/kg) 31.38 Milk solids (ÂŁ/kg) 3.87 Milk solids (per kg 0.75 liveweight @ 650kg) Output/cow/day Solids/cow (average 1.59 kg over 305 days) Output (ÂŁ/cow over 6.17 305 days)

**DF Feb p26 27 John Allen.indd 3

farms consider performance in terms of milk solids, care is required, as some schedules will favour the production of more milk volume at lower constituent percentages, resulting in higher overall fat and protein yield, while other schedules may not. The longer term planning businesses need to undertake encompasses genetics and feeding, and wholesale changes to farm systems are often not necessary. Evolution, not revolution, is required on most farms that are getting the message on solids. Producing milk solids profitably is key, and in the table (below), are updated targets for milk solids production per yield. One of the main factors in all of this is high quality forage, such as multicut. This is the key to efficiently raising milk solids in many cases. 8000 4.4 3.5 632 2,450 30.62 3.88 0.97

12,000 3.9 3.25 858 3,360 28.00 3.92 1.32







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27 25/01/2019 10:06

INTERVIEW Management in the transition period plays a critical part in a cow’s future lactational yield and health. Peter Hollinshead talks to Premier Nutrition’s transition manager Mark Hall about what we can do to minimise the many pitfalls surrounding calving.

Dry cow priming is secret to success


was somewhat startled by your findings on rumen fill in the transition cow and how it could influence yield, adding an incredible five litres to peak. Is that figure right? Yes, it seems to be. At the minute we have only done it on a relatively small subset of our data (about 250 cows), but we are in the process of expanding that to 2000 cows. Five litres seems to be the magic figure. You claim a whole host of health benefits, such as cows with rumen fill scores less than three were three times more likely to have acidosis, and more likely to succumb to many other problems like mastitis and retained membranes around that time. That is an incredible effect. It certainly is. We think a lot of this is purely down to rumen function and getting that right from day one. Before we explore what is going on here we need to define our terms. First of all what do you mean exactly by the transition period? For us, the transition period is 30 days pre-calving to 30 days post-calving. How do you measure rumen fill? Could I physically spot it simply by walking through a group of dry cows, or does it have to be more scientific than that and derived from the ration they are on? No, dry cow rumen fill is the



simplest thing in the world to measure. It is quite literally the triangle on the left-hand side of the cow between the back end of the ribs and the start of the hooks and the top of the spine. How would I measure it? Would I put my hand on that area and if taut and the skin stretched would it be high rumen fill, and if sunken right down little rumen fill? It is a visual assessment and measured on a scale of one to five. If it is a five, it is full and we are looking for an incredibly convex, bulging out rumen, and if it is a one, we are looking at a very empty cow with a big concave space in that triangle. Would this vary much throughout the day depending on when they had been fed, for example, and feed has had chance to work its way through to the rumen? We have been running our Transition Management Service for six years and have hundreds

Five extra litres at peak will lift the whole lactation curve Mark Hall

of thousands of data points over hundreds of different herds over all times of the day, so we can be pretty confident the effect we are seeing is a genuine one and not just a product of time of day or feeding system. Normally, low fill is because there has been too long a period between old feed being replaced with new feed. Dry cows should never be without fresh feed in front of them. Would most of these cows be on TMR anyhow, so they would have ad-lib access to the ration? And would we expect the rumen fill to change much over the period, even with ad-lib access? Most of our herds would be TMR herds anyway. We are not wanting to see cows with ones or twos, as these are the cows that have not eaten for 10-12 hours or more and have something going on which needs investigation. Anything around three or above is what we are aiming for and

the gold standard is four and five across the board 24 hours/day. You say 24 hours/day, but would there be a natural time when the rumen was either full or empty depending on sleep patterns or similar? Yes, obviously the rumen fill will be lower in the evening and at night when cows are not eating as much, but again, you would still hope the rumen fill would not drop below the three mark. But surely we could get rumen fill from feeding a lot of straw, but that presumably would be different than filling it with good quality silage, for example. Do we need to watch the energy intake as I presume we need to be careful as to what the rumen is filled with? Yes, we certainly do not want to be filling the rumen with 12ME first-cut rocket-power grass

Premier Nutrition’s Mark Hall.


**DF Feb p28 30 31 32 33 Mark Hall.indd 2

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25/01/2019 09:13

INTERVIEW silage, but we want to be aiming for that 120MJ/cow/day. We really want to maximise that rumen fill with high quality forage diluted with plenty of straw and good quality concentrate. So straw is playing a big part, but a lot of people may have come off it slightly for their dry cows owing to it being more difficult to do a separate TMR with the straw in. But you would strongly advocate a diet with straw in it, would you? Yes, most definitely, but the biggest thing with any dry cow ration that includes straw is the processing of it. If you are putting straw in front of cows that is muzzle-width long it is completely pointless, as they will pick it out and leave it to one side. You really need to be processing straw down to 1-1.5in with a straw grinder or chopper and get a contractor in if you have to. We must use any way we can to process that straw to get it to the same length as grass silage or maize silage, because the less sorting we have, the more intake we are going to get into these dry cows. Would most people who successfully follow your advice be using chopped straw? Yes. One of the most essential parts of it is the processing of the ration. Each handful needs to be the same and straw is the key part of that. We are really looking to get that straw into them to drop the energy density down while maximising the rumen fill, and straw chopping is a real key part of that. Does it matter if it is the courser wheat straw or barley straw? Or is it irrelevant so long as the energy value is taken into account? I personally prefer wheat straw, as it is much easier to process. Barley straw is much softer and tends to shred rather than chop, and it is that chop length down to an inch or less which we need.



You say that if the straw is the same length as the silage, the cow cannot sort it, but does it decrease the dry matter intake as it wouldn’t be quite as palatable as it might have been before? No, you will actually increase DM intakes because all of the time she is at the feed barrier she is going to spend that time eating, whereas if you have an uneven mix in the ration, she is going to spend a lot of her time at the feed barrier trying to sort the feed. If she is spending half-an-hour at the feed barrier, 20 minutes of that she will be sorting and 10 minutes feeding, whereas a cow that is presented with an evenly chopped well-mixed ration is going to spend that whole half-an-hour eating. So the idea of feeding a small portion of the milking cow ration and maybe putting straw out of the bale into a manger for them is totally taboo, is it? Completely, taboo. No-one should be doing that. Presumably at this stage we have a bit of competition for space with the imminent calving. Would a bigger calf mean a compressed rumen and, therefore, smaller amounts would cause it to be full? Or conversely, smaller calves will make the rumen fill situation looks worse? Yes, certainly a bigger calf will lead to a compressed rumen and,

Apparent ketosis is the mobilisation of body fat and that comes from lower DM intakes Mark Hall

therefore, a smaller amount would give a false reading. I would say on average, though, with the genetics of the modern dairy herd, you get very similar calf birthweights of about 40-45kg for the average calf. So the effect of calf size I would say would be less pronounced in the dairy cow than say the beef cow. Should people worry about the effect of a bigger beef calf out of the dairy cow rather than a dairy calf? We are measuring a large enough dataset of cows to encompass that factor, and so far we haven’t seen any huge difference owing to the type of calf the cow is pregnant with. How does it work? What is the mechanism at play here starting with the increased yield? Is it just providing a bigger surface area for rumen microbes to multiply and generate microbial protein? For me it is all about getting those 6kg forage NDF in as a dry cow. If she will eat it as a dry cow she will eat it as a fresh cow. It is as simple as that. It is about getting the rumen to work at maximum efficiency. How would we relate that 6kg NDF to possibly more common terms? We are really looking at a minimum of 12kg DM as a minimum into these dry cows, although some really high yielding herds may be looking at getting 14-15kg DM into their dry cows. Is that DM coming from the straw/silage mix mostly? Yes, that is normally a combination of either grass silage, wholecrop, maize and straw and some form of protein, and maybe a bit of starch going in there as well. You mention wholecrop, would that be a big benefit in the system you are advocating? Yes, wholecop is certainly something we can use in dry cow rations and one of my highest yielding farms will be feeding a considerable amount of wholecrop to dry cows.

Straw needs to be processed for dry cow rations down to 1-1.5ins so as to avoid any sorting.

I was thinking more in terms of it being ready chopped and more likely to fill the requirement you want from a dry cow diet than others? Not necessarily. Wholecrop tends to have an energy density of 10-11.5MJ, whereas straw is about 7-9MJ, so it is really about getting the lowest energy density feed to dilute the overall energy density down. Wholecrop is a fantastic feed and we do get a fair chunk of straw coming from that, but it is all about dropping the energy density in that diet to get to the 120MJ while maintaining DM intakes. Does the five litres extra at peak lift the whole lactation curve for the duration? Isn’t that production dependent on the lactation ration, and does that extra output at peak exacerbate the energy balance? The five extra litres at peak will lift the whole lactation curve. If you imagine the lactation curve and the cow getting to peak at 30-40 days, if she is peaking at five litres higher, that drop off at the end of lactation is going to be a lot shallower than for a cow that has peaked at five fewer litres. Throughout the whole lactation, that cow may be two, three or four litres higher than a cow that has peaked at five litres less. Coming on to the negative energy balance, what we are looking to do by maximising DM intake


**DF Feb p28 30 31 32 33 Mark Hall (CORRECTED.indd 4

22/01/2019 13:46


as a dry cow is to maximise DM intake as a fresh cow, so we are not really exacerbating the negative energy balance of that cow because we are driving the intakes of that cow and getting more food into her, which is where that extra milk is coming from. There is no reason we cannot get high yielding cows back in-calf providing they are eating enough. The whole thing about negative energy balance is the lag in feed intakes; the peak milk yield tends to come before peak intakes in cows, and if we can get them to eat more feed quicker, we are going to get more milk and certainly not make that energy balance any worse than it would have been. The old concept of ‘steaming up’ by getting them on the higher nutrient lactation ration prior to calving to reduce the dietary transition is wrong, is it? Yes, countless studies have proven that steaming-up rations is pointless. They don’t work. All the cow does with that extra energy is lay it down as body fat and that is the last thing we want in our dry cows. Okay, let’s look at the disease implications if we may. You maintain that cows with a rumen score in the transition stage of less than three on the scale are three times more likely to have acidosis. Surely that is caused by highly fermentable carbohydrate, such as barley, and can be brought on within 24 hours of it being fed at any stage? Yes, it certainly can, but what we are seeing with the dry cows again comes back to rumen function. Because cows aren’t eating as much, and not getting the fibre they could because they are sorting rations, they are giving themselves acidosis by having poor rumen function. If we can keep that rumen full, these animals will be getting the fibre intakes as

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INTERVIEW High rumen fill in the dry period will mean the rumen will take in large amounts of DM post-calving, and help the cow avoid many of the post-parturient health problems.

well as carbohydrates, whereas animals with lower rumen fill may not have the rumen mat developed and anything she does eat is going to go down to the acid portion of the rumen and fizz away causing an acidosis issue. You claim these cows are 2.8 times more likely to have retained foetal membranes... why is that? This comes down to calcium in the ration. Many fresh cow rations we see are hugely deficient in calcium to the point where many farmers are only feeding 25-30% of the requirement of the fresh cow. We looked at retained cleansings in the first 24 hours and hopefully in that time the cow has been given access to the fresh cow ration, but if that ration is low in calcium and she isn’t going to eat enough of it, there won’t be the smooth muscle tone there to expel that cleansing out the back end, and we end up with these retained membranes. You say cows with poor rumen fill are 2.3 times more likely to have milk fever. How does rumen fill affect calcium mobilisation?



