Page 1

DAIRY FARMER

December 2017

Interview

Cogent’s Mark Roach on new partnership

Pages 26-30 Volume 64 Issue 12

BREEDING

Index to tackle issue of stature Pages 16-18

MILKING SPECIAL

New approach to mastitis detection Pages 42-48

MUCK & SLURRY

Cubicle sand helps boost lying times Pages 50-55

MILK PRICES Pages 56-58

Tip of the month: Leave maize clamp to ferment – p38

**DF Dec Cover.indd 1

16/11/2017 15:26


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16/11/2017 10:57 15/10/2017 12:08


LEADER

a word from the

EDITOR

I

t may be that March 29, 2019, seems a lifetime away, but on that day at 11pm (midnight Brussels time) we will leave the EU. Theresa May’s decision to put an absolute deadline on things has only served to pepper the Parliamentary chaos with new mutineers, and follows from David Davis’ long awaited announcement to give Parliament a vote on the draft settlement. The default position seems to be no settlement, no vote and a lapse into a hard Brexit. Which would bring chaos as new topsyturvy tariffs start to bite and leaves the likes of the Welsh lamb producers wondering what on earth they have to do to continue getting their succulent offering onto French dinner plates. But fear not, our Secretary of State has the job in hand. “British farmers are the best in the world and it is right for us to help them,” he told Andrew Marr on Sunday. Just how he was going to do that was not spelled out, but the desire for more trees and more birds seemed at the forefront of his mind. Pressed on the need for some urgency, he simply said: “It is my job to make sure everything is in place for every eventuality.”

We don’t know to what extent UK Arla boss, Tomas Pietrangeli, would be reassured by that, but he was adamant when he spoke at the World Dairy Summit a week earlier. He said: “The farmers that own Arla and the dairy industry as a whole need to know urgently what the Government plans look like for the future of food and farming.” Stressing the urgency of it for forward planning, he wanted to know, with only 16 short months left, exactly when Mr Gove was likely to deliver his plan for agriculture. He seems to have one for the environment with his Green Brexit, but just what drawer the plan for agriculture lies in we don’t yet know. Leastways if Mr Gove says he has got every eventuality covered then we should be reassured. Shouldn’t we?

Contacts Editor Peter Hollinshead 0207 202 0905 peter.hollinshead@briefingmedia.com

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ISSN 1475-6994

© Briefing Media Ltd 2017 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.

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

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p1 Leader.indd 1

DAIRY FARMER

1 17/11/2017 11:41


THIS MONTH

CONTENTS December Volume 64 Issue 12

42-48

Feature

Milking New rotary cuts milking time by half at Welsh dairy

Comment

Regulars

4-6 8-9 14-15 66-67

16-18 56-58 62 68

Latest news Cowmen Comment Potter’s View Good Evans

Breeding Milk Prices Workshop tips Finance

New products

60-61

Dairy marketplace This month includes the improved John Deere Gator range, plus a new dump bucket

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DECEMBER 2017 16/11/2017 14:12


THIS MONTH

50-55

Muck & Slurry

Bedding, storage & water

Good Evans

In Ireland

Latest on sand bedding options, farmyard manure and water systems

Catch up with the latest from Roger Evans

Workshop tips

Big bag handler How to make a big bag tine to help prevent those unloading mishaps

66-67

62

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DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p2 3 Contents.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

3 17/11/2017 11:54


NEWS

Mild Cheddar markets JTraders need to avoid talking down mild Cheddar markets as Northern Ireland prepares for a fodder shortage this winter. Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has criticised traders talking down the mild Cheddar markets when limited stocks should be supporting prices with milk volumes likely to be lower than expected. Cows had to be housed early, with depleted silage stocks and later cut silage having poorer nutrient content. UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson said while production was on the rise, it had not increased by the levels expected in the price cycle. “There is no denying the fact some dairy commodity products have been facing downward price pressure. However, as far as mild Cheddar is concerned, the price is holding up due to limited stocks and lack of available product.”

