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**DF June Cover



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DAIRY FARMER Forward thinking for a profitable future

June 2011

Inside this issue…

Breeding special Pages 16-26






On farm Pages 6-7

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Workshop tips Page 32

TIP OF THE MONTH: How to set about reducing methane emissions from your cows – p12




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**DF June p1 Contents



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Balance of power…

In this issue…


News and comment

t’s time to back our dairy farmers! That was the NFU’s rallying call to MPs this week with a plea to Government to introduce legislation to formally govern the contractual relationship between producers and processors. A bold call indeed given that at the same time it is demanding less red tape in the industry, but a sad reflection of the present state of affairs that such a lobby should be necessary in the first place. Part of the NFU submission was the one-sided nature of contracts which gives all the power to the buyer leaving the producer high and dry. If nothing improves, one of the fears is that in the post-2015 era volume clauses may be built into contracts effectively becoming quotas themselves, and according to the NFU ‘if a producer could sell to more than one buyer it would be an incentive for the buyers to keep

their prices competitive’. Which is all well and good but in the week Wiseman announces an even tighter volume forecasting regime, it shows just how imperative predictable supplies are for the efficient running of these multi-million pound plants. All the more leverage you may say to persuade buyers to bid up for their milk, but the downside is that anyone thinking of putting money up front to build a new dairy must have confidence of supply from the onset. Far better for both sides to work together instead of our current wholly dysfunctional arrangement, but barring that, if there’s little Government appetite for legislation or little producer desire for contract change, then maybe we need to be exploring the Scottish NFU’s idea for formula pricing. All avenues must be considered because, as Peter Kendall

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June 2011

News review Cowmen comment On farm Potter’s View Dairy Technology DCAB for dry cows

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Breeding special Editor

recognises, we must start to correct this imbalance not least because ultimately, if Government wants agriculture to be less dependent on public support in the future, then it will need to be getting a fairer return from the marketplace!

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Vol 58 No 6

Single copy: £3.75 Subscription rates: UK £45 a year Europe: £55 World: £65 Refunds on cancelled subscriptions will only be provided at the publisher’s discretion, unless specifically guaranteed otherwise. To guarantee you continue to receive Dairy Farmer free of charge, register annually at or call our circulation hotline on 01858 435 361. © UBM Information 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of Dairy Farmer are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems.

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Breeding evolution Replacement rates Danish bull bonus Selection criteria

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Regulars Marketplace Milk prices Workshop tips Good Evans

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Housing & slurry

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**DF June p2 3 News



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NEWS NEWS IN BRIEF Prices rise as Arla adds haulage charge ■ Wyke Farms and First Milk increased their price by 0.6ppl this month, with First Milk also paying out a 3% return on members’ investment in June milk cheques due to a ‘strong trading performance in the six months to the end of March’. However, in what looks to be a market correction, Arla has introduced a new haulage charge of £6.75+VAT per collection, and adjustments to volume bonuses. The moves are being viewed as indicative that Arla has not got the returns back from the market it needed in order to maintain its milk price.

New ‘zero carbon’ dairy plans submitted ■ Arla Foods has submitted a planning application to Aylesbury Vale District Council for its £150m zerocarbon liquid milk dairy, near to Aston Clinton, Aylesbury. The location has been selected due to its optimum position between farmers and the growing population in the south-east. Should Arla be successful, the dairy will be operational by the end of 2012.

NFUS pricing formula gets member support


FU Scotland’s proposal of a market-related pricing formula, which would be incorporated as a baseline into producer contracts, has met with overwhelming endorsement at a series of farmer meetings across Scotland. The idea has been developed by a group representing every major milk supply arrangement in Scotland and has been ‘developed by producers, for producers’, it said. The formula has been devised in conjunction with DairyCo, with the organisations settling on a 20% to 80% split of AMPE and MCVE as being the best solution. The move reflects the momentum behind current EU thinking

and both NFUs’ proposals for stronger milk contracts with more transparent pricing mechanisms. If adopted, it would “break the cycle of market failure in the dairy supply chain and allow all producers, irrespective of their supply relationship, to move forward with improved confidence and greater certainty,” says the NFUS. “The NFUS believes the initiative can deliver for everyone involved in milk and dairy products, from farmers to processors, retailers and ultimately consumers,” it said. “It will also address some of the dysfunction seen in the grocery market, as highlighted by recent Competition Commission

investigations, and will galvanise milk producers who are hungry for improvements to current milk supply arrangements.” The NFUS is, however, under no illusions that such a formula price will be the answer to all dairy farmers’ prayers: “It does not mean a guaranteed smooth ride in terms of the farmgate price received by dairy producers, and will not protect anyone from market realities. “Some months will be better than others. However, the critical element to this initiative is that the price produced by the formula will represent the true value of the product, reflecting a supply and demand dynamic that UK milk prices have failed to recognise over the last decade.”

Robotic rotary parlour in Swedish trial DELAVAL’S pilot robotic rotary parlour is under test at Stefan and Karin Lowenborg’s farm in southern Sweden, where four automatic arms put the clusters on. The 24pt parlour currently milks 450 cows, but the plan is to take this up to 500 in the near future. The first commercial units are expected to become available towards the end of this year.

Members shun training Handley: not any old drier AT the first dairy farmer representatives summit, held a year ago, the NFU dairy team urged farmer representatives to get trained in negotiation skills to help improve milk prices for their members. At the second summit, held recently, and with representatives from every major milk buyer present, it emerged that only three farmer representatives had taken the NFU’s advice and taken some form of negotiation training. Of those, only one – Rory Christie of the Lactalis McLelland supply group – represented a


major milk buyer. The others were David Handley of FFA, who does not represent any specific purchaser group, and Lyndon Edwards of OMSCo. This effectively means the price of all liquid milk in the UK is being negotiated by farmer groups without any formal negotiation skills. This was despite the fact that this role is at the forefront of what farmers expect their producer group to carry out on their behalf, and are collectively paying upwards of £200 a day for representatives to attend meetings on their behalf.

IF all goes well, the dairy industry’s new fractionalisation plant planned for the north-west by Farmers For Action will be up and running by 2015, David Handley has said. Dismissing the view that the factory would be ‘just another drier’, he said it would be far more sophisticated than any other plant in the UK, and that ingredient manufacturers were already interested in the concept. It would cost £150m-£170m for phase one, but farmers would not be asked for money at the moment. It was also going to be a plant that operated 365 days a year and


“will not be a plant that deals with the problem of seasonal producers”. The plant would be an ideal match for dual contracts, whereby a producer would send a set amount of milk to one buyer, and additional volume to another. “There is no reason why someone couldn’t supply Tesco and the new factory,” he said. “No doubt a lot of people in the industry will kick and scream and say we can’t do it, but it is time for those people to shut their mouths if they haven’t anything constructive to say.”

**DF June p2 3 News



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NFU takes contracts plight to Westminster


he NFU’s campaign for greater fairness in the dairy supply chain reached Government last week with a briefing to MPs at Westminster where it called for legislation to formally govern the contractual relationship between farmers and processors. It set out a list of five requests to Government, asking it to: ■ Back the EU High Level Group’s recommendations on milk contracts and to set down in law a requirement for contracts to be more equitable towards farmers. ■ Draw up a code of practice on ‘fair dealing’ between farmers and processors.

■ Prepare ‘template contracts’, using the NFU’s contract template as a basis. ■ Investigate whether Regional Development Programmes could pay for farmers to be trained in negotiation skills. ■ Distribute more transparent information on margins in the supply chain. Ironically, the demand for more intervention came on the same day as former NFU directorgeneral Richard Macdonald called for Government to ‘establish an entirely new culture of regulation’ to ease the burden on farmers. Current milk contracts were ‘fundamentally exploitative and

had failed to deliver fair market prices to farmers’, said the NFU. Its five year campaign for voluntary measures to be introduced to improve contracts had not worked, admitted new policy adviser Rob Newbery. The NFU wants contractual flexibility for farmers to sell to more than one buyer, and for price determination to be integral within the contracts. “After quotas have gone, milk supply will be market orientated,” said Dairy Board chairman Mansel Raymond. “Volume clauses will be built into contracts and will be another form of quota. Is it fair buyers will be in control of these

contracts?” he asked. “If a producer could sell to more than one buyer, it would be an incentive for buyers to keep their prices competitive. Please support us to achieve our aims,” he said. While most MPs seemed sympathetic to the plight of farmers, one or two struggled to see the NFU’s point of view given that it issued a chart to them which showed that 70% of farmers were ‘fairly or very satisfied’ with their milk contracts, and only 29% were ‘not satisfied’. Mr Raymond added farmers said they were satisfied because they were on the higher paying contracts and did not want to be on lower paying ones.

Industry’s route to environmental success Dairy engineer THE dairy industry is getting its environmental house in order on an ever faster basis, according to an update of the Dairy Roadmap, initially launched in 2008. More dairy-managed farm land has been entered into Environmental Stewardship Schemes compared with the target, the efficiency of water use is improving, and almost every farmer is reducing artificial

fertiliser use on farm. In addition, dairy processors have met their target for using 10% recycled plastic in milk bottles, and they have increased their energy efficiency by more than 27%, resulting in a reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions of around 270,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, new data from Kite shows the cash benefits of

reducing carbon output. Figures from work it has carried out with Asda shows the top 25% of producers ranked on carbon have a cost of production of 28.3ppl on a carbon footprint of 1094 grams per litre, compared to average producers with a cost of 31.65ppl on a footprint of 1200 grams, with the bottom 25% having a carbon count of 1281g/l and a production cost of 34.18ppl.

Dairy Crest won’t let up on its cheese ‘giveaway’ DESPITE 80% of cheese being sold on promotion through BOGOFs and even BOG2Fs, and this having ‘huge value destruction consequences to the category’, the UK’s main cheese brand Cathedral City will not ease its aggressive marketing strategy, according to brand manager Paul Fraser. “We will not be out-promoted

by anybody,” he told the Dairy Industry Newsletter conference last week in response to a call from Milk Link’s chief executive Neil Kennedy for greater marketing order in the category. “Brands are supposed to add value to a category, but instead there is huge value destruction,” said Mr Kennedy, whose company

is most famous for its premium Tickler brand. But Mr Fraser responded by stating that promotion works for Cathedral City, with gondola promotions resulting in a 50% increase in incremental sales. “Promotions are not a bad thing if they do not remove revenue from the business,” he said.


training scheme GOT an expensive milking parlour? Is it maintained by somebody who is competent but is not formally trained and qualified? That is set to change, thanks to efforts by the Milking Equipment Association to set up a training and accreditation scheme for engineers who install, maintain and repair milking equipment. The objective is to increase formal competence levels throughout the sector, from unskilled apprentices to those with a high level of expertise, and to help put in train formal qualifications to give a more defined career pathway. The initiative is being supported by the members of MEA – GEA Farm Technologies, Delaval, Fullwood, Lely and Boumatic.