Again, if you are putting a ration in front of the cow with a specified amount of calcium in it, if she is not eating that, you cannot guarantee that cow is getting the required amount of calcium, so the effect you are hoping to see from the ration will not be there, and it is as simple as that really. Your poor rumen fill cows are four times more likely to have displaced abomasums. Aren’t these brought about by unfilled rumens allowing them to float up from their true position, and could happen at any time with inadequate rumen fill? Yes, displaced abomasums are brought about by unfilled rumens. If we don’t train those dry cows to eat enough in the dry period, they won’t eat enough as fresh cows to fill that rumen. What we are looking to do in the dry period is condition animals to eat as much as they physically can as a fresh cow, so once the calf comes out the back end, that huge space needs to be taken up by something, so when she calves, we want

her primed to eat as much as she can as a fresh cow to stop that rumen twisting. Now the next one did throw me a little, and that was 1.7 times more likely to have mastitis. What is going on here, because surely mastitis is brought about by pathogens? This was a really interesting one for us, too, and quite a shock. We think it is probably linked to the increase in acidosis, as obviously any muck flying out the back end is going to make the bedding dirtier and we see a change in hock hygiene levels, and that is where we think the mastitis is coming from. We think it is more a secondary effect to acidosis rather than a direct effect of DM intake. And 2.4 times more likely to have apparent ketosis as measured by the fat to protein ratio in the milk. Now this really is contradictory, as surely ketosis is brought about by the mobilisation of body fat in a desperate attempt to find enough energy

One of the most essential parts is the processing of the ration. Each handful needs to be the same Mark Hall in early lactation to satisfy the demand of milk production, and yet here we are lifting peak by another five litres? Apparent ketosis is the mobilisation of body fat and that comes from lower DM intakes, and it is the milk yield rising faster than the DM intake – that is where the ketosis comes from. Anything we can do to increase DM intake during that period is going to decrease the ketosis risk for those cows.


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22/01/2019 09:14

INTERVIEW Mark Hall says putting straw in front of cows that is muzzle-width long will allow sorting, and is pointless.

Finally, could we have some practical guidelines for a dry cow diet? Most of my guys would be on one ration for the whole dry

period, and we are looking for 120MJ/day, with 6kg forage NDF, decent levels of starch and sugars, and a key one for me is 1.2kg of metabolisable protein.

It really is getting that high quality protein into these cows which is going to make a big difference. Pay real attention to calcium;

if you can put a DCAD system, or partial DCAD, in place which will allow you to feed calcium to your dry cows, you will see huge benefits as a fresh cow.



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33 22/01/2019 13:54

BREEDING & FERTILITY Wil Armitage, who made his name by taking showmanship championships at Madison and Toronto Winter Fairs, developing the highest yielding herd in the UK, and winning the Gold Cup, has changed from high production in favour of breeding for profit. Ann Hardy reports.

New goals mean a change of breeding policy


here is an old expression in dairy farming along the lines of ‘production is vanity and profit is sanity’. It applies just as much today as whenever it was first coined. For herd owner and manager Wil Armitage, it has been a driving force for the past 15 or more years. Of course, few would criticise the ambition both he and his former employer, now business partner, Peter Dixon Smith, had in the 1990s, which was to win the NMR

RABDF Gold Cup and produce the highest yielding herd in the UK. It is no surprise they achieved this on the basis of their keen eye for good Holstein cattle and superb standards of management in the 170-head former Lyons herd. But today, there has been a change in the philosophy at Keythorpe Lakes Farm, Tugby, Leicestershire, where the 12,000litre, prize-winning pedigree herd has made way for cattle whose sole raison d’etre is to make a profit from milk production.

A feeding area was constructed outside so the herd could expand to 350-head.



**DF Feb P34 36 37 38 Armitage.indd 2

Wil Armitage at Keythorpe Lakes Farm, Leicestershire.

But this has not been achieved through breeding with bulls whose predicted transmitting abilities (PTAs) have featured ever-increasing volumes of milk. Lifespan On the contrary, modest production transmitters have been chosen in favour of those with high PTAs for health, welfare, fertility and lifespan. And since Mr Armitage’s business has now been expanded into four block-calving herds, calving in either autumn or

spring, or in two split blocks – a strong emphasis has been placed on AHDB Dairy’s relatively new Spring and Autumn Calving Indexes (£SCI and £ACI). The result, according to Mr Armitage, has been greater profitability than ever, which has fuelled ongoing herd expansion and the acquisition of land. Today, he is involved in various business partnerships, including the joint ownership of 274 acres and 570 milking cows, and the farming of 3650 acres in total, under a variety of farming contracts. Reaching this point has involved a step-by-step enlightenment over many years, beginning with encouragement from his parents, who keep livestock on Exmoor on a 120-acre holding. “They said if you want to make money you should go into dairying,” says Mr Armitage. “And I’d say if you are prepared to work hard, you can still make a career and money from dairy farming now.” Having attended Bridgwater College, his sandwich year was

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 14:32

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BREEDING & FERTILITY spent with the 9000-plus litre Mundonhall herd in Essex, and it was here he acquired his ‘passion for high yielding cows’. His first job after college was with the Shalama herd in Dorset, with its strong emphasis on showing. By the end of his tenure, the herd itself had won numerous championships, while Mr Armitage had become All-Britain champion showman, as well as champion showman at the Madison and Toronto winter fairs in North America. It was in 1990 that he took on the role of herd manager for the greenfield unit at Keythorpe Lakes Farm, where he focused his attention on raising the health, production and calibre of the Lyons herd. Becoming the UK’s highest yielding herd in 1995 and winning the Gold Cup in 1996 and 1997, the cattle went on to achieve annual production of over 12,000 litres by 2000. At the same time, the herd had an average somatic cell count of just 93,000/ml, reflecting the high standards of stockmanship and the close attention paid to hygiene and health. Admirers At the heart of the herd was the legendary High-Point Chief Mary EX96 5E who earned even more admirers than the herd as a whole. Mr Armitage says: “The Chief was my mentor as well as my monitor cow. She responded in milk to whatever went in. If you got the diet wrong, she was the first to tell you. She was such an honest cow. “She won 17 first prizes at The Royal Show and gave 176 tonnes of milk in her 17-and-ahalf years. She was a proper cow, and now she is buried under the apple tree.” However, by the end of the 1990s, it was evident the fortunes of the dairy business were faltering, as prolonged low milk prices hit the industry hard. “I could see the returns were



**DF Feb P34 36 37 38 Armitage.indd 4

High-Point Chief Mary.

As a high-input, high-output system, we were exposed to the risk of feed price rises Wil Armitage not there and knew we had to do something different,” says Mr Armitage, who by then was overall farm manager of the 930-acre farm. “Between 2000 and 2003 we were just treading water. There were not the margins to be had and as a high-input/high-output system we were exposed to the risks of feed price rises.” So the decision was taken to sell the Lyons herd upon Mr Dixon Smith’s retirement, and to make way for ‘a business that would generate more profit’. The autumn-calving herd which took its place would focus on smaller, sound, commercial cattle which offered ease of

management and good standards of health and welfare. They would not be pushed for yields, but more for milk from forage, with the aim of increasing margins. Mr Armitage was offered the chance to take on Keythope on a Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) at the time of the switch, but, having no means to raise sufficient finance, had to decline. Instead, he and his employer formed the Keythorpe Farms Partnership, with Mr Armitage increasing his share of the business to reach 50:50 within five years. However, he quickly came to the conclusion that although he would earn a living in the partnership, he would be unable to grow the business. Hunger “There was now a different set of rules and a different hunger to make a profit,” he says. “But I saw no point in putting on more cows, so instead we went organic.” Breeding by then was increasingly focused on high health and fitness, with bulls selected with PTAs of more than +0.08% fat, +0.08% protein, +0.4 Lifespan, +10 Fertility Index and at least -15 SCC Index. The herd was bred to achieve a ‘stamp’, with

good feet and legs, rump structure, chest width and depth of rib, creating a ‘pretty solid type of cow’. Mr Armitage says: “We needed to standardise the herd to get the best from flat-rate feeding. And we didn’t want to push for kg milk because we wanted a low concentrate input system. “We do not want to put cows out to grass in February or March giving 40 litres of milk. “We want them to thrive on grazed grass and a maximum of 4kg concentrates a day.” By 2008, profits reached a record high, even outstripping those achieved in the early 1990s when milk price was high. “I had completely changed the way we managed the cows; we were achieving up to 3800 litres from forage and of course we benefited from the higher organic milk price. But organic feed is expensive, so it was all about hitting the optimum rather than pushing for maximum production.” Veterinary costs had also plummeted and now stand at 0.64ppl, about 50% of which is currently the cost of vaccination, although this may reduce further. “We were not calculating vet

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 14:32

BREEDING & FERTILITY costs on a cost per litre basis with the old system, but it was significantly more than this.” Following the success of the organic conversion, expansion became an option and a new parlour was installed and a feed passage removed to make way for new cubicles. With a feed pad then constructed outside, the herd could expand to 350-head. Such was the continued success of the business that when the nearby 274-acre Glebe Farm came onto the market in 2011, they opted to buy it. Mr Armitage says: “Peter and I split the deposit and the Keythorpe Farms Partnership is financing it.” A succession of partnerships and FBTs has followed, now enabling Mr Armitage to manage 1250 milking cows across four herds. Holsteins have continued to be used in both spring and autumn-calving herds where the focus on breeding has

We opted to stick with Holsteins which can perform really well on autumn and spring systems

Cows at grass last spring.