France facing butter shortage

JFrench consumers are facing a ‘butter shortage’ as producers look to sell butter elsewhere due to the way retailers work with French farmers. Gerard Calbrix, association of French dairy processors, told the World Dairy Summit in Belfast there had been a huge shortage of butter on French supermarket shelves over recent weeks as butter prices had soared. He said there had been little correlation in France between commodity prices and prices paid by retailers, which had led to suppliers looking elsewhere for markets for their butter where they could take advantage of high prices.

Markets start to show signs of prices steadying

M

arkets are starting heading south, with significant drops in the EU fat market and on SMP. The Global Dairy Trade auction is also on a downward trend. The latest auction fell 3.4%, the biggest drop in several months, and makes it that seven of the past 10 auctions have seen declines. Speculation is increasing that milk prices could fall as soon as the New Year, and will remain under pressure for the first half of the year due to high milk vol-

umes and the lack of help from the EU on SMP. SMP tender It has stated that SMP would only enter intervention via a tender process, thus removing the €1698 floor price. At the World Dairy Summit, EU Farm Commissioner Hogan was adamant the EU would not make storing SMP attractive, and gave a stark warning to producers. He said: “Prices are good because of the rationalisation of supplies. We need an integrated approach from farmers and processors so we do not

Farm antibiotic targets set JNew targets for antibiotic use across the key livestock sectors have been announced by a targets task force, facilitated by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance. The dairy sector has committed to a 20% reduction by 2020, with a particular focus on halving use of the highest priority critically important antibiotics, with the work to achieve this being led by a newly-created Dairy Antimicrobial Stewardship Group (DASG). Strategies to achieve these goals include reducing the use

of antibiotic dry cow therapy and injectable products, and cutting back on group treatments such as antibiotic footbaths for lameness which, said RUMA, remained largely unproven. Tackle Task force member and chairman of DASG, Di Wastenage, said: “While use is lower than in some sectors, there are clear areas to tackle where use can be habitual, or common disease problems go unchallenged.” She cited BVD, calf rearing and digital dermatitis as examples.

Fixed price scheme launched by Aurivo

JRepublic of Ireland and Northern Ireland milk processor Aurivo has introduced a new fixed milk price scheme that

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guarantees a secure price on a fixed proportion of supply over a three-year period. Northern Irish farmers will

be paid 29ppl on up to 10% of their monthly supply for three years, starting in January 2018.

jeopardise this delicate and hard-won situation.” However, while the general trend is negative there are some positives. The cheese price is currently holding form, but under pressure, and Morrisons has increased its price of a fourpint bottle from £1 to £1.10. Ratcheting up the price of milk, and then ensuring some of the additional income gets back to farmers, is fundamental to the long-term success of the industry, but at the time of going to press the other major retailers have not followed, therefore leaving Morrisons exposed.

Grant scheme opened JThe Government is giving farmers a £40 million ‘productivity boost’ via a new Countryside Productivity Scheme for investment in ‘cutting edge’ technology and new equipment. Under the scheme, grants are available to help farmers improve farm productivity through investing in new technology to reduce costs or improve product quality. The funding can be used on diverse investments from robotic milking machines to green technology. The scheme also offers funds for farmers and food processors to invest in new equipment and machinery to improve the processing of milk.

DECEMBER 2017 17/11/2017 11:26


NEWS

Campaign Dairy industry spells to recapture out Brexit demands consumers JThe publication by Dairy demand for dairy; no return to JAfter years where there was no generic advertising campaign for dairy products, the Dairy Market Development Forum, a consortium of Dairy UK and AHDB, has launched a new campaign. Based on humour, and so avoiding a head-on collision with the anti-dairy vegan movement, the campaign ‘seeks to shift attitudes over time and reinforce the positive values dairy brings to day-to-day life’. This is a ‘whole industry campaign’ and is based on the spoof Department of Dairy Related Wholesome Affairs. The campaign has already secured positive PR in several of the nation’s papers and magazines. According to the Dairy Market Development Forum, the campaign follows the most extensive research into consumer attitudes in over a decade, and why consumers are, or are not, choosing dairy. “Dairy has a great story to tell, on taste, diversity and nutrition, and the campaign seeks to remind people to value that quiet, essential part of their diet that is a staple in the majority of the countries’ fridges,” it said.