**DF June p4 Collingborn



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Irish show us the way to control production costs


e’ve just come back from an Irish trip, arranged by Genus, to five progressive farms in Kilkenny which all relied heavily on grazed grass. The emphasis was on calving cows in February and March, and serving them in early May. The combination of the grassbased system and block calving meant the young heifers were being watched anxiously at the time of our visit as they would shortly need to be a minimum of 330kg for service to calve at two years the following spring. Most of the farms had started crossbreeding, with the following comments: Jerseys could get too small, Montbeliardes are definitely too big, and Norwegian Reds are satisfactory. Interestingly there was a dread of ending up with a

three-quarter Jersey midget and a lot of interest in going back to Irish Friesians. Although the first Friesian-Jersey cross looked quite tidy, they would have Friesian AI.

Food for thought In the back of our minds was the thought of what could be applied on our farm. We calve all year round so comments on the cost of producing autumn/winter milk compared to spring of ‘at least 5p more’ gave food for thought. We already paddock graze, with subdivision into smaller paddocks with trackways and different entrance points, which is not much different from the Irish systems we saw. Although ours is a wet farm, we turn out as soon as possible, this year March 15, and the herd is averaging 30 litres now, so we are fairly happy with our grass use as regards the cows.


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Rosemary Collingborn Rosemary Collingborn and her husband Joe farm a closed herd of 100 pedigree Friesian type cows, 60 young stock and breed bulls for sale. She has served on the MDC Council, Veterinary Products Committee and RSPCA Council. Looking at the young stock on the Kilkenny farms, all out on grass and some paddock grazed, it was fairly obvious our young stock, still inside on forage and bedded on straw, are an Achilles heel, and as a result my husband had them out the morning we got back. When we got to the farm with heavy land, like ours, I listened particularly carefully for tips. A good network of tracks was seen as even more important on a wet farm and light cattle were also seen to be an advantage. The farmer suggested using diploid grasses rather than tetraploid, as they had a better weight bearing structure. Another good tip was if you graze your silage fields first, you can get away with using 25kgs per hectare less fertiliser, due to the tillering effect. Enthusiasm for bark pads for wintering cows was limited with the comment they were very good where they worked, but a nightmare where they didn’t, and most didn’t. When Irish farmers expand, they look for extra grazing and only fleetingly think about extra shed space. The cattle are bedded on slats when they are inside, re-enforcing the point that our straw bedding was very expensive last winter. It was obvious spring calving really suits the Irish, although it does mean the processing factories close during the ‘dry’ period. In the UK a great deal of work has been done to even out production but it’s going to be necessary to make ‘out of season’ incentives more attractive. The Irish want to take production up a gear ready for the end of quotas, but are ironically having to think twice as they were nearly


over quota this year. One of the most interesting revelations was that the national average in Eire is 4000 litres using one tonne of meal (cake). As the country is nearly all spring calving, with an early turnout and cows dry in the expensive winter months, this yield could be attainable without any meal. The efficient herds that we looked at were increasing cow numbers but reducing yields to 4850-5000 litres using 350-500kg.

Grass snake When we got back the children were in a state of excitement and all keen to be the one to tell the tale. It started with a metre long grass snake which had got entangled in the heron netting in the pond. After a cold night immersed in pond water, it was showing faint signs of life, so they decided to revive it by leaving it in my office – I presume since it was empty and had a fire, and more importantly, I wasn’t there to object. Unfortunately, when they came to check on the snake’s progress, it had disappeared, even though the door had been kept shut. Strangely, I haven’t found a need to do any office work since as a metre snake sounds quite long. And what if it’s an adder?

Farm facts ■ FARM: Family run 185 acres dairy farm in North Wiltshire ■ HERD: Closed herd of 100 Friesian type pedigree cows ■ YIELD: 7650 litres ■ SOIL TYPE: Heavy – Oxford clay ■ RAINFALL: 749mm ■ MILK BUYER: First Milk.

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**DF June p6 7

On farm



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Focus on milk pushes herd numbers to 700 Brothers David and Hugh James run a dairy unit of 700 cows, in partnership with their mother Margaret, at Langdon Mill Farm in Pembrokeshire. In the past they had run a mixed enterprise but three years ago they decided to focus the business solely on milk production. Debbie James reports.


o grow a dairy herd from 270 milking cows to 700 within three years is quite a leap, but for the James family partnership it represented a means of streamlining a business that had become just too complicated. Until 2009, M D James and Sons had been producing milk, beef, lamb and arable crops at Langdon Mill Farm. When David returned home to farm after a period at college and working on a dairy farm in New Zealand, the farm had a 100-cow dairy herd. That was the year before milk quotas were introduced and this restriction on production halted their plans to expand the dairy business. They instead concentrated on beef and arable production and finishing 3500 lambs on root crops. By acquiring blocks of farmland which became available to rent, they increased their land holding from 400 acres of owned land to 1800 acres. Three years ago, when it became clear over-production was no longer an issue in the UK, the James’ took the opportunity to

David James in front of the 60-point rotary chosen so as not to limit any further expansion. follow through their initial plan of focusing on milk production. “The business had become complicated and we knew we needed to specialise,’’ David admits. “We were faced with three choices: to muddle on as we were, to go out of milk or reinvest.’’ They chose the latter and are now milking 700 all-year-round

All available shedding was utilised to generate 800 cubicle places.


calving cows in a 60-point rotary parlour three times a day. The rotary replaced a 16-stall trigon parlour. “We felt if we built anything smaller than a 60-point rotary then we may once again limit possible future expansion,’’ says David. “But to make it work we needed 700 cows.” “The parlour is designed for the welfare of the animals as well as ease of management by our staff and ourselves,’’ he adds. The parlour has a throughput of 280 cows an hour and can be operated by one person, although two people run it to make the job easier. It is fitted with automated cluster removal, feeding and spraying, electronic ID and a mechanism which detects when cows are on heat and filters them into a separate yard. The bulk tank has a 36,000-litre capacity and the milk is collected every other day, although there are times when daily collection is necessary. To make up numbers the family bought three herds and also


groups of heifers from Holland and Germany. Three-times-a-day milking was introduced last year to maximise production and to improve the somatic cell count. They are achieving six million litres annually from an average yield of 9000 litres. “We reckon we can add a million litres to our annual production by milking three times a day. It does add a bit of stress to the job but it pays and we have very little mastitis.’’ The cell count average is 130,000 cells/ml.

Price differential The milk is sold to Dairy Crest but David, who is currently county chairman of Pembrokeshire NFU, says the price differential between dedicated supply contracts and others is unacceptable. “If there was a 1ppl difference that would be fair enough but 5ppl is obscene. It doesn’t cost that much to transport our milk to a creamery,’’ he says.

**DF June p6 7

On farm



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The 60-point rotary can handle 280 cows an hour. He believes a closer relationship is needed between dairy farmers, processors and retailers to get the best deal for everyone. “The market at present is clearly not working. In recent months commodity prices have been good but dairy farmers are not enjoying the benefits.” Most of the milking herd at Langdon Mill is housed but in the grazing season there are 280 cows at grass at any one time, and these are the cows that are nearing the end of their lactation. The farm has a grazing platform of 150 acres. The herd is run in four groups, according to stage of lactation. The milkers are fed 24kg of dry matter daily and the aim is to get 3500 litres from forage. The herd gets a supplementary feed of soya, rape, minerals and fat all year round. Cows nearing the end of their lactation – those producing under 28 litres a day – have the fat content of the ration removed until they are dried off.

High yielders stay inside and only the low yielders go out. been a major problem, and David fears it will remain an issue for the rest of his working life. The farm employs five full-time staff and three relief milkers. “Langdon Mill was a family

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There are two cuts of clamped silage which is fed with 300 acres of home-grown winter corn, 100 acres of spring corn and 250 acres of forage maize. Although last year’s first cut silage had an ME of 11 and 15% protein, David says there is a need to improve silage quality to reduce feed costs. “Our main aim has been to get the fermentation right because we mix the silage with other forages, but we are going to have to be more particular about silage quality.’’ Fertility is a major focus with weekly vet visits. The calving index currently stands at 400 days and there is a replacement rate of 25%. Cows average four lactations. Sexed semen is used on the heifers with good results. It takes two straws of sexed semen to get the heifers in calf. “We find it is easier to calve a heifer from a heifer,’’ says David. “We are breeding for a healthy, functional cow and for longevity. In the past we have used some bulls that were a bit extreme and we now realise you don’t have to have a big cow to get good yields.’’ In addition to the milking herd, the farm also carries 150 in-calf heifers and 300 youngstock. The farm is grazed in the winter by 3000 tack sheep. By converting redundant silage sheds and grain stores in the last three years there is cubicle housing for 800 cows. Like many farms in this area, bovine TB has

farm when I came back 30 years ago and, although there are now nine local families living off it, it is still very much a family farm,’’ he says.

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**DF June p9 ELT



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ELT – understanding the udder

Vet Jenny O’Connor. “An advantage of cefquinome, when compared to many other antimicrobials, is its enhanced ability to cross the blood-udder barrier and to be effective in mammary gland tissue. “In essence, this means getting the antibiotic to the udder via the bloodstream so it can get into all of

the affected tissue (from the blood to the udder tissue) and do its job. “As the diagram below shows, the udder is complex and has many veins that carry blood to it. There are also milk veins and areas that secrete and store milk, as well as tissue which can become infected with bacteria and inflamed as a result (ie mastitis).”