Wil Armitage now moved to £SCI and £ACI. He says: “We opted to stick with Holsteins which can perform really well on autumn and spring systems, especially with the huge amount of genetic information and the large gene pool we are able to use. “We don’t use Profitable Lifetime Index, because it is more suited to year-round calving,” he


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As part of the expansion, cubicles replaced a feed passage to accommodate the extra cows.

says. “But the two AHDB Dairy block calving indexes highlight the profitable bulls for our systems. “The thing I most like about using £SCI and £ACI is plugging bulls in from around the world and standardising their figures on a UK base,” he says. “In the past we have looked at bulls’ countryof-origin figures and their production could look good against that foreign base. “But indexes from countries such as Ireland or New Zealand have their particular quirks. “We found one bull which had 723kg milk in his foreign index, making him one of the top production bulls in that country, but he only converted to 26kg on a UK base. “We used him a lot on the basis of his foreign figures, but when we looked at his £SCI, it really highlighted to me that we were working from such a different base in the UK,” he says. “The £SCI was a far better reflection of what we saw in his daughters on the farm. In fact, he wasn’t as good a bull as most of our stock bulls.” With both £SCI and £ACI featuring the health, fitness and functional type traits demanded by Mr Armitage, he says he is happy to use the indexes as a ranking tool.



**DF Feb P34 36 37 38 Armitage.indd 6

“Then I will make sure the bull transmits small to medium stature, chest width and open rib, and avoid anything with short teats at all costs as it is pointless having cows you cannot keep the unit on,” he says. “Stature will not be more than +1, and for the spring-calving herd, it would ideally be closer to zero. “We are not particularly looking for Type Merit, as overall type does not equate to profit. “The breed has come so far over the past 20 or 30 years that most bulls transmit good functional, working type anyway. “Management traits, such as SCC, mastitis and fertility, are much more important and with

things like TB resistance and calf survival there are more coming through. “The new Maintenance Index adds a further dimension and sometimes throws out a bull whose daughters would cost too much to keep.” Criteria Also favouring A2A2 bulls, he says that although not required by his buyer today, he believes this will help breed a cow which should be fit for the future. By the time he has applied his selection criteria there are few bulls on Mr Armitage’s shortlist. “For autumn-calvers just served

we used mainly Go-Farm Inseme Sprite and returned to Prehen Omen, whose daughters are already doing really well,” he says. “But I have not yet decided what we will use on spring-calvers.” Today, he says he is happy with the system and continues to see profits which could encourage further growth. Having switched to organic production for purely financial reasons, he says he now believes the system ‘sits a lot better’ with his farming philosophy. “Our ultimate goal is profitability and the health of the system,” he says. “That means cow health, farm health and staff health and happiness, as we want to be the employer of choice.” As for the cows, he says they continue to perform well, with good health and fitness, typified by mastitis which runs at four cases per 100 cows per year across the two main herds. Choosing the right genetics is said to be a major factor in their performance and health, and fertility will continue to be at the forefront of his breeding choices. Mr Armitage says: “The reality is that the best cows before would still be the best cows today. They are not necessarily the highest production cows, but are the ones which stay in the system, produce the lifetime yields and will help future-proof our business.”

Building the business around Keythorpe Lakes Farm r350 autumn-calving cows owned in partnership at Keythorpe Lakes Farm rProduction of 7400kg at 4.35% fat and 3.4% protein on 1.86 tonnes of concentrates/cow/year r220 spring-calving cows also owned in partnership at Glebe Farm rProduction of 6750kg at 4.1% fat and 3.28% protein on 1.24t of concentrates/cow/year rMastitis rates run at four

cases per 100 cows per year across both herds rBusiness now expanded to include two further contract farms rContract farms have mixed breeds and calve in split spring and autumn blocks rBreeding based on AHDB Dairy’s Autumn and Spring Calving Indexes (£ACI and £SCI) as primary screening tools rMilk destined for US markets as organic cheese

via OMSCo and Wyke Farms rTarget grazing season from mid to late-Feb until mid-November r3000 acres now farmed organically, 650 acres conventionally and 1250 cows milked rHome-grown organic feeds include grass and clover swards, fodder beet, lucerne, diverse wholecrop (oats, barley, peas, beans, vetch) and oats (fed as part of concentrate)

FEBRUARY 2019 25/01/2019 11:04

Preg Rate

Preg Rate

Rodney Down with Cogent’s Graham Higgott

, Cogent Beef IMPACT & Cogent Precision REPRO

DF_02_P39.indd 1 Dairy Farmer feb advert 2019.indd 4


25/01/2019 13:01 11:14

BREEDING & FERTILITY Taking control of heifer growth rates by weighing replacements multiple times before breeding is enabling a Yorkshire dairy farm to calve at 24 months or earlier. Debbie James reports.


om Hildreth uses a weighband to record at birth the weight of heifer calves from the family’s Holstein herd. The weighband is again used at weaning at eight weeks to check calves have achieved a target weight of 90kg. This policy was first implemented by Tom’s father, Roger, in 2014. Before then, heifers were only weighed for service weights in a weigh-crush with a swinging needle scale. At that time, no more than 40% of heifers calved at 24 months, but with the odd exception, all now achieve that. The Hildreths, who run a herd of 120 cows in the Vale of York, calculate this results in rearing savings of about £1.90/day. Roger says: “There is no point in stressing calves by making them go through a handling system, the weighband gives us the information we need to know to see if they are on target or not.” Retained There is a big focus on at least doubling birthweight at weaning to maximise the feed conversion while calves are monogastrics. Forty heifers are retained and genomic testing is used to select the best 30 for replacements. Heifers are grouped according to weight, in batches of no more than five to six, a size which the Hildreths reckon is the ideal social group. Careful attention is paid to stocking

Weighband keeps heifers on track Take the guesswork out of heifer weights, says Roger Hildreth.

density with each calf allocated a minimum of 4sq.metres of pen space. As such, there are no issues with scour or pneumonia. At this stage, animals are on a ration of ad-lib straw and 3-3.5kg of home-mix, although this year that home-mix has been replaced with a 18.5% protein concentrate due to a shortage of forage. “We anticipated we would be short of forage during the

At grazing, a representative group of heifers is weighed.



**DF Feb p40 Hildreth.indd 2

dry spell, so this year we wholecropped the wheat instead of feeding it to heifers, and are rearing all heifers on cake and straw,” says Roger, who farms 72 hectares (180 acres) at Curlew Fields Farm, Hessay. Calf jackets are used from October to March to achieve minimum growth rates of 0.8kg, and 10% more milk powder is given in very cold weather. Heifers are weighed again at 20 weeks when they are moved to another shed and they are weighed monthly until they are at grass. Roger admits weighing can be less frequent when heifers are at grass. “We will weigh a representative group to check they are achieving the right growth rates.’’ The target is 0.80kg/day, and “we need to keep that fairly level to achieve bulling at 380kg,” he says. By working back from an

average mature cow weight of 680kg, he knows that 0.8kg will be sufficient to grow heifers to 55% of bodyweight by 14-15 months old to serve. As a result, most heifers calve at 24 months or younger. He says: “The odd one sneaks over a bit if we do not get them in-calf at the required time.” Inseminations Each heifer has up to two inseminations with sexed semen and is then turned in with a bull. Roger says a heat detection system is essential. “When we were detecting them by eye, we were missing heats.” As such, at 380kg, heifers are fitted with heat detection collars. Weighing has an important part to play in calving heifers at 24 months or younger, says Roger. Simply using visual assessment is not sufficient, he stresses.

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:09

Really Makes Sense. Good reproductive performance in your herd means enough replacements and ultimately, increased milk and profits. But when labour is in short supply, it’s often fertility that suffers first - that’s where RMS (Reproductive Management Systems) can help. Your RMS Technician will be dedicated to improving reproductive performance on your farm. It’s not only accurate heat detection and AI, we will work with you to ensure all factors effecting fertility are covered.

RMS herds average 21-day Pregnancy Rate 21%

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And the results speak for themselves.... Over 250,000 cows are now on RMS, achieving an average Pregnancy Rate of 21%, with top herds achieving 30% and more.

The difference between 14% and 21% Pregnancy Rate could mean an extra 2ppl milk or £50k profit.* *Based on average RMS herd size of 280 cows

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RMS can help you to maximise pregnancies and maximise profits **Key Performance Indicators for the UK national dairy herd, a study of herd performance in 500 Holstein/Friesian herds for the year ending 31st August 2017 Dr. James Hanks & Dr. Mohamad Kossaibati, Veterinary Epidemiology & Economics Research Unit (VEERU), University of Reading (30-day Pregnancy Rate).

23/01/2019 13:07


Cogent reproductive specialist Kirsty Pickles.

Rodney Down (left) with Cogent’s regional sales manager Graham Higgott.

Precision expertise makes herd expansion plans a reality Staffing changes in the midst of the breeding period and aspirations of herd expansion prompted Somerset farmer Rodney Down to approach Cogent Breeding for a helping hand with fertility management.

By using mostly sexed semen, I am able to remove lower earning animals from the system Rodney Down




odney and his wife Claire farm 1,650 acres near Taunton, which currently hosts a herd of 320 Holstein cows plus followers. However, plans are in place to set up another dairy unit nearby which will open in autumn 2019, effectively doubling the number of milking cows and bringing with it the requirement for more replacement heifers. Higher Wrantage Farm is situated in a rain shadow, meaning during summer land can become extremely dry, therefore the six-month calving pattern is designed to make the most of grass growth. Mr Down says: “Cows are served September through to March with the aim to have finished calving by Christmas, with a few stragglers going into the New Year. When we turn the cows out, everything is in-calf and in-milk.” It was in January 2017, part way through the main breeding period that Mr Down approached Cogent to talk about its Precision packages, following the loss of two members of staff. These two between them did the majority of the artificial insemination, but were fortunate enough to have secured their own farm tenancy.

Around this time Mr Down also received a recommendation of Cogent’s Precision services from a member of a local discussion group who was using a similar service. He explained to Mr Down how impressed he was and that it had freed up time for the other staff on his farm. Mr Down’s point of contact, regional sales manager for the south Graham Higgott, says: “Precision can be flexible which allows us to customise it for the requirements of each farm.”