UK of its latest ‘white paper’ has spelt out the industry’s demands to policy makers in Government. According to Dairy UK there are ‘game changing’ opportunities and challenges from Brexit, which is ‘the most defining issue the industry has faced for generations’. In order to maximise the opportunities, it requires continued trading agreements with the EU without tariff and non-tariff barriers, and failure will damage exports and reduce

WTO rules; an unhurried transition period to give the industry the chance to adapt; access to skilled and unskilled labour; and a frictionless and seamless border regime in Northern Ireland. Demand for dairy is growing globally, says the organisation. UK consumers continue to support dairy, despite the arrival of plant-based alternative drinks and anti-dairy activism. Some 87% of consumers are drinking cows’ milk, with 94% of adults buying cheese, and 78% enjoying yogurt or fromage frais.

Tractor win JIf you are attending LAMMA next month, this is your chance to win the use of a show stopping New Holland T6 tractor for a whole year. This British built, dualclutch machine boasts a full 175hp to make short work of those big, energy sapping jobs. People can visit the competition stands at LAMMA (stands Hall 5, 553, or Hall 2, 206) or the New Holland marquee. Or enter online at www.farmersguardian.com/ nhcomp

New test for TB

A

TB vaccination for cattle could be one step closer thanks to a new test which detects bacteria in blood or milk after just six hours. Actiphage TB, which has been created by Suffolk-based start-up PBD Biotech, is a highly sensitive test which can pick up whether an animal is infected or has been vaccinated. At the moment, it is illegal to vaccinate cattle under EU rules because older tests were unable

to distinguish between a vaccinated and infected cow. It is hoped the faster results from Actiphage TB will also allow farmers to identify affected cattle more quickly, helping to prevent the spread of the disease. Research Dr Cath Rees, one of the co-founders of PBD Biotech, carried out research on TB testing at the University of Nottingham.

She said: The existing skin test is based on the animal’s immune response, and takes three days to produce a result, but more worryingly is known to miss about 20% of infected animals. “Our new test is unique as it is the only one which directly detects live bacteria in blood or milk, and is fast, specific and highly sensitive.” Although the test kits are not yet licensed for commercial use, they are available for research and validation studies.

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p4 5 6 News.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

5 17/11/2017 11:55


NEWS

First Milk holds price JFirst Milk will hold its current milk price for December following four months of consecutive price increases. First Milk farmer director and vice-chairman Jim Baird said the global market had started to settle following the butter price highs of the last few months. Mr Baird went on: “This year, we have been able to return significant increases in milk price as a result of market conditions and ongoing improvements in our business performance. At the current time, however, world dairy commodity markets have stabilised and so the outlook for future market performance has started to soften. As a result of these developments, we have decided to hold milk prices at the current time.” Prices across the processor pools rose by 1ppl and 1.1ppl last month.

Relevance to young consumers JDairy needs to change its image to make itself relevant to young consumers confused by mixed messages. According to Tomas Pietrangeli, Arla Foods UK managing director, 46% of 14 to 24-year-olds believed they had an adverse reaction to dairy. He said: “Young adult consumers are confused. They are taken in by myth and scare stories. “As an industry, we are hampered by the traditional image. “Changing the visual image of milk and focusing on young women is essential in establishing the message that one of the greatest sources of foods is still relevant and part of modern-day life.” He said young women were particularly influenced by emotive campaigns and were concerned dairy products contained high levels of fats and hormones.