ELT UK farm results Cure rates IN farm-led trials, ELT was used on both mild and severe cases of mastitis. Cure rates of 344 cases were scored – 66% were satisfactory or above, 11% showed a rapid disappearance of clots, 25% reasonably rapid and 30% satisfactory resolution of clots. What does this mean? If this data could be replicated on more farms, it could represent a significant improvement in clinical mastitis recovery and cure rates. Of course, for the commercial milking herd using ELT and achieving better cure rates there will be more milk in the tank, as there will be fewer repeat cases; certainly a key target for anyone producing milk, and something not to be ignored.

Source: Frandson, 1986

Cow comfort OF the 289 cases which recorded how quickly any swelling of the udder was reduced, farmers reported that 12% showed a rapid response, 29% a very satisfactory response, and 29% a satisfactory response. Mastitis, especially a nasty toxic case, is painful and the cow can be quite ‘unwell’. Getting in quickly with a therapy such as ELT helps to reduce swelling and is certain to help in overall cow well-being. Practical advice: Understanding why combination antibiotic

therapy works should help decision-making and mastitis management. Below are some practical tips: ■ Monitor freshly-calved cows in the first 30 days ■ Use recording data to identify rising cell counts in freshly-calved cows ■ Particular monitoring of heifers ■ Stripping at milking of fresh calvers and additional attention to early signs of mastitis. Speak to your vet about reviewing mastitis case rates and examining whether there may be a role for combination antibiotic therapy.

Early Lactation Therapy


LT (early lactation therapy) with Cobactan intramammary tubes, together with a Cobactan 2.5% injection, was tested as an approach to controlling mastitis, specifically in cases caused by E. coli, on a large number of farms in 2010. Feedback shows it has had an incredible impact on mastitis management on many of the farms which have tried it, helping to improve case rates, reduce recurrence rates and lower cell counts. But why does using a tube and administering an injectable antibiotic work? Vet Jenny O’Connor explains. “The intramammary tube delivers antibiotic to the udder, while the injection ensures antibiotic is in the animal’s bloodstream, which also circulates in the udder,” she says. “The two-pronged approach achieves high penetration levels and a rapid cure. Lab work backs up onfarm study results, confirming the two combined routes show higher antibiotic levels in the udder than using intramammary tubes alone. “A study in Germany showed that, even up to six hours post-treatment, cefquinome (the active ingredient in Cobactan) could be measured at levels high enough to kill bacteria, reducing infection levels. (See graph).

ELT sponsored series brought to you by Intervet Schering-Plough, manufacturers of Cobactan

Mastitis is a daily challenge on all dairy units. National statistics show cell counts are climbing, so are we losing this battle? In 2010, more than 70 farms trialled an alternative approach to mastitis therapy, overseen by their vets. Dairy Farmer is bringing you the results of this study over the coming months in our Early Lactation Therapy series.

Look out for a regular ELT column in Dairy Farmer, where we will examine why a standard tube plus an injectable antibiotic works, and we’ll be speaking to some of the farmers who were involved in the trials.



**DF June p10 Potter



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Why NFU needs plan to attract next generation NFU office holders need a good shake-up, believes Ian Potter, to bring about a more dynamic and professional approach to tackle the pressing problems that will be confronting the industry in the not too distant future.


t has been one step forward on milk prices (First Milk, Wyke Farms) and a bit back (Arla, Dairy Crest and Dairy Crest Direct) this month, but some significant developments have taken place on the macro front. The most notable is NFU Scotland’s new idea for milk pricing, which I will look at in a future month. The NFU has held another farmer representatives summit, taking its ‘fairness for dairy farmers’ campaign to MPs for them to lobby Government to get stuck into the industry to sort out the mess. At a meeting on May 17, Peter Kendall, Mansel Raymond, Rob Newbery and a good number of the Dairy Board went to Westminster to give our MPs and Lords the ‘what for’ on all things milk. Whether it does any good remains to be seen, but a lot of MPs that should have been there weren’t. This gives me the perfect opportunity to cover the NFU, and the Dairy Board in particular. Peter Kendall, I believe, is good, but he’s also increasingly looking like the equivalent of a lone pilot of a 747, doing everything. I know Meurig Raymond and others are there too, and they do notable stuff essential for the future of the industry, but it isn’t exactly headline grabbing. In terms of a front man, Kendall is the man of the day. But is he flying the union in the right direction, and is he heading for a crash landing? Let me explain. The NFU needs to find the next Peter Kendall for the 2015 era and beyond – and pretty quick. It’s a serious issue. The NFU needs to have the right people in place for what will be a dynamic period in agriculture, and, let’s face it, Kendall and Raymond aren’t the ‘next


generation’ men for that era. Stuart Roberts (Wiseman MP), Gwyn Jones has the sword of the Arthur Fearnall (Arla FMP), Phil GLA hanging over him, and the Allin (DCD) etc. court of NFU moral indignation/ Others like First Milk’s Roger hypocrisy (depending) will more Lewis (chairman of the Next than likely sit in judgement on Generation Dairy Board) want to Paul Temple for many moons yet, concentrate on their own ignoring the fact he was of the businesses for a while before next generation and was prepagetting into industry politics. red to face change head on. These farmers have been (and The problem, as I will be) headsee it, is that there hunted by their aren’t any obvious processor to help successors to Kendall take their I don’t know what the and Raymond within businesses average age of the NFU Council and the forward, which Dairy Board is, but if I Commodity Boards means they don’t checked their teeth and who represent the have time for NFU ‘next generation’ activities. sorted them there and hold in their I suspect they’re wouldn’t be many in the hands the future of growing tired of ‘youngsters’ pen. the NFU and farming the NFU’s oneas a whole. track mind on contracts, for which This is even more stark when it it has, as yet, failed to secure a comes to the Dairy Board. I don’t buy-in from processors. know what the average age of The NFU’s ‘recruitment’ process the NFU Dairy Board is but if I into these important industrychecked their teeth and sorted shaping positions needs a radical them there wouldn’t be many in overhaul. Currently most of them the ‘youngsters’ pen. A few would rely on elections, but this clearly struggle to score many marks on a isn’t working, so one solution is dynamism test, or indeed a for the NFU to supply its regions communications skills test. with a detailed job specification Perish the thought of them for its vacancies, so those putting interacting with politicians and themselves up know the qualities the media. Mansel is doing his required. best for dairy, I’ll grant him that, If the NFU continues to rely on but his Board doesn’t seem to be the failing democratic process, giving him much, if any, support. they will continue to lose more Similarly, several county competent young people who chairmen are in their posts largely could drive the organisation because other farmers don’t want forward. the job. While some are high The NFU must have a procedure calibre, switched-on individuals, for evaluating each candidate’s there are some that aren’t the strengths and weaknesses. sharpest needles in the veterinary Consideration should be given to cabinet. an independent annual 360 The reality is that an increasing degree review which assesses their number of farmers who would performance. have climbed the NFU’s ladder in Late last year I travelled to the past have decided instead to Ontario and visited the Schouten make their mark by representing Corner View Farms dairy farm – farmers with their milk purchasers the home of Jessica Schouten or co-ops – shining lights such as who was selected as the David Christensen (Milk Link), representative for the American


Ian Potter Ian is a specialist milk quota and entitlement broker. Comments please to Soybean Association and Dupont young leader programme. Jessica is involved in a programme designed to train Ontario’s future farm leaders where young people benefit from public speaking lessons and meet successful farm leaders. The aim is to grow the next generation of well-trained future potential leaders for the North American soybean industry. Jessica does not work on the farm, though, and is a crop adviser. What a contrast. So why do the NFU’s positions all have to be filled by farmers? There’s no point having Boards and Councils with dinosaur members who are well past their sell-by date trying to perform duties way beyond their capabilities, and who have limited motivation. It is time for a shake-up – a cull – in the interests of the long term future of the NFU. The NFU needs to identify young people, head hunt them, train them and support them, and let them take over. The NFU is a fantastic organisation – farming’s best. And a lot of farmers give a lot of time and effort to do what is right for farming. I know that, I recognise that and applaud you all for that. But there is a talent and a leadership storm approaching, and it’s time the NFU looked ahead and changed course to avoid a disaster. There are some brilliantly talented dairy farmers out there who can step into the cockpit – that’s not the problem. The NFU just needs a plan to attract them – and it needs one soon!




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**DF June p12 Dairy Tech



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Higher yields have role in tackling greenhouse gases The predicted impact of global warming is ever present in the media, and agriculture is often at the butt end of the finger pointing. Peter Hollinshead reports from the Dairy Tech day at Harper Adams, Shropshire.


eing 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, it is perhaps not surprising methane is listed as one of the major greenhouse gases and that farming is often cited as the main source. Not just any farming but dairy and beef production in particular as notoriously cattle eruct large quantities of the gas every day. However, things are not all gloom and doom as according to Harper’s Prof Liam Sinclair the contribution from dairying is “considerably lower than what is generally thought and it is decreasing – two points which the industry needs to get across”. “Agriculture contributes 7% of the total greenhouse gas emissions and since 1990 the agricultural contribution to methane production has decreased by around 15%,” he told the farmer audience. This principally stemmed from the fortuitous conjunction of a decrease in cow numbers from 1990 to 2009 from 2.8m cows to 1.9m with an increase in yield from 5145 litres/cow to 7084 litres over the same period, but he stressed there were still things the industry could do to play its part in making further reductions. Fundamentally the methane stems from the digestion in the cow’s rumen of dietary fibre, and unfortunately that process produces hydrogen which is converted by the methanobacteria in the cow’s first stomach to methane and this is ultimately expelled through the mouth. Despite the unfortunate by-product, this digestive process allows cows to convert feeds such as grass which humans cannot use into valuable food products they can. Such a food producing process, Prof Sinclair cited, was


arguably more relevant to our survival than such things as recreational air travel, and pointed out that the industry’s record of cheap food production had ironically backfired by helping generate the present predicament. “Currently around 8% of feed is lost as methane which is worth 6 litres/cow/day, and if our cows were not producing methane there would be an increase in yield form 7000 litres to 9000 litres,” he claimed. However, stopping methane production completely was not possible, but there were a number of strategies that farmers could follow to reduce its production and at the same time improve performance and profitability. Two simple ways to mitigate the effect were to increase dry matter intake and increase yields, although he conceded that increasing yield would overall produce more methane, the all important measure of methane per litre of milk produced would be reduced. (See Table below). To achieve higher DM intakes there were several practical Cow A Cow B DM intake (kg) 18 22 Milk yield (kg) 28 37 Methane produced 12.9 11.0 (g/kg milk) aspects producers could observe. These included making sure the cattle were fed ad lib and never ran short of feed; making sure any feed was kept pushed up in front of them; ensuring that the cows couldn’t select from their TMR; and finally making sure the silage was high quality with minimum clamp spoilage. In addition there were other dietary elements which influenced methane production, and to quantify their relevant importance Prof Sinclair attempted to