Cogent offers a variety of services under the Precision banner. PrecisionREPRO utilises a number of different heat detection methods that include technology and ‘walk and chalk’. Highly skilled reproductive specialists then provide their clients with a 365-day a year service, making breeding decisions to maximise fertility performance. Collection of data to analyse performance is a key part of the PrecisionREPRO service. When clients choose the method of technology for heat detection in the form of MooMonitor+, the added bonus of health monitoring is available. Individual animal data


**DF Feb p42 43 Cogent (Signed off).indd 2

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PrecisionREPRO utilises a number of different heat detection methods

is collected 24hrs a day and is easily accessible for the client and technician via a cloud-based system. “As well as spending time reading chalk, using technology and breeding animals, they use live fertility data for each animal in the herd via their phones. This enables the technician to combine the data with their skills to make more informed breeding decisions,” says Mr Higgott. Mr Down’s staff were using the walk and chalk method previously and as they already had collars for parlour ID, he decided to continue this with the help of Cogent. Mr Down is breeding all the replacements for the new unit out of the existing herd as disease status is an extremely important driver for him. “Over the last eight to 10 years we have blood tested everything on the farm for BVD. We are also clear for IBR, lepto and fluke, and there are only two red Johne’s cows in the herd, so it is a no-brainer to breed our own heifers. “I have been really impressed with the service and the expertise of the technicians – it is a teamwork approach. We decided to go again this year with the same technician, Kirsty Pickles. She is brilliant and with the introduction of the new unit we have decided to use 100% sexed semen on the genetically best and most fertile cows within the herd, and beef semen on the remainder,” says Mr Down. The farm’s submission rate is now running at 73%, driving a pregnancy rate of 32%, and average days in milk to conception is 94 days. SexedULTRA 4M semen is being used on cows and Mr Down says conception rates are higher this year than they were last year with conventional

The Precision team at Higher Wrantage Farm. semen. The current bulls being used are NH Sunview Fantastic, EDG Delta-B52 and De-Su Spring Silverado. “We were going to use sexed on the top 25% of the herd, but we have decided to go sexed on about 80% of the herd to get the replacements we need for the new unit, and the rest are put to beef semen,” says Mr Down. As well as PrecisionREPRO, Mr Down is also using PrecisionMAP, a genetic auditing tool personalised to the farm’s specific requirements. The programme allows for the identification of genetic trends and therefore areas of potential genetic gain. This is carried out by looking at the requirements of the farm’s milk contract, combined with each cow’s performance and conformation data.

Custom index

This allows Cogent to create a custom index for the individual farm, which means the best animals can be selected to create replacements and these are correctively mated to the right bull to improve progeny performance and conformation. Mr Down says: “We are on an Arla Tesco contract and have been breeding for fertility and constituents for the last four to five years, and are seeing the results now in the bulk tank, so these traits are still an important factor.” He is also selecting bulls with low stature, weight of positive combined fat and protein kilos, and good legs and feet that are also important for a grazing herd. The herd is currently achieving 8,761kg per lactation at 4.05% fat and 3.38% protein with an average somatic cell count of 142,000/ml. Bulls to suit each cow are then selected by the PrecisionMATCH mating programme which is used to actively manage genetic recessives and inbreeding within the herd at Higher Wrantage

Farm. The list is then filtered down by Mr Down according to his criteria. “I leave it up to the technicians, they are brilliant. If a cow is not performing well, is in poor conformation or has been served three times, they will use their own initiative and use beef semen. This also works the other way too – if she is a particularly good cow they may then think it should be given another chance.” As well as the dairy herd, Mr Down grows wheat, barley and maize, and runs a beef finishing enterprise which takes all the male Holstein calves and beef-sired ones from the dairy herd. The use of SexedULTRA 4M semen is also helping to drive profits within this part of the business. Any smaller cows and a small number of Jersey-cross cows which are designated to be served with beef semen are put to an Aberdeen-Angus, and larger cows are served with British Blue semen. “I benchmark how much each animal earns each day it is on the farm. I have found Holstein steers can provide up to £300 less income over their life than a beef-sired animal, therefore by using mostly sexed semen I am able to remove these lower earning animals from the system,” says Mr Down. “For me combining Precision and SexedULTRA 4M means that I can reduce the number of Holstein bull calves, drive heifer numbers for the second unit, tick all the boxes for the milk contract, as well as produce a consistent animal, and the PrecisionREPRO service means none of the full-time staff have to AI.”

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43 25/01/2019 14:04

BREEDING & FERTILITY Good conception rates are only one part of achieving high herd fertility. Somerset vet Sally Wilson explains why pregnancy rates are more important, and that knowing how many cows are eligible to be served is crucial.

Herd fertility depends on coping with all variables


hese days, we are inundated with data. Data which tells us when the cows are eating, how rumination is going, milk conductivity, bulling behaviour – the list is endless. It is easy to pull lists of tables and graphs from whatever computer software your farm possesses, but when it comes to fertility, there is one parameter which is always good to start with. And that is ‘rate of fertility efficiency’, alternatively known as ‘preg rate’. This simple parameter can tell you a lot of current information. It is created by multiplying the submission rate figure by the conception rate figure over a set period. (See typical farm graph). It essentially considers how many cows are served from a pool of those which are eligible to become pregnant. It then tells you how many of those cows become pregnant. It is important to assess conception rate

Monitoring fertility can help identify areas for improvement.

alongside submission rate rather than use individual parameters. So for example, if you have a herd of 100 eligible cows and you serve 20 and get 10 in-calf, you have a very high conception rate of 50% – meaning 50% of the cows served got in-calf. But, despite the high conception rate, only 10 of the 100 cows became pregnant. Why? Because your submission rate at 20% is too low; not enough of your eligible cows have been served.

On farm pregnancy rate as percentage of served cows 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Nov 2017

Feb 2018

Cows eligible to become pregnant



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Jun 2018

Oct 2018

Pregnancy rate (as percentage of eligible cows)

Your preg rate figure for this fictional example would be 10% (50% x 20%). This figure tells you something is wrong. In this case, it is the submission rate. At this point, you could look at why so few cows are being served. Is it because they are cycling but not showing actual bulling behaviour? If so, why might this be? Stocking rate? Heat stress? Detection Or is it because your heat detection methods have altered? Maybe they are still showing behaviour which is not being effectively detected. So what are the factors contributing to a successful pregnancy? Many factors can contribute to the success or failure of a pregnancy. And often it is easy to go down a single, narrow route of investigation. But it is important to keep a hold of an overview of the fertility situation to avoid missing obvious factors. For example, with last year’s hot summer, heat stress may have been a factor high on the list.

There is often a limit to what can be done about this in the short term. If the weather is at least 25degC outside with no breeze, then short of installing ventilation systems, the farmer has little to no control over the temperature in his cubicle shed. It would be prudent to think what other things about the business could be affected by heat which maybe could be changed and could therefore indirectly improve fertility. Some may think it not prudent to be discussing heat stress in February. Another way to look at it could be to use it as an exercise to identify any problems caused by heat last year, then consider what can be done during winter to prepare for future hot summers. rFor example, is the ration being mixed and left overnight so it can be fed early the next morning? If so, the heat could be causing it to spoil earlier in proceedings than usual. So, maybe the routine could be altered during a hot summer to take this into account, with feed mixed the next morning. rAre you overstocked? It may be your sheds will cope with overstocking during a normal summer, but during a hot summer the cows will suffer more if they are in a small space. rOverstocking in hot weather will inevitably reduce expression of bulling behaviour. Has your submission rate dropped? For a year-round calving herd, your submission rate should sit consistently at a minimum of 60%.

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:11

BREEDING & FERTILITY For example, in a three-week time block, at least 60% of cows eligible to become pregnant should be served. rIf you know you are going to use your forage supplies during summer, planning ahead to ensure you do not suffer as you enter the next spring is essential. Conception If you are forced to feed more concentrates than you feel is healthy, do not expect, for example, all your cows to hold to sexed semen. Maybe this is the time to rethink your breeding plan, and if your conception rate is low, it may be best to just concentrate on getting what pregnancies you can. My observations when scanning over fertility data from last summer is that the cows have coped surprisingly well with the long, hot spell. But I was keen to find out what my farmers thought, especially those who

Sally Wilson

changeable from one week to the next and this makes it harder for cows to adjust. Because we had a long, consistently hot period, cows seemed to adjust and cope well. Other countries manage the hot weather, but these countries know what to expect. If we knew we were going to have consistently hot weather every summer, we would invest more in fans and

have their cows inside all year and are giving high yields. “I would say heat stress has been low on the list of fertility problems,” says one of my Somerset clients. He milks 600 cows three times-a-day, with cows on deep sand all year and averaging 11,000 litres. “I have seen other years when the weather has been much more

other cooling systems, but our weather is so unpredictable.” In reality, this seems to be the crux of it. I admit UK weather can be so changeable but, even so, perhaps we should be more prepared to cope with the extremes when they arrive, and this means planning ahead so it will have less effect on our cows and their fertility.

It’s Willem’s Milking System When Willem put the new DeLaval VMS™ V300 to work, he had growth in mind, and not only does the increase in efficiency give him 10% more capacity to grow his herd, he can add more VMS V300 units over time; easily and cost-effectively. Visit to hear more from Willem about how he made the new VMS V300 his Milking System, and discover why you should make it yours too.




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BREEDING & FERTILITY Genomics is playing an ever-increasing part in herd breeding policy, not only for sire selection but now for selection on the female side as well. Vet Mike Christie, from LLM Farm Vets, tells us about how we can make best use of this information.