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SDDG: no plans to reduce group

S

ainsbury’s flatly denied this week that it had any plans to follow the lead of another major retailer and eject the bottom performers from its Dairy Development Group. Speaking at a London briefing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the scheme’s inception, Alice Swift, agricultural manager dairy at Sainsbury’s, said there were no plans to modify the scheme so as to concentrate production within fewer members’ hands. “Ours is a very different model, and our approach is for

100% of our milk to come from our farms and provided you meet our code of practice you have every right to be in that group, whether you are in the bottom 5% or not,” she said. Although the original numbers had declined from 325 to 264 now, she said that was predominantly due to ‘retirals’ and in total they had only lost six producers through non-compliance with the code of practice. “We would never take a blanket approach like our competitor has taken by chopping off the bottom 5% of the tail.” However, she added: “If a farm does not meet critical standards on

lameness tolerance, for example, they could be removed after three months had it been shown they were not improving.” Neither had they scope to extend the group as the 264 members now supply 97% of the fresh milk sold under the company’s brand, and she said they were resisting going to 100% so as to avoid a blanket cap on the group. Current base price for their standard litre is 28.21ppl (incudes 0.62ppl average bonus) with the 12 very top performers getting a 1.4ppl bonus taking them to 28.99ppl. All milk has been fully segregated since 2014.

UK agriculture policy needed Dairy Crest delays will be detrimental to our JArla‘s UK boss Tomas results industry due to our long-term Pietrangeli is demanding the early publication of a new UK agriculture policy in the light of Brexit. Speaking at the World Dairy Summit, he said: “The farmers that own Arla and the dairy industry as a whole need to know urgently what the government plans look like for the future of food and farming. That means the early publication of a new agriculture policy next year. Any

planning cycles,” he warned. Mr Pietrangeli said: “Give us the assurance that we can see tangible benefits from the divorce, both in the short and long term. Enable us to continue to build and invest in our UK business and grow for the benefit of our farmer owners, colleagues and business partners. And give us a voice – talk to Arla farmers and partner with us to provide the solutions.”

Gove missing point on labour JFarmers attending the World Dairy Summit in Belfast have accused Michael Gove of ‘missing the point’ when speaking about the challenge of labour supply. Questioned on Defra’s views on the labour crisis, the Secretary of State admitted there were issues with people ‘going back’ to their country of origin. He said the Government needed to look beyond EU bor-

ders and providing a means of allowing workers to come to the UK as part of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme successor. He added the migration advisory committee was already looking at what the needs of the industry might be. But Cheshire dairy farmer Phil Latham said the committee was looking at the needs of the industry ‘in three years’ time’ and not tackling the current crisis.

JDairy Crest has posted a whopping 871% increase in first half profits to £151.4m from £15.6m, but only because of a £132m exceptional gain coming from a change in the way it calculates its pension liabilities. It is now linking its scheme to the Consumer Price Index rather than the UK’s Retail Price Index. Excluding exceptional items, the adjusted pre-tax profits increased by a far more modest 8% to £20.6 million, on the back of a 16% jump in revenues to £220.1 million. Its brands performed well, with all of the brands up 4% on volume and 6% on value, with Cathedral City volumes up 10% and value sales up 7%. Mark Allen, chief executive, said the results were encouraging. “While we expect butter input costs to continue to be challenging for the remainder of the year, we are confident in delivering our full year expectations.”

DECEMBER 2017 17/11/2017 11:27


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16/11/2017 15:30


COWMEN COMMENT

CHRISTOPHER

Murley

Christopher Murley farms in partnership with his two brothers and parents at two neighbouring farms on the western tip of Cornwall. Higher Bojewyan Farm has 180 autumn-calving pedigree Jerseys and Levant Farm runs 120 spring-calving cows on the 370-acre mostly-grass enterprise.