Dairy cows eruct large quantities of methane gas every day. put figures on them. “Going from 20% to 25% concentrate in the ration doesn’t have much effect but going to higher levels does. However if you end up dropping the rumen pH below 5.8 you will start to get problems,” he warned. “Feeding high levels of starch results in less methane, and in that respect maize grain may be better than wheat. “Also oil will help decrease methane production – a 1% increase in oil will reduce methane output by 3% – and in particular linseed has been shown to reduce methane by 40% but unfortunately pushed yields down,” he declared. He said it was possible to get a 20-25% reduction by feeding less mature grazed grass or silage as this not only contains less fibre but would increase intakes. Lucerne, he maintained, could also decrease methane production by 20-25% compared to grass partly owing to higher intakes and partly because it helps mop up some of the hydrogen. And maize silage can reduce methane production by 10%, giving an ideal maize goal of 30% DM and 30% starch. The other major influencing element outside the diet was herd reproductive performance as this had a profound effect on the number of replacements needing to be reared. He said


lifting the heat detection rate from the average 50% to 70%, and conception rates from 38% to 65%, would have a profound effect which would vary with yield. For example with the 6000 litre cow this would reduce methane output by 21% while for the 9000 litre cow this rose to 24%. These savings stemmed majorly from the fact that the contribution to methane production from replacements could be cut by nearly half – for the lower yielding herd from 21% to 12% and for the higher yielding herd from 27% to 15%. In other parts of the world work was being done looking at the role of antimicrobial feed additives such as monensin which is now banned within Europe. However, he said that although this did drastically reduce methane output, it had been shown in some studies that after 8 weeks the effects tended to be nullified. There may also be an opportunity to select between cows for lower methane production as there was evidence of considerable variation between cows on the same diet and producing a similar yield. But perhaps the most intriguing was work being carried out in Australia which was looking at the appealing prospect of actually immunising cattle against methane production!




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**DF June p14 15 Conf



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Why partial DCAB for dry cows is better than none Adopting DCAB to avoid problems such as milk fever need not mean feeding high, potentially unpalatable levels of minerals to dry cows, but addressing it through grassland management and better feed and forage choices.


airy farmers who have tried and failed to succeed with full DCAB rations for their dry cows should consider ‘partial DCAB’. This will bring many of the benefits full DCAB offers – importantly the reduction of milk fever – but avoids the risks and difficulties incurred when the DCAB principle is implemented in its full-blown form. This message from vet James Husband, speaking at a Mole Valley Dry Cow Nutrition seminar in Devon, reflected the fact that feeding a full DCAB (Dietary Cation-Anion Balance) ration often involved feeding high levels of anionic (negatively charged) salts, which could be highly unpalatable and lead to

James Husband: partial DCAB.

John Newbold: obese cows.

problems of feed rejection. Magnesium chloride, for example, was said to ‘taste terrible’, and cows were claimed to have died of dehydration rather than drink water highly

supplemented with it. “It should be put in every dry cow ration,” said Mr Husband, “but any more than 100g may reduce intake.” But the DCAB theory (of

increasing the ratio of anions to positively charged cations) was relevant to every farmer, and should be pursued to a degree through the choice of certain feed ingredients. “The real villain is grass silage, although variability is wide – ranging from +100 to +1000 meq/kg DM – so ask for a forage mineral analysis,” said Mr Husband. Brewers grains, by contrast were a ‘get out of jail card’; cereals and rape also had negative values, while maize silage, wholecrop silage and straw were the best of the forages. The key mineral culprits in increasing the level of cations were potassium (K) and sodium (Na), which put first cut grass silage, kale and caustic wheat

CAB values for feeds Grass silage - high CAB Caustic wheat Fodder beet Cane molasses Kale Fresh grass Grass silage - average CAB

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JOHN Lawrence, mineral specialist with Mole Valley, said the company had introduced a traffic light system depicting the worst offenders as red and a green list of feeds which were useful for diluting the cation-anion balance of the overall dry cow ration. They had also introduced ‘Transition Dry Cow 400’ for adding to a partial DCAB ration for ‘close-up’ dry cows which included a range of anionic salts. He said these ‘green’ feeds were increasingly important as the DCAB value of grass forages had been steadily increasing for more than 15 years.

Beans Straw Sunflower Maize silage Wheat feed Sugar beet pulp Wholecrop wheat Citrus pulp Maize gluten Palm kernal ext Barley Oats Wheat Wheat distillers Rape Brewers grains



**DF June p14 15 Conf



Page 2

CONFERENCE DCAB basics ■ DCAB stands for Dietary Cation-Anion Balance ■ DCAD is sometimes used as a synonym, where the D stands for Difference ■ Cations are ions with a positive charge – typically sodium (Na) and potassium (K) ■ Anions are ions with a negative charge – typically chloride (Cl) and sulphur (S) ■ Reducing the DCAB means increasing

strictly out of bounds for dry cows. Producing safer pastures and forages would avoid the need to feed high levels of anions, and this should involve managing an area specifically for dry cow cutting and grazing.

Management “Select a small acreage which has had no manure, avoid all forms of K, and grow for two years with no fertilizer other than nitrogen to draw down soil K,” said Mr Husband. Ryegrasses and clover should be avoided in these swards and meadow grasses favoured. “In other words, make your forage from the poorest quality

dietary anions and/or reducing cations ■ Reducing the DCAB is known to reduce both clinical and sub-clinical milk fever ■ Milk Fever (hypocalcaemia) is characterised by low blood calcium levels ■ Calcium (Ca) metabolism is impaired by the presence of cations, particularly K ■ K also antagonises magnesium (Mg) which is vital in making Ca available.

grasses and cut it late, probably baled as haylage,” he said. The implications of increasing the balance of anions to cations were profound and had the potential to radically change calcium metabolism, which is a root cause of milk fever. Although the incidence of clinical milk fever was only said to be 5-9% in the UK, it nevertheless existed at sub-clinical levels at 25-50%. Described as a ‘gateway disease’, it was closely linked to ketosis, displaced abomasums and a range of immunosuppressive disorders, including mastitis. It is claimed it could easily have a financial cost in a high yielding herd of 0.5-1ppl.


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consequences of obesity, once it had occurred. These fell into the two categories of limiting the mobilisation of fat, and supporting the body functions, particularly in the liver, that were compromised by excess fat mobilisation. A ‘slug’ of propylene glycol before calving, or increasing the level of dietary starch late in the dry period or in early lactation were traditional responses, although the former was often impractical and the latter often ineffective. But new research suggested that the B vitamin, niacin, played an important role in avoiding fat mobilisation, while another B vitamin, choline, played a critical role in liver function and was arguably deficient in most early lactation cows. These two vitamins were included in Provimi’s LiFT (Liver Function Technology), which aimed for the ‘perfect traffic management of liver metabolites’, and could be incorp-orated into dry cow rations to improve liver function.


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**DF June p16 18 Breeding



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Breeding turnaround is set to change the shape of our cows Not long ago we had breeding for production and breeding for type, with most breeders treading a line between the two. But today there is a wealth of different indexes which are profoundly changing the way we breed cows. Ann Hardy spoke to Jörg Harms from export company GGI, representing most of Germany’s Holstein studs, to discuss the impact of this breeding evolution. HOW important is overall type score in your sire selection strategy? It’s still important but not as important as it was. This is because we have more and better breeding values available for secondary traits like longevity and health, which we did not have 10 or 20 years ago. Then, breeders could only select for the type traits which they thought were important to longevity, but today they have the actual longevity value. Were they right to have used type traits to predict longevity? Yes and no. Of course, feet and legs and udders have always been

Jörg Harms: extremes not wanted. important for longevity. But in the past breeders have put too much emphasis on size, body capacity and dairy character which were not important for longevity. Today, they even have a

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negative correlation with longevity. But it’s also a question of the cow you are looking at and seeking a bull for. You have to consider the cow and bull together and arrive at offspring somewhere in the middle for size, capacity and dairy character. Extremes are not what’s wanted. But there are still breeders who select for extreme size and capacity, and at least regarding longevity, this is definitely negatively correlated. But if they want to show cows, that’s a different story. So, are we heading for a two-tier industry with commercial milk producers and show-ring breeders going in quite different directions?

Up to a point we are – and that’s not just in the UK. The commercial farmer has generally reached the point at which he says he has enough size and capacity, especially on a large farm. It’s true the show breeder is going in a different direction, but we are also beginning to see a change here. This will come down to the judging, as the show breeder will do as the judges demand. In Germany, we have recently seen a very tall cow put into second place because she was too tall! Similarly, a British breeder from Norfolk who was judging the Hungarian National Holstein Show last month said he felt it was the role of the judge to find a champion that the normal commercial breeder would be

RECENT GENETIC DEFECT TO BE AVOIDED ■ A GENETIC defect recently recognised in the Holstein breed will now be identified by the suffix BYC after a bull’s name. The letters signify the bull is a carrier of Brachyspina, a condition which normally causes early embryonic death or, in rare cases, an abnormal, still-born calf. Brachyspina is a recessive condition, so these symptoms are only expressed when the defective gene is inherited from both parents. This is unlikely to occur in random matings, although breeders are advised to be aware that some bloodlines have been identified as likely to carry the defective gene. These have all been traced to the USbred Sweet-Haven Tradition. In the USA, it has been estimated around 6% of Holsteins carry the gene for Brachyspina. A comparable figure is not known for the UK, but it is likely to be similar.


Although Tradition himself wasn’t used in the UK, many of his sons have been popular, including Cleitus and Leadman, both of whom have also been notified as carriers and have further spread the defect to their descendants, including for example Wa-Del Convincer. Dairy farmers are advised to avoid matings with carrier bulls on bloodlines of other carriers in their herd, or to run the proposed mating through a computer breeding program which should identify any risk. Bulls which have tested free of the Brachyspina gene will carry the suffix BYF. In the USA, different suffixes are used – BY for known carriers and TY for non-carriers. However, it is worth breeders noting it is not obligatory for AI companies to test their bulls, although most are now in the process of screening their active line up.