Using genomic data to lift selection pressure


enomics is the study of the bovine genome and the sequences that appear on an individual animal’s DNA which are associated with animal performance or trait expression. These sequences or markers are then used to predict the genetic merit of dairy animals for economically important traits, and serve as an aid to maximising the genetic potential of your herd. Let’s look at some of the key facts when it comes to genomics. Firstly, bulls can be tested as soon as they are born, and genomic evaluations of young bulls, which have no daughters in their evaluation, are calculated via a combination of pedigree and genetic information. However, reliability of young bulls with only pedigree information and no genomic evaluation is only about 30% at best. Young bulls with a genomic evaluation will have a higher reliability of 60-65%. That’s a bit like having 10 milking daughters in their evaluation

Testing can identify which heifers have the most desirable genetic traits Mike Christie 46


The more information which is added from milking daughters of the bull, the higher the reliability becomes. So-called ‘proven sires’ have lots of daughters added to their proof and so their reliability is greater (80-99%). The higher the reliability, the less likely the chance of change in the breeding value or index of the bull (or its ranking). But only pure-bred animals can be tested. Prior to genomic testing, semen was not marketed until the bull was six years old when daughters were in-milk and progeny evaluation of them had been carried out. Reliability is typically 85% for these first proof run bulls (i.e. first crop of daughters). Therefore, genomic bulls typically have 15-20% less information about their genetic merit included in their evaluations when compared to a proven sire

which has its first proof run. However, as the reliability is higher than a pedigree-only genetic evaluation, genomic sires can be marketed as soon as they are old enough to have semen collected, at 15 months of age. Improvement This dramatically speeds up the potential genetic improvement, knocking five years off the ‘generation gap’. These bulls are, therefore, up to two years quicker to achieve full proven status. Crucially, because thousands of young bulls are tested every year, the cream of the crop can be selected using a simple blood or hair sample. This means selection intensity is very high for genomic bulls, hence why they have very high predicted traits or indexes – for example a Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) of £800-£900.

Finally, many farms are using even up to 50% (or more) genomic bulls on their herd. There is always more risk, but indications are that genomic evaluations are proving accurate and, even if some of these bulls fall in PLI (say by £100-£200) once they achieve a proof, the bar has been set so high when they were genomically evaluated that they still have a high PLI, and so are still going to increase the genetic merit of the herd in most cases. So what about looking at the genetic merit of the female side. Most cows will never gain a high reliability in their lifetime, unless they have many embryo transfer (ET) calves. Genomic testing of heifers can have the same, or even greater, reliability as conventional assessment of older cows with offspring, and typically almost twice that

Genomic data will enable selection of the highest merit cows to be used to breed replacements.


**DF Feb p46 47 Mike Christie (ad has changed).indd 2

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achieved with parent index only. Heifers will tend to have the highest genetic merit in a herd. Genomic testing can be used to identify which heifers have the most desirable genetic traits. Retain This allows the breeder to select the best heifers to retain and breed from, as well as removing the poorest from the herd’s breeding programme, thus accelerating the rate of genetic gain greatly. We have many farms already increasing the potential of their future herd through sequential breeding of replacements from the best heifers, and it will rapidly increase the genetic potential of those herds for productivity and health. Targeted use of sexed semen on these high genomic heifers allows more heifer replacements from the high genetic merit heifers. Bespoke indexes (based on the genomic data) for the farm’s breeding objectives can be created. Furthermore, some breeding companies are offering bespoke indices tailored to the milk contract to maximise income, for example milk or kg fat and kg protein. The use of sexed semen crucially allows more beef semen to be targeted on more cows (of lesser genetic merit) in the herd, so producing more valuable beef

cross calves, thereby increasing the revenue for the farm. Other breeding technologies, such as ET and IVF, can also be used to multiply the very top genomic animals and utilise the low genetic merit heifers to carry the embryos of the elite. Those heifers can then be sold once they have calved. It is important to remember that any breeding decision (whether good or bad) is permanent and cumulative. If you are considering using genomics, speak to your vet as they are often well placed to use current AHDB breeding data for the farm. This can give an insight as to how well the current breeding decisions are being made for many traits, such as PLI, fertility, production and longevity, to name a few. Ear notches Testing is easy and can be done though simple ear notch samples. A genetic audit can be done to find out where you are relative to the national average, as well as identifying what gains can be made and identifying which animals are best to breed from. Remember, the most important lesson when it comes to doing genomic testing is what you do with the valuable data once you have it.

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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p46 47 Mike Christie (ad has changed).indd 3


47 24/01/2019 16:05

MACHINERY LAMMA 2019 Crowds flocking to last month’s Lamma, held for the first time at the NEC, were treated to a massive display of new kit in every category. Here, we give a flavour of the new launches.

Plenty of new kit at this year’s Lamma TRACTORS & LOADERS

Deutz-Fahr 5D Keyline JAdding to its line-up of tractors, Deutz-Fahr introduced the new 5D Keyline Series. Sitting just below the higher spec 5G Series, the new 5D Keyline is an entry level machine, said to be ideal for stock farms. Comprising four models from 65-100hp, this 5080D uses Deutz-Fahr’s own FahrMotion, three-cylinder engine. Transmission options extend

to either a basic synchromesh, 15 by 15 speed ‘box, or a ‘splitter’ can be specified, taking the number of ratios forward up to 30. Maximising visibility, the 5D is adorned with an all-new cab, featuring large rear curved windows and a roof window. It is expected a large proportion will be sold with a loader, with the series having a retail base price of £42,891.

Ventrac 4500Y tractor

Dieci telehandlers JSporting a trio of telehandler developments Dieci used Lamma to premier two new models and preview its latest compact offering. Of particular interest to UK farmers is its new Agri Star 35.6 Evo 2 model. With a lift capacity of 3.5 tonnes and a lift height of 6.4 metres, power comes from a 143hp, four-cylinder



**DF Feb P48 49 50 51 Lamma JR.indd 2

JThe American-made Ventrac 4500Y, designed for working on slopes up to 30 degrees in any direction when fitted with dual wheels, was shown by importer Fentons of Bourne. The hydrostatic unit is powered by a 26hp Kubota engine and weighs in at less than a tonne. Ventrac supplies more than 30 attachments to fit to the

front of the tractor, driven through a belt. The unit is all-wheel drive and can be fitted with a 300kg capacity three-point linkage at the rear. The company says it is ideal for difficult terrain, golf courses and municipal applications. Average price for the tractor and an attachment is £35,000 plus VAT, according to the importer.

FPT engine. Channelling power to the wheels is a single stage hydrostatic transmission, said to be ideal for ‘shuttle’ work. Up front, a simple flat-faced coupling allows any headstock type to be fitted, offering easy adaptation to attachments. At the rear, a pick up hitch is standard, which comes with a coupling providing a park brake function for trailers.

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:17

LAMMA 2019 MACHINERY Manitou’s MLA-T pivot steer JFollowing the rebirth of Manitou’s MLA pivot steer telehandler, the firm has started to expand the range. As a result, the MLA-T 516-75H now joins the range and sits below the full-size MLA-T 533-145V+. Essentially a Gehl-built machine (also part of the Manitou Group), the 516-75H packs a 74.3hp Deutz diesel

JCB Loadall cab JJCB has updated its Loadall Super and Agri Pro models, boosting operator comfort and convenience with the introduction of an all-new cab. Called Command Plus, the new cab uses a larger, longer curved front windscreen that incorporates the windscreen and roof window. There is also a revised control layout and more storage

engine, and drives all four wheels through a two-speed hydrostatic transmission, offering a maximum travel speed of 20kph. A three-speed 30kph transmission option is available. With an operating weight of 5.5 tonnes, the 516-75H offers a lift capacity of 1,600kg to a height of 4.9m.

space, and improved fit and finish. The in-cab noise level has been slashed from 78 to 69dB(A), representing a 50% reduction. In addition, six-metre, 7m and 9.5m models gain a 100200kg lift capacity increase, and an optional chassis sway mechanism will be available for the Loadall front axle to improve load placement precision.


Bullock Grass 300 harrow JBullock Tillage exhibited a host of new machines, including its new Grass 300 harrow. Up front is a hydraulically adjustable levelling board, followed by two rows of cranked scarifying tines constructed of 12mm steel. Behind is a row of straight tines for mixing and covering seed, followed by a Gutler-style

packer roller. There is the option to have an SP200 air seeder fitted, which can be metered with a land wheel or GPS. Power requirement for the three-metre machine is 100hp and outputs of two hectares/hour are achievable, according to the firm. Price as shown was £10,500 plus VAT, or £7,200 plus VAT without the seeder.

Redrock Machinery - QPHS _Redrock Machinery - QPHS 16/11/2015 09:56 Page 1

Redrock Slurry Solutions For further information contact your nearest agent or call Redrock Machinery Ltd. Tel 028 37552390

Single Axle Slurry Tanks

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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb P48 49 50 51 Lamma JR.indd 3


49 22/01/2019 12:40


Kuhn in-line round bale wrapper JReplacing the RW 1800, Kuhn has re-designed its new RW 1810 in-line trailed round bale wrapper. As the new machine can run in line with the rows, it can be used with a tractor or coupled to a round baler, offering a flexible baling/wrapping solution, says the manufacturer. Via laser sensing, the whole loading and wrapping

process can be fully automated. It can also be run manually, or semi-automatically allowing the drop function to be manually controlled, for example. A new touchscreen terminal shows all machine functions in real-time, and the baler can be specified with Kuhn’s clever 3D wrapping system. On average, Kuhn says the machine can wrap 100 bales/hour.

Joskin Modulo 2 slurry tanker

Fendt Rotana round balers JAvailable in fixed chamber 130F and variable chamber 160V versions, Fendt’s new Rotana baler/wrapper combination is based on the Lely Tornado. However, several improvements include a re-designed chassis, which reduces the angle of crop flow when entering the chamber and allows 0, 13, 17 or 25-knife options. A spring-loaded drive clutch

releases the floor more easily, and density rollers controlling the four belts are now greaseable. The bale transfer arm holds the bale deeper into the chassis for improved performance on hillsides and can also level a poorly shaped bale. Bale sizes are 1.25-metre diameter for the 130F and 90-160cm for the 160V. Prices are from £84,906.

JWhile renowned for its large, high-spec slurry tankers for the contracting world, Joskin has seen sufficient demand to create a farmer-spec slurry tanker/ trailing shoe combination. Called the Advantage package, it comprises the firm’s 11cu.metre-capacity Modulo 2 slurry tanker mated to its Pendislide Basic trailing shoe applicator. Applicators can be specified

in 6m or 7.5m widths, which simply fit onto the tanker’s rear access hatch. As a result, no linkage system is required, and the applicator can also be retrofitted to any tanker make with a 600mm diameter access hatch. The package comes complete with control box to control all tanker and trailing shoe functions, and the full package will be available to order from July, says Joskin.

AMIA Tubeline Nitro muck spreader JMachinery importer AMIA used the event to showcase its new line of rear discharge muck spreaders, sourced from Canadian firm Tubeline. The Nitro range spans models from 10 to 25-tonne capacity machines. Features include the ability to swap the machine’s rear spreading units, allowing



**DF Feb P48 49 50 51 Lamma JR.indd 4

the use of vertical or horizontal beaters. In addition, the spreading unit can be completely removed, side extensions added, thereby allowing the machine to be used as a walking floor trailer. Price for the 10t capacity Nitro 275 RS as shown is from £25,000.