If we can only keep them out for a few hours a day, it will save some straw and slurry. As a well-known supermarket keeps telling us, ‘every little helps’

A

fter writing my last article about the dry spring and early summer, albeit with slow grass growth, the weather has gone completely the opposite. Since mid-July here in West Cornwall, we have hardly had more than two dry days together, and since the August bank holiday it has been very warm and humid with lots of fog and drizzle. This has made it very hard for cows to graze cleanly without compromising intakes or wasting grass. It is not that we have had very many really wet days, but we haven’t had the sun either to dry the ground up, which has made surfaces somewhat slippery and slimy. Close-up dry cows on deferred grazing have almost ruined one field, which may need reseeding in spring, but at least cows seem to have calved well with few problems. We have had no milk fever or problems with retained cleansings, which we think justifies the dry cow nuts with the calcium binder, even if the bill does make your eyes water. Calves have also reared with little bother. We started calving on August 2 with all pure Jersey calves born in the first six weeks, before moving onto beef crosses. These have all been reared on milk powder on an automatic machine. Normally, we would sell all beef calves at two

weeks old to local farmers, but because of TB we have kept them all, so we are more heavily stocked than normal and hope we can go clear in the spring so we can sell them then. Almost until the end of October, farmers have had some spring barley left to combine, with some eventually being rotavated in. We bought some straw locally behind the combine this year, and some has been the best we have had for the year, but some was not baled at all. Bought-in straw from up country has cost £85/tonne in August, but currently they tell me it is £120/t and not great stuff. I guess we have been lucky to have enough storage for 12 months’ supply. Better weather However, just at the end of October we did have a better spell of weather with lots of silage being done locally, and we managed to do 45 acres in round bales to tidy up some off land. Youngstock started grazing winter keep of kale, rape and stubble turnips on October 23, which was the earliest in a long time. This was mostly because it was too wet in their grass fields for grazing without making a mess, and we did not want to compromise spring grass growth by poaching in autumn.

Cows at Bojewyan still out grazing by day in November and enjoying a bit of late season sunshine.

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DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 15:39


COWMEN COMMENT

Rowing up a light cut of grass for big bale silage in November.

Farm facts rFarm size: 150 ha (370 acres), mainly grass, with some kale for outwintering 150 youngstock rHerd size: 180 autumn calvers doing 5000 litres at 5.8%F and 4.0%P; 120 spring calvers (milked once a day) doing 3400 litres at 6.2%F and 4.2%P rRainfall: 1400mm (55 inches) rMilk buyer: Arla.

Our bulling heifers are still grazing grass. We have had two visits from the vet to synchronise them so they can be served together which helps with management. It also means we don’t need to be doing AI every day for weeks, and it will help keep our calving pattern tight. They will all be served to Jersey the first time and for first returns after three weeks. After this, our sweeper bull Ted will go in with them, so all heifer replacements will be born in a tight block at the start of calving. Freshly calved cows have been milking well, with fat at 5.7% and protein 3.85%. Lately, we have had a few cows with a touch of staggers, probably due to wet grass and lack of sun. Cows at Bojewyan came in by night on October 21 to allow them to settle before AI starts on November 1. We are still feeding round bales made in April in the undercover feed passage which we fill up with 24 bales every five days, and we also put some bales outside daily. This has cut our daily feeding routine down by quite a lot and it doesn’t seem to have affected cow performance yet. We have about three weeks’ supply of bales

before we need to open the clamp and are currently thinking of feeding three times a week just dropping out blocks with the shear grab. A friend tried this and said their cows would pick out the first cut and leave the second cut till last, so they went back to the mixer wagon. We may soon find out if ours do the same. Arla bonus Spring-calved cows at Levant are still out day and night and are doing nine litres a day at 6.9% fat and 4.9% protein. They have not milked as well as last year, probably due to the wet weather over the last few months, but with Arla paying all bonuses on kg of fat and protein, coupled with better market conditions, the price should be good. They are allowed one-and-a-half bales of silage a day to help them along, and we hope to keep them out by day until early December when they start drying off. We have a small area of winter keep at Levant for dry cows as a trial to see how they manage. If we can only keep them out for a few hours a day, it will save some straw and slurry. As a well known supermarket keeps telling us, ‘every little helps’.