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**DF June p16 18 Breeding



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A WORD FROM BOEHRINGER FARMERS do not need to accept current levels of milk fever – clinical cases affecting 4-9 per cent of cows and subclinical (hypocalcaemia) up to 39 per cent – as the disorder is preventable. Clinical cases can be readily noticed and blood calcium levels corrected with immediate intervention, however, they also serve as an indicator other cows in the herd could be suffering at a sub-clinical level. Both clinical and subclinical cases have numerous links to health and productivity post-calving. For example, milk fever increases the risk of dystocia by three times and the risk of mastitis in the following lactation by eight times. With the onset of lactation, there is a sudden change to the balance between the lactational calcium demands placed on a cow and her ability to mobilise her own calcium reserves to meet this demand. Compared to the non-lactating cow, an extra 80g per day is required.

The German bull Leif (daughters pictured) may not have got a look-in 10 years ago, but is now a top seller. happy with. The small cow will never win in the show ring, but I think the extremely tall cow should not either. Of course, it depends on the barn, but a normal commercial breeder cannot work with a cow that is more than 160cm tall. Will a trend away from classy type damage the UK’s show or export industries? Of course not. It’s important that functional type cows win shows and if judging turns in this direction it can’t possibly do any damage. There will be a greater audience again as it’s easier for breeders to identify with this type of show cow, so it could revive the show ring.

Could you cite some bulls that typify the changes you have described? From our stud Leif, Laudan, Gibor or Mascol would be perfect examples, and in the newer generation it would be the Goldwyn sons Guarini and Gunnar. A bull like Leif has been a best seller in the UK for several years, and it’s true that years ago he would have had a much smaller market. But that’s because his strong points are his secondary traits which we weren’t even able to express 10 years ago.

Does the UK’s Profitable Lifetime Index give UK breeders everything they are looking for? Any total merit index is always a compromise which must represent the needs of the majority. Of course there will be some breeders who have different

Will genomics speed up the trend towards the health and fitness traits since they can now be predicted earlier? Genomics will help this trend because we’ll have breeding values earlier, especially for longevity, but this won’t be dramatic.

Predisposing Milk fever is often not seen in herds until a predisposing factor, such as an increase in grass availability or changes to the forage quality, suddenly, and unexpectedly, results in more cases than usual. Risk factors for milk fever also include lack of dietary acidification and a body condition score greater than 3.5, while high yielding multiparous cows and those with a previous history of milk fever are more at risk. Clinical and subclinical milk fever can, to a large extent, be prevented through transition cow dietary management and nutrition, but when the risk is higher oral calcium can be supplied prior to the risk period. Bovikalc is an oral calcium supplement bolus containing calcium chloride and calcium sulphate, providing 42g of available calcium per bolus. Calcium chloride is rapidly released to raise calcium levels quickly, while the calcium sulphate provides a sustained supply of calcium over a prolonged period. In addition, an acidifying effect of the Bovikalc boluses help the cow mobilise her own calcium reserves. It is best used by giving one bolus immediately prior to calving and another immediately after, followed by two further boluses at 12-15 hour intervals as necessary.

Clinical cases It can, however, also be used in clinical cases to reduce the risk of recurrence following treatment with injectable calcium. The first bolus should be given two to three hours after the injection, with another 12-15 hours later. Preventative strategies should be an integral part of herd health management on all farms. For a disorder which impacts so significantly on the health and production of the diary cow, reducing the risk of milk fever is very important. Speak to your vet about appropriate use and administration of boluses, as well as reducing the risk of milk fever through nutrition and management.

By Laura Randall, veterinary adviser


goals, such as the show breeder who will favour Type Merit over PLI, but for the majority, the answer is yes.

NEW ZEALAND YOUNG BULL GENOMIC DATA SUSPENDED ■ LAST MONTH the New Zealand Animal Evaluation Unit (NZAEL) temporarily suspended genomic data from the calculation of its genetic indexes, stating that young bull indexes were being consistently overpredicted when they contained genomic data. Whilst the over-estimation does not come as a surprise – and is an issue which has been observed and addressed elsewhere in the world – it can only add confusion and uncertainty over the accuracy of NZ genomic proofs. Since the genomic component of the evaluations is actually contributed by the commercial companies responsible for selling the semen, these companies’ failure to resolve the matter with NZAEL is surprising. It leaves British (and presumably New Zealand) farmers in a state of


uncertainty over the credence to give genomic NZ bull proofs, and sows seeds of uncertainty over the reliability of genomic indexes in general. At this stage, UK breeders are advised that NZ genomic proofs on young bulls are recognised as being overestimated and are not authorized by the country’s independent evaluation unit. They should therefore only be used for comparing one NZ young bull against another. However, this should not cast doubt on genomic proofs in general. All countries are constantly monitoring for any bias in the calculation and increasingly countries are collaborating (eg UK, USA and Canada) to provide substantial ‘reference populations’ behind their evaluations, which is an important pre-requisite to reliable genomic indexes.

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**DF June p20 Breeding Cogent



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Lifespan index can give big boost to bottom line figure Whether buying or rearing your own replacements, dairy heifers are a big investment. Cogent Breeding’s business development manager Ed Lewis believes the route to lower replacement rates starts before conception.


ith the present high feed and fuel prices, Defra forecasts predict this year dairy farmers are expected to suffer a 24 per cent drop in farm business incomes compared with 2009-10. So what can we do to mitigate such pressure? I want to look a little closer at heifer rearing costs, as these are the second highest variable cost of milk production with only feed and forage ranking higher. If you take into account all of the input costs to rear a heifer in a typical 150-head herd that is calving at two-and-a-half years, it amounts to £1192 per head. If this farm has a high replacement rate of 30 per cent, this could equate to replacement costs of nearly £40,000, according to DairyCo and Kingshay figures. (See Table).

Control But replacement costs potentially don’t stop there. Costs can increase even further if heifers are purchased (between £1400 – £2050) rather than reared on farm, and additionally that could also carry the risk of bringing disease into the herd. So in a world where farmers are often powerless to mitigate high global commodity prices, managing heifer replacement rates is something that can be controlled. While good management is essential, I also believe that achieving a low replacement rate should actually start way before conception. Unfortunately not enough farmers are using their breeding programmes as this type of management tool. In the UK, dairy cows are kept on average for around 3.6 lactations. It is economically vital producers raise this figure to ensure that more cows in their herds are able to last into the


A low replacement rate can help unlock extra income from surplus heifer sales and improve margins. critical payback period, which is typically during their third and fourth lactations when milk production is peaking. A low replacement rate can also help farmers unlock extra income from surplus heifer sales. Producers that have a low replacement rate can financially benefit and increase their chances of getting a heifer by using sexed semen. If it costs £1192 to rear a replacement, and current market prices for a fresh-calved heifer are £1941 (Farmers Guardian, May 6, 2011), there is a potential profit of £749 for every surplus one sold. To boost longevity in herd life and cut replacement rates, dairy farmers need to make the right breeding decisions. That inevitably means looking closely at daughter survival. That’s why it is critical farmers broaden their selection criterion to focus on health and fitness traits, particularly lifespan index. There is a common misconception among some

Replacement costs for a typical 150-cow herd Herd size Replacement rate % Cull cow cost (per head) Heifer rearing cost (per head) Replacement cost (per cow) Total cost

150 15% 311 £1192 £881 £19,817

150 20% 311 £1192 £881 £26,442

150 25% 311 £1192 £881 £33,028

150 30% 311 £1192 £881 £39,633

Figures and table taken from DairyCo and Kingshay research. producers that selecting on type or on other traits will also impart longevity. The reality is that it only provides an indication of the structure of the cow.

Longevity The only way to gain a clear assessment of longevity is to look at lifespan because lifespan is calculated from actual daughter survival information and it represents how many extra lactations daughters of a particular bull are predicted to last. The lifespan index is expressed on scale of around -0.5 to +0.5 and daughters of a bull with +0.5 are expected to live half a lactation longer than daughters of a bull


with an lifespan index of zero. Focusing on health and fitness traits makes long-term commercial sense. Traits such as fertility and cell counts traits have become increasingly appealing to farmers because of the immediate financial imperative to get these right. However, it is important all dairy farmers take the long-term view and ensure they make the link between lifespan traits and reducing their replacement costs. In conclusion, any plan to achieve lower replacement costs must start with dairy farmers utilising all the proof data that is available to them.




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Norwegian Red Crossbreds Outperform Canadian Holstein Herdmates

Canadian trial preliminary data - Jan. 2010

ÀUVWODFWDWLRQ Norwegian Red x Holsteins Actual / Projected 305 days production in 61 Herds Contact us for advice on sires and breeding programmes

Norwegian Red x Holstein

ME Milk (kgs) ME Fat (kgs) ME Protein (kgs) Fat percent Protein percent SCC

Deviation from Holstein herdmates

8800 +421 (crosses higher) 343 +40 (crosses higher) 290 +30 (crosses higher) 3.89 +0.17 (crosses higher) 3.31 +0.15 (crosses higher) 2.2 -0.0 (crosses equal)

the Crossbreeding Specialists Tel: +44 (0)1244 659622 Email: Geno-UK, Dee View, Eccleston, Chester CH4 9HT

**DF June p22 Breeding Danish



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Nordic countries take closer look at UK Holstein markets The Danish have dominated the UK’s Jersey breeding industry for many years and are now gearing up to make a concerted attack on our Holstein market. Ann Hardy talked to the sire analyst and export manager of Viking Genetics to see what plans they have in store.