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 09:18


Shelbourne Reynolds’ top models JShelbourne Reynolds has developed two new top models, with capacities of 24 and 30cu.metres. Extra capacity has been gained with an increase in auger diameter. In addition, a new shape tub is said to offer a smoother mixing action, while replaceable lower tub walls offer

simpler and easier refurbishment. Feed out capacity is also boosted by a wider discharge belt, now 800mm wide, along with a 20% wider door. A new chassis features six load cells, designed to distribute weight more evenly. Retail price for a 30cu.m model is £63,990.

Abbey Machinery mixer wagons JAiming to appeal to larger scale stock farmers, Abbey Machinery has evolved its range to include heavier-duty mixer wagons in the 24.5 to 30cu.metre capacity bracket. Everything about the new ‘Feeder Plus’ machines is ‘beefier’, says the manufacturer, with thicker augers, full metal mud-

guards, and front platform and ladder as standard. A new terminal/display features an auto-on element, which comes on as soon as it detects power from the light socket. New style lighting clusters complete the updates, with the new Feeder Plus range starting from a retail price of £50,000.

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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb P48 49 50 51 Lamma JR.indd 5


51 25/01/2019 09:53


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**DF Feb p52 53 54 Milk.indd 2

MILK prices Cost tracker prices rising JWith the vast majority of nonretailer milk prices having cut at least once, and many twice, since Dec’18, cost tracker retailer milk prices continue to rise. The situation would be worse today with what would have been a certain round of third price cuts had Muller not come out quickly to confirm its price hold for its Muller Direct price, shortly after Arla Foods’ announcement of its price cut from Jan’19. While commodity prices, especially Futures, have rallied over the last seven weeks, bouyed by the vastly reduced stocks of intervention powder, milk production in the UK has remained robust on the back of the mild weather and the need for producers to keep up production to help dilute costs. Following on from the positive start to 2019 for SDDG suppliers reported last month, Tesco has increased its TSDG producer milk price by 0.37ppl from Feb’19 as a result of the latest cost tracker review covering the year to Mar’19. The increase follows the 1.07ppl increase from Nov’18 and takes our liquid standard price* up to

31.61ppl. Our Arla Direct TSDG supplier receives the same level of increase after haulage taking their price up to 31.36ppl. The Promar annual cost tracker for the 12 months to Mar’19 highlights variable costs (feed, AI, vet, bedding, dairy chemicals, seeds, fertiliser, silage, all the costs of rearing replacement heifers, as well as meeting costs of TSDG Livestock Code) at 18.41ppl. Overhead costs (milk-related overheads, fuel, repairs, electricity, paid wages, water, office, insurance, rents, rates, interest, including a sum of £57,572 for the value of unpaid family labour) are at 11.22ppl and depreciation at 1.87ppl. The above combined makes the total cost of production 31.5ppl before the latest quarterly 3 ‘F’s price update(feed, fuel and fertiliser prices supplied by Anglia Farmers). Adjusting for the impact of the latest 3 ‘F’s data for Q1 2019 takes the 0.26ppl decrease from the previous quarterly review and reverses it into an increase of 0.11ppl, which when added to the 31.5ppl, sets the new quarterly TSDG price at 31.61ppl.

First Milk’s second fall JFirst Milk has further decreased its milk price by 0.25ppl from Feb’19. The follows the company’s

price decrease of 0.75ppl from Jan’19, and takes our liquid standard litre price down to 27.5ppl.

FEBRUARY 2019 25/01/2019 14:24


Milk price analyst Stephen Bradley on the latest milk industry developments.

How our finance options help farmers like you • Pay for the herd while they generate milk • Fixed rates and payment options

Dairy Crest drop JPremium cheesemakers have had to succumb to price reductions. Having honoured their commitment, made at the time of announcing their Nov’18 price hold of a minimum guaranteed price floor until the end of Jan’19, Dairy Crest has agreed with DCD that it is to reduce its Davidstow milk price by 0.5ppl from Feb’19. At the same time, the company is to withdraw its 0.5ppl dry weather supplement after five months of payment. The non-market related supplement, that has not been included in our

standard litre prices, was introduced by the company from Sept’18 to help suppliers with feed shortages and rising costs caused by the extreme hot weather conditions last summer. First move This being the company’s first price move since Aug’18 means firstly that its price (excluding the supplement) ended last year 1.6ppl lower than at the start, while the 0.5ppl reduction takes our manufacturing standard litre* down to 29.9ppl. Our liquid standard also decreases by 0.5ppl to 28.82ppl.

M&S jumps 1.407ppl JThe largest jump in milk price came just before Christmas, when M&S suppliers received confirmation of an interim price increase of 1.407ppl, effective from Jan’19. This stemmed from the retailer’s ‘Pledge’ model (which tracks fertiliser, soil improvers, feed, energy, lubricants and labour), triggering an immediate price move due to the monthly reviews breaking

outside the +/-1.1ppl threshold before the normal April/October review dates. This increase follows the 0.57ppl increase from Oct’18, and takes our liquid standard litre up to 32.81ppl. The Muller Co-operative Dairy Group milk price, which tracks the three prices of TSDG, SDDG and Muller Milk Group Direct on a quarterly basis, is to decrease by 0.03ppl from Feb’19 to 30.01ppl.

* Our Liquid standard litre is 4%b/f & 3.3% protein, and our Manufacturing 4.2%b/f & 3.4% protein. In both cases for Bactoscans of 30,000/ml & SCCs of 200,000/ ml, 1mltrs/yr on EODC (max vehicle accessibility), but before B pricing, balancing, seasonality, monthly profile payments, capital deductions or annual/part annual growth incentive schemes or supplements not directly linked to dairy market price movement.

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Business Use Customers Only. Shire Leasing PLC is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for certain types of consumer credit lending and credit related activities that are regulated under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.



TIME TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FARM BUSINESS UTILITIES We know it takes a lot to run a Farm business - being on top of every detail matters. That’s why, when you use Easy2Switch, you can take control of your Farm business utilities in so many ways - just take a look below. Plus, we’ll always quote our best prices when you deal with Easy2Switch, so why not get in touch today?


Fix your business utility prices Enjoy long-term certainty over your prices with our competitive fixed price contracts.

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Easy2Switch will look after any billing issues throughout the term of your Electricity, Gas or Water contract. Call us. Provide a copy of the bill, explain the issue and Easy2Switch will contact your supplier and deal with the issues raised. You can spend more time looking after the farm rather than spending needless time on the phone or the computer.

Contact our experienced UK based specialists. It will be easier if you have a current electricity, gas or water bill to hand. Once we have all your details a quote will be provided. We will answer any questions you may have.


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FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p52 53 54 Milk.indd 3

It’s then your decision.


53 24/01/2019 09:18

MILK PRICES Sept’18 4.0/3.3 Before Seas’lty

Oct’18 4.0/3.3 Before Seas’lty

12mth Ave Nov’17 Oct’18

Diff Oct’18 v Sept’18

Latest Confirmed Milk Price

LIQUID PRICES (4% b/f & 3.3% prot) Müller Milk Group – Booths Müller Milk Group – Waitrose ∞ Müller Milk Group – M&S ∞ UK Arla Farmers – Tesco UK Arla Farmers – Morrisons (Grazing) UK Arla Farmers – Morrisons Müller Milk Group – Tesco Arla Foods – Tesco Crediton Dairy Dale Farm GB (Kendal) Dale Farm NI UK Arla Farmers Blackmore Vale Farm Cream Müller Milk Group – The Co-op Dairy Group Meadow Foods Lakes Meadow Foods Freshways Yew Tree Dairy Grahams Dairies Paynes Farms Dairies Müller Milk Group – Müller Direct Müller Milk Group – Sainsbury’s Arla Foods – Sainsbury’s Pensworth Dairy First Milk – Liquid Simple Average Simple Average (excl. retail contracts)

(i) 31.60 30.92 30.84 31.58 31.37 31.14 30.17 29.92 30.00 30.64 29.54 30.16 29.00 28.88 29.50 29.50 29.59 29.50 29.50 29.50 29.50 28.48 28.36 28.95 28.50 29.87 29.53

(ii) 31.60 30.92 31.41 32.63 32.42 32.19 30.17 29.92 30.00 30.64 29.04 31.21 29.00 28.88 29.50 29.50 29.80 29.50 29.50 29.50 29.50 29.85 29.73 29.80 28.50 30.19 29.64

(iii) 31.80 31.18 30.78 30.36 30.15 29.92 29.75 29.50 29.48 29.37 29.34 28.94 28.79 28.78 28.58 28.58 28.55 28.50 28.46 28.46 28.44 28.36 28.24 28.12 27.70 29.21 28.66

(i) v (ii) N/C N/C 0.57 1.05 1.05 1.05 N/C N/C N/C N/C -0.50 1.05 N/C N/C N/C N/C 0.21 N/C N/C N/C N/C 1.37 1.37 0.85 N/C 0.32 0.11

(iv) 32.65 31.85 31.41 31.77 31.56 31.33 31.24 28.04 28.75 30.99 30.64 30.35 29.00 30.04 27.50 27.50 29.80 27.50 28.50 27.50 28.00 30.41 30.29 27.60 27.75 29.68 28.30

MANUFACTURING PRICES (4.2% b/f & 3.4% prot) First Milk – Haverfordwest Tesco Cheese Group Barber A.J & R.G D.C – Davidstow ∞ UK Arla Farmers Wyke Farms The Fresh Milk Company – Level Profile ‡ South Caernarfon Wensleydale Dairy Products The Fresh Milk Company (Lactalis) Belton Farm Glanbia – Llangefni (Constituent) First Milk – Manufacturing Arla Foods – Direct Manufacturing Simple Average Simple Average (excl. retail contracts)

30.97 30.68 30.40 31.38 30.70 30.61 30.53 30.45 30.03 30.25 30.00 29.47 29.17 30.36 30.31

30.97 30.68 30.40 32.47 30.70 30.61 30.53 30.45 30.03 30.25 30.00 29.47 29.96 30.50 30.46

30.35 30.14 30.14 30.10 30.05 29.87 29.70 29.62 29.29 29.21 28.96 28.85 28.19 29.57 29.51