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DECEMBER 2017 **DF DEC p8 9 COWMEN.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

9 16/11/2017 13:46


WORLD DAIRY SUMMIT

A raft of issues, from the political through to the technical, got an airing at the World Dairy Summit in Belfa

Dairy needs makeover to appeal to younger people

D

airy needs to change its image to make itself relevant to young consumers confused by the mixed messages it receives. According to Tomas Pietrangeli, Arla Foods UK managing director, 46 per cent of 14 to 24-year-olds believed they had an adverse reaction to dairy. He said: “Young adult consumers are confused. They are taken in by myth and scare stories. As an industry, we are hampered by the traditional image. Campaigns “Changing the visual image of milk and focusing on young women is essential in establishing the message that one of the greatest sources of foods is still relevant and part of modern day life.” He said young women were particularly influenced by emotive campaigns and were concerned dairy products contained high levels of fats and hormones. “We have a great challenge ahead of us, but we have a great industry. Has milk had its day? No, it definitely has not.” Barry Irvin, executive chair-

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man of Bega Cheese Australia, said transparency across the supply chain was important, as simply telling people something was good for them would not have any effect. Lessons He added dairies needed to build iconic brands consumers trusted implicitly, which was why Bema Cheese had taken over iconic Australian brand Vegemite, from which it was looking to learn lessons to support its other brands. Paul Vernon, chief executive of Glanbia Cheese, agreed traditional advertising techniques ‘would not cut it’. But he was positive about the future, saying consumers needed to understand dairy was ‘one of the only foods which could deliver nutrition and still be indulgent’.

Tomas Pietrangeli addresses World Dairy Summit delegates.

Arla calls for new UK agriculture policy to be published early JDairy farmers need to

know ‘urgently’ what the Government plans look like for the future of Brexit so they can prepare for the future. Arla UK managing director Tomas Pietrangeli called for the Government to publish a

new agricultural policy next year. Delays He said: “Any delays will be detrimental to our industry due to its long-term planning cycles.”

He also called for any transitional deal to last until the end of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2022, and urged the Government to speak with farmers to fully understand what they needed.

DECEMBER 2017 17/11/2017 11:56


WORLD DAIRY SUMMIT

mit in Belfast. Alex Black and Chris McCullough report.

Two-year transition ‘makes sense’ J A transitional deal of about two years when the UK leaves the EU ‘makes sense for everyone’, according to Defra Secretary Michael Gove. He said the transitional period would give businesses time to adjust and ensure there was only one major change for each sector.

Relationship He added that while there were opportunities in future free trade agreements, the strongest relationship was currently with the EU27 and the Government wanted the best possible relationship and access to each other’s markets. When asked if the transitional period was as important to the EU as to the UK, EU Agriculture Commissioner

Phil Hogan joked the best possible deal sounded like the EU28. Mr Hogan said: “We have to find a way in which we can have a good future relationship, as the Secretary of State said, taking account of the fact we do rely a lot on each other in relation to trade.”

A winning performance in the field

We have to find a way in which we can have a good future relationship Phil Hogan

Michael Gove said two years would give businesses time to adjust.

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French facing shortage of butter JFrench consumers are facing a ‘butter shortage’ as producers look to sell butter elsewhere. Gerard Calbrix, association of French dairy processors, told delegates there had been a huge shortage of butter on French supermarket shelves over recent weeks as butter prices had soared. He said there had been

little correlation in France between commodity prices and prices paid by retailers, which had led to suppliers looking elsewhere for markets for their butter where they could take advantage of high prices. Mr Calbrix added this meant futures contracts had a limited appeal to processors, as it was not what prices were based on.