lance at a list of the top international Jersey bulls marketed in the UK and you’ll see a strong domination by Nordic bulls. Bulls such as these have helped build Denmark’s reputation as a world leader for Jersey genetics and serve in particular to illustrate the country’s success in improving health and fitness traits. But look towards the Holsteins, and the Nordic names will be harder to spot. There will be half a dozen black-and-whites scattered throughout the top 200 PLI list and few names will be familiar to British Holstein breeders. But this, according to Viking Genetics sire analyst Camilla Rosman and export manager Hans Christian Hansen, is set to change. On their recent visit to the UK, the two – who represent the recently formed umbrella organisation Viking Genetics which encompasses Danish, Swedish and Finnish breeding cooperatives – were struck by the similarities between their own and British needs. “We think you have the same demands as us,” says Hans Christian. “We all face high feed and veterinary costs with low milk

prices and we should more or less have the same breeding goals.” Throughout these three Nordic countries the breeding goals have focused around health and fitness for more than 30 years. Strong participation in recording (around 95%) underlies the progress that has been made, and there is ample evidence of significant genetic improvement throughout the past decade in areas such as udder health and female fertility. The breeding index used across the three countries is the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) which represents a complex amalgam of the traits for which these three countries strive. “It’s similar to Net Merit in the USA,” says Camilla. “Every trait in NTM has an economic value and the main focus [31 per cent] is on production. “The reason overall type is not in NTM is because it does not have anything to do with economics – in fact, it’s almost the opposite.” As evidence, she produces a graph which shows a clear advantage in terms of culling rate to having ‘intermediate’ body traits. But functional traits are an important part of the Nordic index,

Viking Holstein NTM profile


Camilla Rosman: health traits. with legs and udders together accounting for over 10 per cent of the total. (See pie chart). But even more important is the contribution of ‘health’, accounting for half of the entire index and including calving ease, mastitis and other disease resistance, and daughter fertility. A new ‘hoof health’ index could potentially be included at a later date. In the light of the Nordic countries’ long-term pursuit of these breeding goals, it is perhaps a surprise that their bulls don’t feature higher on the UK’s PLI. “This is really because it’s a numbers game,” says Marco Winters from DairyCo in the UK. “There are at least 10 times more Holsteins tested worldwide than Jerseys, which makes it more difficult to rank amongst the best, so it’s about the probability of one of theirs coming up – and broadly speaking, they’ve used the same sires of sons as everyone else. “Their Jersey programme, by contrast, is large in world terms,” he adds. The absence of some of their goals (calving ease, growth, disease resistance and temperament) from the UK’s current PLI formula will not help their position, and equally, the general failure to concentrate on overall type may leave some of their bulls difficult to market in the UK. But Camilla Rosman believes


the new Nordic landscape will change this position. The very existence of Viking Genetics and its ability to pull together breeding programmes from three countries will add structure and direction, enabling sires of sons to be more strategically chosen and the export effort to be focused. “It’s true we used more foreign sires of sons in the past,” she says. “But that’s because, although we were convinced of our direction, other people weren’t, so we knew we had to be cautious.” Now she says the difficulty is in finding foreign bulls that meet their criteria – scoring highly enough on NTM – and their 2011 sires of sons include 10 proven bulls of Viking Genetics’ own breeding, just four foreign sires and 15 GenVikPLUS bulls, with genomic indexes. As to bull mothers, she says: “Most of our cows are from ordinary commercial herds – there is no focus on fashionable cow families and a family without a good genomic test will not be used.” Today, Viking Genetics produces six million doses of semen a year (200,000 of which are sexed and the majority of which is Holstein) and is undoubtedly an international force. And in their recently announced participation in EuroGenomics, they join France, Germany and the Netherlands in creating one of the largest genomic programmes for Holsteins in the world. With 175 Holsteins tested annually (down from 225 in the days before genomics) it is still perhaps Danish, Swedish and Finnish breeders who give Viking Genetics their greatest endorsement – despite year-on-year growth in their export market. But if their Holsteins do become household names internationally it is most likely to be due to their head-start in supplying commercially relevant, solid production and high-health genetics.




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**DF June p24 26 Breeding



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Best cows are the ones that never appear on your radar Your longest lasting and best performing cows may not be the eye-catchers of the herd but they get on with the job with minimal attention. Jeremy Hunt reports.


on’t get too fixated about type as the ultimate measure of traits that influence longevity and functionality. That is the message from Andrew Rutter, breeding programme manager for Genus ABS. “Producers are still selecting for type, but they should be looking at fitness or durability traits such as fertility and somatic cell count when selecting bulls if they want to breed cows with increased longevity,” he says. “The tools are there, but not all producers are using them.

Cows at Chalk Lodge Farm, Cumbria, are in all year and they are bred to suit that particular system. “A heifer that classifies at 87pts as a two-year-old and appears to fit the bill in terms of her visual



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type may score well on a range of physical traits – but looks aren’t everything and they don’t tell the whole story. “While we can’t ignore type per se, we’ve got to start looking at it in context and making sure we know more about the animal’s breeding. “That’s the only way we can fully understand what other factors may be influencing an animal’s health and potential lifetime performance in the herd,” declares Andrew.

Unseen traits “A high-pointing two-year-old may be by a sire whose physical traits have contributed to the classification score, but the bull may not be good on health and fertility traits. “The consequence is that the heifer isn’t going to be as fertile or last as long as a lower pointing heifer by a bull with more desirable ‘unseen’ traits. The lower-pointing heifer may not look as good, but she’s actually more up to the job than her herd mate,” he adds. Andrew is keen to encourage milk producers to introduce more compromise into the way they use type as a measure of the suitability of heifers they expect to mature into long-living, productive cows.


“Holstein UK has addressed conformation traits such as angularity, stature and chest width and dairy farmers have reacted positively in moving away from breeding the tall, angular cows they believed were the most productive. “There has been a sensible swing among milk producers towards breeding Holsteins that are less extreme, but it’s very easy to become fixated about certain visual traits. Short teats have a direct correlation with longevity, but we can’t go on getting teats ever shorter. “There has to be a balance and a compromise and the whole package has to be evaluated – not only traits that can be visually assessed,” he explains. Pursuing type as opposed to production has become pivotal in the breeding policies of dairy herds keen to improve the number of lactations and reduce replacement costs, but Mr Rutter says that buying good looking heifers that are visually good on functional traits isn’t giving a full profile of the animal, particularly in terms of its fertility. “No matter how good looking she may appear, or how much production there is behind her, a heifer by a sire with a poor fertility figure may not even get to its second lactation. X




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A new and innovative choice for UK grassland farmers, K␣N® from Koch Fertilisers is set to offer big input cost savings, says the company’s Simon Borthwick. The urea-based product proves more cost effective per unit of nitrogen than ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilisers, but offers the same agronomic benefits. “With K␣N®’s 46% nitrogen content compared to AN’s 34.5%, grassland farmers are set to gain 33% more nutrient for their investment,” comments Mr Borthwick. “The product is stabilised against volatilisation, and therefore timing of fertiliser application is not so weather dependent and can be completed when it suits workloads.” Featuring Agrotain®, a urease inhibitor treatment which is applied to urea by Koch during blending and bagging at its Avonmouth port facility, K␣N® has been designed to reduce volatilisation, which is the process whereby nitrogen losses occur to the air.

Grassland crops and their growing conditions are more prone to this problem than cereals, given often lighter soil types and a crop canopy which can both hinder nitrogen uptake. By moderating the volatilisation process, more nitrogen is then available to the plant. The K␣N® concept has been proven as a success in trials carried out by Dr. Catherine Watson from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast, with volatilisation found to be at a level 76.7% lower than conventional urea. More nitrogen retained for the grass crop led to utilisation of the nutrient being raised by 19.9%, with an impressive dry matter uplift of 8.8%. Add to this that there is no limitation on the transport and handling issues which are found with AN, and K␣N® is even more appealing to grassland farmers looking to simplify nitrogen application, with top-level performance and improved cost effectiveness.

For more information on K␣N, please call Simon Borthwick of Koch Fertiliser on 01672 518290 or email



**DF June p24 26 Breeding



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BREEDING W “Similarly, this is the case with traits such as chest width. A heifer that is deep through the chest may end up being too deep as a four-year-old – and remember that chest depth has a direct correlation with fertility.” While he appreciates some dairy farmers are still wary of losing too much ‘dairy type’, Mr Rutter believes now is the time to temper enthusiasm for extreme dairyness. “It’s time to look at a more ‘rugged’ Holstein because it’s ridiculous to say these cattle won’t milk because they lack dairy character and get too fit. “If the good health traits are present in the heifer’s breeding and she is robust in her type, she has the traits needed for a long and productive life as a dairy cow. The aim should be to breed cows that get on with the job they have to do – and survive.”

Voluntary cull With 75% of the UK herd in a state of ‘voluntary cull’ – caused by mastitis, fertility or lameness – Mr Rutter is urging dairy farmers to question the way they have assessed heifers in the past. “We’ve probably been putting too much emphasis in the past on legs and feet. While they remain an important consideration, they must be looked at in relation to other traits that can impact on how long the animal remains a productive member of the herd. “There has to be more give and take and less obsession with individual traits – compromise is the key. “Dairy farmers buying herd replacements need to become more openminded about their selection criteria when assessing cows and heifers in the sale ring. Don’t be swayed entirely by what you see – all may not appear as it seems. All too often the ripest apples are the ones that are the first to go rotten,” warns Mr Rutter. Cumbria dairy farmers Mike and Donna Bowe are now housing their 500-cows all year round – and trying to select bulls to

Mike Bowe: cows that get on with the job. deliver the ‘complete package’ is considered a vital part of the herd’s breeding programme as numbers are steadily built up to 1000 cows. “There isn’t the margin in milk to allow for making mistakes by selecting the wrong bulls. It’s worth the time and effort making breeding decisions with individual cows to produce future generations that will fit your own system,” says Mr Bowe. The set-up at Chalk Lodge Farm, Dalston, near Carlisle, has been designed with cow welfare as a priority and is based on two open-sided sheds measuring 275ft x 80ft (84m x 24m). The aim is to breed cows to suit the system, and to achieve that the Bowes use Genus ABS to plan individual matings. “Keeping cows in all year round means we need cows with good mobility, but while legs and feet are important we want enough width and frame, combined with good production and health traits. “We aren’t looking for pretty cows in terms of type, but we’re aiming to combine physical type – and the impact it has on how they function as profitable, hard-wearing milk producers – with health and management traits. “The best cows we have are the ones we never see because they don’t stand out. Looks aren’t everything – they just get on with the job,” he says.