N/C N/C N/C 1.09 N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C 0.78 0.14 0.16

30.19 30.40 29.65 31.57 29.66 30.61 29.53 29.95 30.03 29.95 29.00 28.69 28.92 29.86 29.83

‘B’ Price Indicators FCStone/ UKMFE (gross) *FCStone/ UKMFE (net) **Delivered spot milk (net to the producer)

33.14 29.48 28.52

28.74 25.31 26.75

29.73 26.24

-4.40 -4.17 -1.77

Latest milk prices from

Notes to table

Prices for both Liquid & Manufacturing tables paid for producer sending 1mltrs/yr on EODC (max vehicle size accessibility) with Bactoscans of 30,000/ml and SCCs of 200,000/ml. Prices exclude capital retentions or AHDB levies, seasonality, balancing and A&B price schemes. Excludes annual/part annual growth incentive schemes or supplements not directly linked to dairy market price movement. Liquid price for milk contains 4% b/f and 3.3% protein. Manufacturing price for milk containing 4.2%b/f and 3.4% prot. (i) Sept’18 prices before seasonality or B pricing. (ii) Oct’18 prices before seasonality or B pricing. (iii) Table ranked on simple rolling 12mth average of monthly prices from Nov’17 to Oct’18 before seasonality or B pricing. (i) v (ii) The difference Oct’18 prices compared with Sept’18. UK Arla Farmers price includes forecast 13th payment +0.844ppkg (+0.861ppl) for Oct’18 and +0.839ppkg (+0.856ppl) for Sept’18 based on our liquid standard litre. UK Arla Farmers price includes forecast 13th payment +0.878ppkg (+0.896ppl) for Oct’18 and +0.873ppkg (+0.89ppl) Sept’18 based on our manufacturing standard litre. First Milk Haverfordwest Tesco Cheese Group includes 2ppl retailer premium averaging as 1.5ppl after taking the group seasonal milk profile into account. Fresh Milk Company price before Morrisons monthly cheese supplement +0.035ppl for Oct’18 (+0.04ppl for Sept’18). ∞ Price includes 12mth rolling profile payment fixed at 1.15ppl. ‡ Price includes 12mth average rolling profile fixed at 0.57ppl. *UK Milk Futures Equivalent (UKMFE) net to producer includes 5% processor margin and allowing 2ppl ex-farm haulage + milk testing. **Average delivered spot milk price net to producer allows an average 2.5ppl covering haulage from farm to customer + milk testing/admin and margin. (iv) Latest confirmed milk price (before seasonality or B pricing) at the time of going to press. N/C in this context means no change made aware since Oct’18. UK Arla Farmers 0.86ppl decrease from Jan’19 includes forecast 13th payment +0.846ppkg (+0.863ppl) based on liquid std litre. UK Arla Farmers 0.9ppl decrease from Jan’19 includes forecast 13th payment +0.88ppkg (+0.898ppl) based on manufacturing std litre. Dairy Crest – Davidstow introduced 0.5ppl dry weather supplement from Sept’18 which will cease at the end of Jan’19. MMG Direct price includes 0.5ppl Premium paid annually in arrears to Direct/Organic farms meeting specific Müller Direct criteria. All prices (excluding First Milk Haverfordwest Tesco at 1.50ppl) are before monthly retail supplements. cannot take any responsibility for losses arising. Copyright:



**DF Feb p52 53 54 Milk.indd 4

FEBRUARY 2019 22/01/2019 10:44



the next important feed after colostrum Colostrum is vital for calf health but Transition milk, i.e. the milk the cow produces immediately after colostrum, plays an important role as well. As the calf’s gut is exposed to pathogens in the environment and in contaminated feed it is the weakest link in the calf’s health. Once calves get beyond 2 or 3 weeks of age their immune system can mange this challenge but beforehand they are vulnerable to scour and controlling this especially on large farms is costly and time consuming. So it makes sense to feed a different milk to baby calves. This is why Bonanza calf Nutrition developed Transformula – a milk to be fed from day 2 until calves are at least 10 days of age. Transformula is a transition milk replacer Made with the same casein and fat content as Transition milk, it means that calves feed twice a day will have a continuous flow of nutrients from the stomach or abomasum making it difficult for pathogens to gain a foot hold. These ingredients will also maximise energy and protein available to the calf to fight disease. This is also complemented with feed ingredients, prebiotics, probiotics and natural acids all shown to promote beneficial bacteria growth. These bacteria can act as a barrier to pathogen attack. The cost of using Transformula over a standard calf milk is as

little as £5/calf and on farm this is more than offset by saving in labour, treatments and mortality. But don’t take our word for it this is what our customers say. For more information go to bonanzacalf. ie or phone UK: 0808 1781017 or contact your local Thompsons rep.

“Calf rearing is much easier with Transformula now that we are using a transition milk replacer before going on to calf milk,” says Malcolm Keys, who was recently host to the hugely popular calf rearing workshops held by Thompsons.

John and son Ian (pictured) Jamison from Coleraine are two of the many farmers who have found the benefits of Transformula, recently saying that they have never had livelier calves.

Alan and son Connor (pictured) Creith from Bushmills can’t believe the difference in calves that are fed Transformula and says that they are a lot healthier. Jason Mitchell says he didn’t think he needed Transformula until he used it and realised how good his calves actually could be.

Transformula THE ESSENTIAL FEED AFTER YOUR COLOSTRUM Cavan producer Liam Cahill, (pictured with Thompsons’ Mark Doughty) says that he can see the sense in feeding a young calf Transformula as it saves the calf from getting scour and then having to buy something to treat that.

Transformula the best Formula to Transform your calf rearing

Transition milk is the next best thing to colostrum and Transformula is the only transition milk replacer for baby calves

Armoy-based cousins David and Ian Henry (L-R), say that calves fed Transformula get off to a great start in life.

DF_02_P55.indd 1

UK: 0808 1781017

24/01/2019 15:58


NEW products

This month, we feature three of the dairy innovations on show at Lamma, Lely’s Vector robotic feeder and Rumenco’s new bucket lick for calves and youngstock.

Huesker’s silage sheets JOverhauling silage storage design, Huesker had its new Agritec Silage Safe system on show at Lamma. The system is made up of mesh sheets in 2.2-metre widths, with lengths made to suit each clamp and fitted with perforated PVC pipes at the bottom to remove moisture. Sheets are laid out on either side of the pit and pulled over the silo sheeting after silage has been deposited. Prices are about £8.50/sq.metre, with quotes provided on an individual basis. rDetails at

Cow mattress from Easyfix JA newly developed 60mm cow mattress is now available from Easyfix. The Jupiter F, as demonstrated at Lamma Show, incorporates an integrated brisket board at the front and pillow on two sides, the first of its kind to do so according to the manufacturer. The cow mattress has a 45mm layer of PU latex foam, creating a cushioned top surface. The back of the cow mattress has a sloped and non-abrasive profile, which ensures animal waste is pushed into the passageway. The mat is suitable for DIY installation with all cubicle sizes, and comes with a 10-year warranty. rDetails at



**DF Feb p56 57 New Products HP.indd 2

The product was presented with a gold medal in the livestock innovation category at Lamma.

AktivPuls takes gold in milking innovation


new milking cluster concept which uses a liner said to create a more natural milking experience from AktivPuls was showcased by JF Hudson at this year’s Lamma Show. (More from the show on p48-51). AktivPuls took awards at the 2018 EuroTier and Space events

before being presented with a gold medal in the livestock innovation category at Lamma. Infections The cluster liner is designed to adapt to all teat sizes and lengths and uses lower vacuum levels, which manufacturers say has been shown to reduce the risk of infections such as hyperkeratosis.

It is said to last up to three times longer than conventional liners while speeding up milking times by 8%. The Aktivpuls milking cluster has recently been made available in the UK and is exclusively available through JF Hudson. Prices for the system start at £600 plus VAT. rDetails at, or

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:24


New bucket lick launched for calf and youngstock market JRumenco has launched a new controlled intake bucket lick aimed at the calf and youngstock market. Maxx Calf Health is aimed at animals from two weeks of age right through to breeding or moving to a finishing ration in fattening animals. The product contains Diamond V XPC and Zinpro Availa zinc, which the manufacturer says are backed by science to support animal health, immunity


and performance. Rumenco says Diamond V XPC is proven to help the development of the digestive system to support target growth rates in youngstock. rDetails at

Lely feeding robot JA precise mixing and feeding robot is set to join Lely’s Vector feeding system and will be officially launched at this year’s Dairy-Tech. It features a constant auger speed to offer a consistently mixed diet to help boost herd feed intakes, reduce the ability to sort and, ultimately,

improve overall health. The manufacturer says maintenance is easier and faster, and components are more durable and, in turn, more reliable. The Lely Vector is available from all UK and Ireland Lely centres. rDetails on 07741 197 634

New products are featured in each issue of Dairy Farmer. Please send details and pictures to Hannah Park at, or call 01772 799 450.

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p56 57 New Products HP.indd 3


57 22/01/2019 13:21


WORKSHOP tips with Alex Heath Cold weather can bring a whole host of problems for farmers, not least machinery playing up. And the parlour is one such piece of equipment which needs to run whatever the weather. Alex Heath seeks some expert advice on keeping it ice-free.