DO YOU HAVE RECORD BEATER IN YOUR HERD? THE HUNT is now on for the Long Life Cow of 2011, so if you have got an outstanding cow which you think is a record beater then this is for you. Genus ABS launched the Long Life Cow in 2009 and last year’s winner was Stardale Royal Stella 3, owned by Mr J Burrow and Son from Lancashire. Stella 3 was born in October 1994 and was then in her 13th lactation. At the time of judging she had a lifetime yield of more than 141,000 litres with 11 tonnes of combined fat and protein. Her average calving interval was just over 400 days but the average for the first 10 calves was a



stunning 365 days. Stella is classified EX96. Genus’ Andrew Rutter adds: “There are many factors which affect how long a cow will last in a herd. Your best Long Life Cow may be a cow with an impressive lifetime yield, a cow that breeds back regularly, a cow that has never had mastitis, a cow that has never had her feet trimmed, or a cow that has never seen the vet.” Whatever it is Genus ABS would like to hear about it. Closing date for entries is July 23, 2011 and entry forms can be downloaded from the Genus ABS website at or call customer services on 0870 162 2000.

Hse Markets WP DF



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**DF June p28 New Products



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NEW PRODUCTS NEWS IN BRIEF Safe and dry ■ A unique new calf feeder from Dairy Spares prevents rain from spoiling feed and pests such as birds and rats from stealing it. The Milk Bar Meal Saver has protective lids which calves soon learn to operate, ensuring 24-hour access to feed which is kept dry and edible. A lid on each side of the trough operates on a counter balance system. Calves are easily trained to lift the lids with their noses to get to the feed, motivated by its smell through pest-proof vents. The feeder is 1.2m long and 80cm wide, holding up to 150kg of feed suitable for feeding up to 12 weaned calves. Fitted with skids, it is suitable for towing, and costs £650+ VAT. Details on 01948 667 676 or visit

Goldwyn son available ■ The number two UK-bred PLI Goldwyn son, Hydaways Goldmine EX91, is available sexed from Cogent Breeding. From the same line as Cogent’s record-breaking Crichel Principal EX95, Goldmine is likely to suit profit-driven dairy farmers. From the ‘Pamela’ family he is a descendant of world-class show cow Portlea Ned Pamela EX95(5), and sired by breed legend Braedale Goldwyn. Adding 42 daughters to his proof in DairyCo’s April proof run, Goldmine has increased his reliability to 91%, significantly improving in his overall type and components. With +487kg milk and +0.02% fat, Goldmine considerably exceeds his sire’s production and is one of his highest Goldwyn sons in the world for milk. Details from 0800 783 8258.


Kubota’s new linkage range


pico has further expanded its range of tailor-made front linkages for Kubota tractors with a new linkage for the M130X series, which has a lift capacity of 2.5 tonnes. An eccentric pin design gives a choice of three link arm working positions – fixed, semi-floating and fully floating – so the linkage can be set appropriately for the job. For attaching a front press, the fully floating position allows the contours of the ground to be followed, while for a front weight block, putting the link arms into a fixed position

prevents it bouncing around. The front linkage enables the arms to fold back vertically very close to the tractor when not in use, giving added manoeuvrability and safety. The bespoke design gives extra strength to the linkage and its simplicity means there are fewer wearing parts than on other makes of linkage. The cost of the 2.5t linkage for the Kubota M130X tractor series is £2605 with a typical delivery time ordered through Opico of fewer than three weeks. A fitting service costs from £250 to £550. ■ Details on 01778 421 111.

Low cost security option A NEW low-cost agricultural and plant security system can be fitted to tractors, mini-diggers or any other self-propelled machine with an exposed power steering ram. Imported from Italy by sole agents Derwent Trading International, Wolverhampton, the Block Stem system costs from £240 plus VAT, and is available with a five-year warranty and a money back guarantee. With full Thatcham accreditation, approval is being sought from NFU Mutual to qualify the system for discounts on insurance premiums. The two-section, heavy-duty steel, tamper-proof unit slots together over the hydraulic steering axle ram of any selfpropelled machine, and is locked in place with a unique key when

Bolus will give calcium level boost THREE new products have been introduced to Rosebeck Services’ Neolait range in the UK. Rosebeck, a division of Ecosyl Products, has worked with quality nutritional supplement company Neolait on a number of products. The new lines include Megabric Calcium Bolus – a rapidly dissolving calcium bolus for maintenance of the cow’s calcium levels at calving. This contains a combination of calcium chloride, calcium propionate, cobalt, iodine, vitamin D3, E and niacin.

Acidosis Biorumen is a rapid acting oral powder which is mixed with water and drenched to cows with acidosis. Supplied in a 5kg bucket which contains acid buffers, appetisers, yeasts, probiotic and chelated trace elements, it will quickly counteract the debilitating discomfort of acidosis and promote a healthy digestive tract for optimum utilisation of the diet. Vagizan, an expansive foam for use in all classes of livestock, has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and skin conditioning properties. It is for external skin and inter-uterine/genital use on all classes of stock, particularly post-calving, as an alternative to inserting antiseptic tablets. Based on an extract of Calendula officinalis (marigold flowers), it has proven use in assisting with the recovery of wounds and infections. ■ Details from Rosebeck Services on 01642 718 814.

New products the wheels are at full lock. The unit acts as an effective visual deterrent and it only allows the vehicle to go round in circles, even if the thief has the ignition key. It is available up to 220mm long and from 22 to 50mm in diameter. ■ Details from 01902 744 475 or email:


New products are now featured in each issue of Dairy Farmer. Please send information and photographs to Jennifer MacKenzie at or call 01768 896 150.




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**DF June p30 31 Milk Prices



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MILK PRICES NEWS IN BRIEF Caernarfon pays member dividend

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

■ SOUTH Caernarfon has increased its milk price by a further 0.15ppl from May’11. The increase is being added to constituent payments, taking our standard litre price to 26.26ppl. In addition, the company is also paying a 0.1ppl dividend to all supplying members based on each individual’s total milk supply for the year to Mar’11 – said to be worth £750 to the average SCC producer.

First Milk increases price for cheese and balancing pools


irst Milk is increasing its member milk price paid to Cheese and Balancing milk pools by 0.6ppl from May’11, while the liquid price remains unchanged for now at 26.20ppl for our standard litre producer. The increase takes our standard litre (4% b/f and 3.3% protein, bactoscans of 30,000/ml and SCCs of 200,000/ml, 1mltrs/yr on EODC) price for both groups up to 26.12ppl and puts both 0.15ppl ahead of their Dec’08 highs. The 0.6ppl increase will apply to the Highlands and Islands pool,


taking our price for them up to 26.58ppl. This is the eighth consecutive increase, totalling 4.25ppl, taking the price to within 0.77ppl of its previous high. Due to a stronger trading performance in the six months to the end of Mar11, the company will pay a 3% return on members’ investment with the Jun’11 milk cheque. When combined with the payment in Jan’11 (six months to the end of Sept’10) First Milk will be paying out a 6% return on investment for all active and retired members, worth £1320 to our 1mltr producer.

RWD tightens up forecasting

Arla Foods adds haulage charge

HAVING encouraged suppliers to give production forecasts closer attention, RWD has started applying a 0.5ppl penalty on any litres supplied +/-25% on an individual’s production forecast. The company is in discussion with the WMP Board about introducing a banded penalty scheme to further sharpen producer focus on forecast accuracy. It would have no impact on suppliers achieving the desired tolerance, but for those not meeting it there would be penalties on a sliding scale. Forecasts will be requested quarterly, with the facility to refine figures up to one month before the month they apply.

FOLLOWING its spring district meetings, Arla Foods has written to all producers (including TSDG suppliers) to confirm the new haulage charge will commence from next month at £6.75 + VAT per collection. The company blames rising fuel and vehicle operating costs, but by adjusting volume bonuses for the larger producer only, our ‘flagship’ producer escapes with just the new haulage charge. The company wishes to bring larger volume bonuses more in line with the market. Producers sending from upwards of 3501 ltrs/day (1.28mltrs/yr) on nonaligned contracts will see their bonuses cut.


**DF June p30 31 Milk Prices



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D.C – Waitrose ∞^ RWD – Tesco Scotland RWD – Tesco England D.C – M&S ∞ Arla Foods – Tesco •• RWD – Sainsbury’s Central Scotland RWD – Sainsbury’s England D.C – Sainsbury’s Cadbury – Selkley Vale Milk United Dairy Farmers ≠ Arla Foods – Asda•• Arla Foods – AFMP Sainsbury’s •• Medina øø D.C – Davidstow ∞ Milk Link – London Liquid Milk Link – West Country Liquid Barber A.J & R.G Caledonian Cheese Co—Profile ‡ Grahams Dairies Milk Link Rodda’s ¢• Wensleydale Dairy Products Arla Foods – AFMP (Non-Aligned) •• Robert Wiseman – Aberdeen Robert Wiseman – Central Scotland Robert Wiseman – England Cumbrian Direct Wyke Farms Blackmore Vale Farm Cream D.C – Liquid Regional Premium ∞ ¶ Paynes Farms Dairies Parkham Farms Arla Foods – AFMP Standard •• D.C – Liquid Milk & More ∞ ¶ Milk Link – Manufacturing ¢• Caledonian Cheese Co North Milk Co-op Saputo UK – Level supply # Meadow Foods – Seasonal Belton Cheese Saputo UK—seasonal # Meadow Foods Lakes ∞^ Meadow Foods – Level First Milk – Highlands & Islands § Glanbia – Llangefni (flat) Glanbia – Llangefni (Constituent) South Caernarfon Joseph Heler First Milk – Liquid § First Milk Balancing § First Milk – Cheese § Average Price

Feb’11 Mar’11 4.0/3.3 4.0/3.3 Before Before Seas’lty Seas’lty (i) (ii) 29.27 29.27 28.50 28.50 28.50 28.50 28.57 28.57 28.50 28.50 27.42 27.82 27.42 27.82 27.42 27.82 26.77 26.77 28.32 29.32 26.25 27.75 27.20 28.60 26.04 26.04 26.52 26.52 26.00 26.00 26.00 26.00 26.13 26.13 25.97 25.97 24.90 25.90 26.41 26.41 25.28 26.28 24.75 26.75 24.72 25.72 24.72 25.72 24.72 25.72 24.89 26.69 24.95 25.45 25.05 26.05 24.64 25.64 24.60 25.60 24.56 25.75 24.50 26.50 24.47 24.47 26.01 26.01 25.40 25.40 23.75 25.75 25.38 25.38 24.01 25.01 25.35 25.35 25.08 25.08 24.06 25.06 24.01 25.01 24.98 24.98 25.10 25.10 25.05 25.05 25.11 25.11 23.99 25.03 23.88 25.00 24.27 24.52 24.52 24.52 25.68 26.24

Mar’11 4.0/3.3 1mltr SAPP **(iii) 28.59 28.50 28.5 28.19 28.42 27.82 27.82 27.88 26.77 29.34 27.67 28.52 26.11 26.58 26.01 26.01 26.13 25.90 25.90 25.84 26.29 26.67 25.72 25.72 25.72 26.69 25.45 26.05 25.70 25.60 26.26 26.42 24.53 25.46 25.40 24.25 25.38 26.01 25.35 25.08 25.31 25.01 24.40 25.10 25.05 25.12 25.03 24.45 23.99 23.98 26.15

12mth Ave Apr’10 Mar’11 (iv) 27.74 27.61 27.61 27.54 27.49 26.97 26.97 26.71 26.33 26.08 25.92 25.79 25.65 25.29 24.91 24.91 24.90 24.88 24.88 24.87 24.81 24.74 24.72 24.72 24.72 24.58 24.57 24.56 24.56 24.55 24.50 24.48 24.48 24.48 24.31 24.28 24.26 24.10 24.05 23.96 23.95 23.85 23.81 23.80 23.74 23.70 23.59 23.43 23.04 22.98 24.97

Notes to table Prices paid for 1mltr producer supplying milk of average constituents 4% butterfat and 3.3% protein, SCCs of 200,000/ml and Bactoscans of 30,000/ml on EODC excluding capital retentions and MDC levies. SAPP = Seasonally Adjusted Profile Price. (i) Feb’11 prices before seasonality. (ii) Mar’11 prices before seasonality. (iii) Seasonally adjusted profile price for Mar’11 taking into account monthly seasonality payments and profiles of supply. ** Seasonal adjusted profile supply for 1mltr supplier (using monthly RPA figures) for Mar'11 =2,935ltrs/day, flat supply=2,740ltrs/day. (iv) Table ranked on the seasonally adjusted price for the 12mths to Mar’11. § SAPP reflects 80% of producer’s previous year’s daily average volume (2,192ltrs/day) paid as a core price with the remaining marginal volume (743ltrs/day for Mar'11) priced @ 90% of the core price for Mar'11. ¢ SAPP reflects 2,600ltrs (Aug to Dec’09 daily average) paid as ‘A’ ltrs with the remaining ‘B’ ltrs paid @ 80% of the ‘A’ price (ie constituents plus Market Related Adjustment) for Mar'11. • 335 'B' litres/day applicable for Mar'11 with daily volume of 2,935ltrs/day being 335ltrs above 'A' volume of 2,600ltrs and 0.8ppl production bonus also applicable in the seasonal price due to Mar'11 daily production above that of Mar'10 based on RPA monthly figures •• 1ppl balancing charge levied on litres supplied above BADP calculating as 0.08ppl deduction when spread over total Mar'11 supplies. ∞ Price before seasonality includes 12mth rolling profile payment of 1.19ppl to Mar’11 (unchanged from the previous month). Milk & More 12mth rolling profile payment also unchanged. ∞^ Price before seasonality includes 12mth rolling profile payment of 0.55ppl to Mar’11 (unchanged from the previous month). # Constituent payments priced by volume. ≠ Seasonality built into monthly base price. øø Price before seasonality includes 12mth rolling profile payment of 0.73ppl to Mar’11 (unchanged from previous month). Arla Foods – AFMP Standard reflects price before the addition of 0.25ppl Non-Aligned Farm Premium. ¶ Price includes 0.4ppl Regional Premium. ‡ Non-seasonal price includes 12mth average rolling profile 0.57ppl to Mar’11 (unchanged from previous month). Tesco milk prices include the 0.5ppl bonus for co-operation with Promar costings. cannot take any responsibility for losses arising. Copyright:



**DF June p32 Donovan



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Set your stall out for easier calving If you have to lend a helping hand at calving, you certainly don’t want to be chasing presenting cows around the farm. Mike Donovan offers us a solution.


etting priorities right requires an organised brain to think ahead. Even then, all too often we don’t execute our thoughts due to time pressures. Instead, because we all lead such busy lives, we tend to jump from event to event as they occur without thinking too far ahead. On dairy farms, calving is central to the success of the whole operation. Cows that have a tough time don’t reach their peak and dead calves are a total loss. We need to have calving arrangements which make handling easy by one person, often the stockman who has returned from a late night meeting to find a cow unexpectedly in labour. Some rely on a cattle crush which is often some distance from

Mike Donovan Mike is a respected machinery columnist who gives us useful tips on building or modifying our own farm equipment. Sign up for his free newsletter at

The gate swings open and the rope allows the stockman to pull it to, hook on the rump chain before yoking the cow in place. the calving pen. Many still rely on getting a halter on the cow, probably because this was written in the TV Vet book which was the 1960’s bible.

But the last thing any stockman wants is to be chasing round the loosebox trying to get a halter on, and it probably doesn’t do the cow much good either.

This gate holds the cow against the wall, and haltering is possible. The rear chain is sufficient for the calving cow.

This month I want to look at a simple calving gate, and I’m definitely seeing more of these gates on the dairy farms I visit. These calving gates are neither expensive nor complicated, and every farmer who has made one has commented on how valuable it is. The calving cow is simply turned into the funnel and, if this has a yoke at the end, it means she’s easy to work on. With the gate installed in the calving pen, there is no need to go and get anything, or drive the cow across the yard. Here we show two calving gates, both with yokes. One is built in to the front of the pen, while the second, pictured on a Hampshire dairy farm which is handling an expanding herd in many interesting ways, is inside the pen. This one has a folding yoke, which is hinged on the wall and held open with a hook-on strut. A straightforward calving is at the heart of commercial dairy management, and it’s good to see an increasing number of farms thinking ahead and making their calving facilities a priority.

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**DF June p36 Evans



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Disco was meeting place for local rat populations The early spring sunshine convinces Roger Evans to bring the old Disco out of hibernation and press her into action, but as he climbs inside he suddenly finds he’s not the only occupant.


here is a lot of talk about the price of milk at the moment, and quite rightly so. The unions want better contracts and others want new plants which give us access to better world markets. NFU Scotland’s idea is an interesting concept that would presently deliver us more than 30ppl, but world dairy prices are like life itself – they have their ups and downs. It would be interesting to see the NFUS idea run over the five previous years so we could see what it would do. If you track the United Milk Auction in Northern Ireland, this gives a clear steer on world prices. I put my milk over a four year period through that contract and, despite its highs, I was better off where I was! World prices are not the panacea we would be led to believe. Unless, that is, you believe in the future that world food trade is going to lock into higher levels due to food security and demand. Personally I think it is, but like everyone else I could be wrong. What no one else identifies as an issue is just how many UK dairy farmers sell their milk direct to a processor – possibly more than 60%. What a fragmented lot we have become. If you feel comfortable because your direct supply contract gives you 27ppl and NFUS’ concept values milk at 32ppl, where has the 5ppl gone? The processors and major retailers have taken it out of our pockets and given some of it to the consumer, but not a lot. Arla producers in Scandinavia get more than Arla producers here because they stuck together. If New Zealand producers had not stuck together, we would never have seen such a dynamic dairy company as Fonterra.


Why are milk prices in Europe fencer could ever need. We also higher than ours, and have been sit one of those spray tanks in the for most of the last 10 years? back and chug around spraying Because most of them have stuck nettles with a hand lance out of together, creating the marketthe window, all driven by a place level for those who don’t. connection to the fag lighter. The next time one of Our Disco has you comes up to me one of those and says ‘are you exemptions that Roger Evans and isn’t allows it to be One rat headed straight driven for a the price of milk rubbish’, I will ask you for the Disco, so they limited mileage put a terrier inside and where you sell your on the road on milk. If you sell direct, it killed 15 rats in there. red diesel, but you now know what I without MOT. will say in return! We don’t do the It might not be the road bit any only factor as there seldom is a more because, although there is one-shot silver bullet that cures no need to have an MOT, there is all ills, but it is a big factor. an onus on the driver to keep the Back on farm there are still lots vehicle in a sort of roadworthy of important jobs still to be done. condition. Ours doesn’t fulfil this It is a long list. One job is to get criterion any more. the old Discovery out and fired That’s because one headlight up. points up in the trees and, because We have never had a quad it’s parked outside the collecting bike, preferring to use old 4x4 yard most of the time, the cows vehicles like our Disco. They use it to rub on and now there’s might not be as nimble as a quad bits of indicator and wing mirror and might leave more of a mark hanging by their wiring. If I did in wet weather, but you are in have it on the road for a few the dry when you drive them. minutes, I certainly wouldn’t want We use ours to fetch the cows to meet a police car! from pasture and it is full of all It is an important piece of kit, the paraphernalia that an electric so when the cows come in for


winter, so does the Disco. It lives in a cattle shed a couple of miles away where we park a few implements in the dry. It gets covered with dust and straw from any wayward movement of the straw chopper chute, but that just makes it look nice and cosy. We had a big rat problem in those buildings this year and the keeper had some terrier men up there one day. One rat headed straight for the Disco, so they put a terrier inside and it killed 15 rats in there. Come spring, we dragged it outside with a chain to have a look at it. It fired up first go with some jump leads, but the water pump is so badly worn it caresses the radiator as it goes round, so we bought a new pump for £20. We put a token amount of air in the tyres to get it off the rims and it is ready to go. For reasons not that apparent, I am chosen to drive it home. We don’t know if the brakes will work – in fact we didn’t really know if anything would work after the rat residency. We have to go down a steep hill to start with, so we sent a proper 4x4 in front slowly down the hill just in case the Disco needed something to lean on. The brakes worked, in a gentle sort of way, and my inclination is to make a dash for it on the council roads, but I daren’t do that. Yes, the brakes will slow it down, but they won’t stop it in a hurry. The next day we parked it in the collecting yard and put the volume washer over the seat and the floor to get the piles of rat muck out. We put the pressure washer over the outside and lo and behold it’s miraculously maroon again. The cows are pleased to see it, and I reckon that is one bit of really successful spring work nicey completed!




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Dairy Farmer Magazine June 2011