Keeping your parlour thawed


oinciding with the one-year anniverary of the ‘Beast from the East’, in this edition we look at keeping parlours running in a cold snap. With so many intricate and delicate parts all coming together to provide controlled vacuum levels, while invariable being wet, parlours are vulnerable to failure in extreme circumstances as the mercury falls. We spoke to Tom Ryan of Teagasc, the Irish national body providing research, advice and training services to the agriculture industry, who gives us some useful tips to help avoid frustrating mornings wielding kettles and hairdryers. Most frequent incidents of frozen

clusters, tubes and pipes come from washing the plant. Thoroughly washing, then properly draining the system, is the best way of preventing any icy blockages, but a simple saline solution can also reduce the prevalence by lowering the freezing point. A solution of 2.5% is said to be adequate and is made up of 0.5kg of salt to 20 litres of water. This should be circulated through the system ensuring all internal surfaces are coated, then drained. Before the next milking, lines should be rinsed through again with fresh water, removing salt residues, but in extremely low temperatures, this may not be possible, so the first few litres of milk should be dumped or diluted further and fed to calves,

thereby limiting salt traces getting to the bulk tank. Prolonged use of salt may damage rubber and stainless steel elements of the parlour, so this should only be a short-term fix. Pumps Pumps are some of the most sensitive apparatus and are susceptible to damage. Engaging any type of pump when it is frozen can do considerable damage to the system, causing more down time and costly repairs. The best thing is preventative action and thorough checking before running. As moisture is always present in vacuum pumps, vanes are at risk of damage if they have frozen to the housing. Switching off the electrical supply to the pump then turning it by hand will show if it is free and safe. Diaphragm pumps are at risk, so must be fully drained after rinsing. This is done by loosening the pump head and ensuring all water above and below the valves is expelled. Centrifugal milk pumps can become clogged with ice in cold weather, resulting in damage to the impeller, or worse still, bending the output shaft from the motor. The biggest risk comes from the outlet

pipe being plugged with ice, so check this is clear. Most centrifugal pumps will automatically drain, but valves need regular checking to see they are working correctly. After milking, leaving pumps running just slightly longer will help reduce the moisture in them. Plate coolers should be drained via the pump drain point, however the valves only drain the plates for milk flow. The plates for water flow typically have no drain valves fitted, but it is equally important to drain any water trapped from between these plates by removing jubilee clips or opening joints. Plate coolers which cannot be drained or are giving problems should be bypassed. The openness of the parlour and the orientation to the cold wind will all have a bearing. Putting a plastic sheet at the entrance to the parlour to quell the cold airflow should help reduce the likelihood of freezing and hopefully hold in some of the heat from any heaters. Heaters Having a space heater in the pit of the parlour will prevent the system from icing over and will be a

About the author rAlex Heath is machinery and technology specialist for Dairy Farmer’s sister publication Farmers Guardian Clusters will not work if water in the airline becomes frozen.



**DF Feb p58 59 Workshop JR.indd 2

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:26


Parlours are notoriously difficult to keep ice free, but there are a few easy preventative measures.

welcome addition for the milking team. Alternatively, infrared lamps positioned above the lines can be run on timers to come on a few hours before milking, or left on throughout the night. Lamps should

have an integral cowl to prevent drips tripping power off. Pulsation relays can be prone to freezing and sticking, so a heat source to keep these ice-free is a benefit. Be careful not to have the

heat intensity too high, as it can soften/damage the PVC pipework. Ice blocking pulsation airlines at the bend where the airlines rise at the front of the pit can occur, resulting in no vacuum and pulsation at the

liners. Thawing out the ice in the bend, or wherever it is, will free it up. The cause could be from moisture in the air freezing or because water is lodged in the pulsation airline as the drain valve at the lowest point is obstructed with muck. When working properly, the drain valve should open automatically to let water out when the machine is off, and should close automatically to prevent an air leak during machine operation. After milking, make sure any water at this lowest point in the airline is expelled fully. Volume washer pumps are often exposed to the harshest cold weather. Impellers and impeller housings on these pumps can freeze solid and consequently leak profusely when thawed. The expanding ice ruins the seal between the housing and cast casing, requiring costly rebuilds. One solution is to shut off the water to the pump and drain the impeller housing completely. The second is leaving the pump running steadily.

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p58 59 Workshop JR.indd 3


59 22/01/2019 13:22


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Vehicle insurance policy is leaving me a little confused This month, Roger Evans looks at the extent of true veganism, expounds his theory that social media is making people more dissatisfied with their lot, and finally explains why his vehicle insurance policy has left him all confused.



**DF Feb p62 63 Evans.indd 2


egan watch. There was a time when I just used to browse the Sunday papers and I only used to read the articles which were of interest. But there is so much rubbish on the TV on Sunday evenings that I read it with more attention than I used to, before I go to the pub at nine o’clock. As it happens, our Sunday newspaper had a columnist who happens to be a high profile and aggressive vegan, and her article tells me there were 600,000 vegans. But she always exaggerates to suit her story. However, elsewhere in the same paper a survey tells me there are 550,000 vegans, so, as exaggeration goes, she wasn’t far out. But the survey also tells me that of those vegans, 15% think it’s okay to eat butter, 13% still eat eggs and 14% are fine with cheese. If we take the figure of 600,000 and average the percentages to 14%, we find that at the very minimum 84,000 are not vegans at all, which suggests they like the label but don’t understand the reality. In my local paper there was a reader’s letter which opposed the badger cull and proposed enhanced biosecurity on farms as the answer. This was to include the compulsory slaughter of entire herds wherever a reactor should be found. The writer didn’t say they were vegan, but there were vegan fingerprints all over it. For a start, what other sector of society has the removal of all farm livestock as its main aim? There are lots of herds closed down with TB around here at the moment, besides ours, and I wouldn’t have to go far to find 2000 cattle, mostly

dairy cows, if this were to be policy. You can be sure they have suggested the idea at Government level. Perhaps they don’t love badgers at all, but they are just using them to further their own long-term ambitions. I have long thought one of the problems in society of today is too many people feel unfulfilled and are in desperate need of giving their lives some purpose. This is probably why we get such extreme views on social media, not that I use it, but I see it reported. Worry If there’s not much of interest in your own life, why wouldn’t you oppose the badger cull, even if you’ve never seen a badger. Why wouldn’t you become a vegan, even if 14% of you are not sure what it means. I suspect they would love to have the worry of such things as whether the next load of cubicle sand will come before the last delivery runs out, or a puncture on the scraper tractor on a Sunday morning. We probably don’t realise how lucky we are! Our cars and tractors and loaders are insured on what is grandly called a fleet policy. There’s my car/ truck, and Ann’s car, and David’s truck and his wife’s car. My daughter-in-law’s car, which incidentally is by far the newest, has just tried setting fire to itself. Some main cables went on fire and the garage can’t understand why it happened, nor can they work out why the whole car didn’t go up. I have enquired of the insurers, who were more interested in whether the whole car had burned out, and they didn’t encourage a claim by saying we would have

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 13:27


They didn’t encourage a claim by saying we would have to pay the excess

to pay the excess and lose our no claims bonuses. Which begged the question I put to them: “If we see a vehicle on fire, should we let it burn?” Many years ago, and I mean many years, I had a long wheelbase petrol Land Rover. She was a beauty, why I didn’t write ‘it was a beauty’ I’ve no idea. Anyway, this Land Rover was pristine in appearance and a pleasure to drive. Something, I can’t remember what, happened politically, and the price of fuel went through the roof. Now this Land Rover liked fuel with a passion, so we decided to change it for a diesel Land Rover. It’s usually the same when you buy second-hand – the vehicle you want is always a bit more than you want to spend. Anyway, we bought this short wheelbase diesel Land Rover, but I always resented it because I couldn’t really afford it at the time. And I resented it because it was nowhere near as nice to drive as its predecessor. But it was a lot cheaper to run.

It carried a three-month guarantee and it went perfectly until the three months were up, and for the next three months it broke down every week until I was in despair of it. Smoke One afternoon I was driving home and, with only a mile to go, smoke started pouring out from the dashboard. I put my head out the window and drove on home. When I got home, the smoke was still pouring out, so I parked it in a clear space and went in the house for a cup of tea. Then I had another. When I came back out the smoke had stopped. Later the garage told me it had burned something called the loom, and if I had disconnected the battery earlier it would have not been so bad. It was probably the most dishonest thing I ever did. Some good it did me though, as it cost me a small fortune to repair!

FEBRUARY 2019 **DF Feb p62 63 Evans.indd 3


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FINANCE Farm business partnerships can be attractive as they bring welcome tax benefits, but they can also give rise to family disputes. Sam Kirkham, of Albert Goodman, explains.

Protect your business future

There can be issues regarding the ownership of assets used by the partnership


e are in an increasingly litigious world, with many more cases being brought to court over partnership disputes and inheritance claims. We are frequently asked to provide expert witness reports in these situations, and most involve farming families which have businesses that are reliant on valuable property. Partnerships are the most common business structure within the farming industry. They are relatively simple and a flexible way to run a farming business. In our experience, most family farming partnerships operate without a formal partnership agreement. This is fine while everything runs well,

Expert opinion rIt has been common practice to bring the farm property onto the partnership balance sheet to ensure inheritance tax reliefs are maximised.



**DF Feb P64 Finance.indd 2

but trouble can arise when one partner leaves or dies, or where one or more members of the family do not get on. For example, when a partner leaves, retires or dies, there can be issues regarding the ownership of assets used by the partnership, the valuation of those assets and how the partners (or the partner’s beneficiaries) are paid out. If there is no written partnership agreement covering this, and the partners cannot reach an agreement, the partnership may be brought to an end by dissolving it. If this happens, all the assets must be sold and debts paid off, with the balance shared between the partners. There is no right for any partner to retain any of the assets. Relief It has been common practice to bring the farm property onto the partnership balance sheet to ensure inheritance tax reliefs are maximised. For example, non-agricultural property such as rental, holiday letting and livery properties, may not qualify for any inheritance tax relief outside a partnership. However, if these businesses are run within the farming partnership and the property is owned by the partnership, 100% business property relief may be available. Care must be taken to ensure all the partners agree to this and how the property will be dealt with if one of the partners leaves or dies. Having this formally written into a partnership agreement will not only protect the tax relief, but also help to ensure there are no disputes in the future. Often the intention on death

is for an individual to leave certain farm property to one of their children. For example, there may be a rental cottage they wish to leave to one non-farming child and the remaining farm to the farming child. If this property is now partnership property, they need to ensure their will and partnership agreement can deal effectively with this. If the will leaves the partnership share to one child and the cottage to another, it could be that the farming child ends up with the cottage, as it is part of the farming partnership capital. The non-farming child then receives nothing, leaving the two of them in dispute. Iain McVicar reported on the case of Habberfield vs. Habberfield (2018) in Dairy Farmer (September 2018). Since then, more farming inheritance claims have hit the press demonstrating the courts’ ability to award claimants the entirety of the farm, where it is justified, with lump sum payments to achieve clean breaks. Most inheritance claims arise after death of a party, but more are now arising in lifetime. Expensive litigation can be avoided if the family’s professional advisers work together with the family to ensure the business and family have the suitable legal agreements in place. Further, to protect against future claims, it is important that the succession planning is understood by the family, as well as the advisers, and that this is supported by appropriate evidence. The professional costs of doing this vary, but it will certainly be far lower than the cost of court proceedings in the event of a dispute.

FEBRUARY 2019 18/01/2019 14:28

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Dairy Farmer - February 2019  

Dairy Farmer - February 2019