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p10 11 12 WDS.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

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17/11/2017 11:56


WORLD DAIRY SUMMIT

Consumers ‘are more worried about cost than welfare’

D

airy farmers and the wider dairy industry have received a wake-up call suggesting that consumers care more about themselves than animal welfare. Delegates at the World Dairy Summit in Belfast were told the majority of consumers couldn’t care less about the condition of the cow that produces their fresh milk, or the conditions in which the animals are kept. United States vet Dr Jennifer Walker shocked the room when she made the claim “consumers only cared for themselves and

how cheap they could buy food”. Even though it’s becoming widely recognised animal welfare issues are of huge relevance to some consumers, and to the dairy industry’s reputation, she said the issue that consumers don’t care was serious. Dr Walker, who oversees an animal welfare programme for dairy farmers supplying Dean Foods in Dallas, Texas, said: “We all place great importance on animal welfare, both farmers and vets. “However, it is becoming increasingly more apparent that today’s consumers are more

Dr Jennifer Walker says people simply want cheaper food.

The trend is shifting and people are more concerned about themselves than the animals Dr Jennifer Walker interested in themselves with an ‘it’s all about me’ attitude.” The top vet also believed consumers are being confused

Dairy farmers reminded about reputation and trust JAnimal welfare must be taken seriously to protect the reputation of the dairy industry. It can be affected by a number of influencing factors, as Luc Mirabito, from IDF, described. He also explained how an Animal Welfare Index in a farm environment is a powerful tool to demonstrate good animal husbandry. Factors such as body condition, injury, cleanliness and a natural life environment can all affect animal welfare. Mr Mirabito said farmers held the ultimate responsibility

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for maintaining good welfare practices and said “farmers are the ones citizens trust to deliver professional care and to pay attention to their cows”. One of the more interesting presentations was delivered by Professor Marie Haskell from SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, who discussed cow personality and behaviour. “These both have a direct impact on herd health and welfare,” she said. “Genetics and the cow’s environment play an equal role in affecting behaviour.” Cow personality can be

described as a set of characteristics of an individual consistent over time. Milking temperament can be seen as one area. “We have to treat cows as individuals and not as a group. They all have their own set of personality traits that make them behave in different ways,” she said. Professor Haskell added farmers should interact with their animals from as early an age as possible. “Interaction from an early age has shown to result in calmer cows as they progress.”

with so many food assurance schemes, such as the Red Tractor scheme in the UK. “All these schemes and their relative symbols are causing confusion among consumers. “Nowadays, the trend is shifting and people are more concerned about themselves rather than animals. They simply want cheaper food and are not too worried about the conditions in which the animals are kept which produced that food. “It is our duty, as influencers in the industry, to change that mind-set to be one that does take animal health and welfare into consideration. “We have to tell consumers it’s really not all about you and it is about the animals, before it gets out of hand,” she said. Paul Vernon, chairman of Dairy UK and chief executive of Glambia Cheese, said the dairy industry needed to ensure consumers were getting the right message. He said: “The world and the dairy sector have changed massively over the past 30 years and the way we are communicating with consumers has changed too. Dairy is a superfood and we need to ensure that message is heard loud and clear by consumers who are under a barrage of misleading messages about dairy.”

DECEMBER 2017 17/11/2017 11:56


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CHALLENGING FARMER PERCEPTIONS OF DISEASE PREVENTION AND RISK @Notonmyfarm

ctive beef owcase proa ries that will sh se approach. !’ t rm en Fa em y ? Not On M sease manag se di ea d is an ‘D e th al th part of st herd he This article is e in their robu ers taking prid and dairy farm

M

ost farmers have a positive why farmers do not vaccinate against specific attitude to disease risk and diseases appears to be that they do not think prevention but there are still they have a problem. However, many diseases some misconceptions and do not have obvious clinical signs but are confusion. seriously impacting on performance. This was just one of the conclusions of a “Disease is endemic in UK herds. What farmers survey of more than 400 beef and dairy farmers may think is normal on their farm (for example, carried out by MSD 60 per cent of calves Animal Health as part of suffering from scours) Many diseases do not the ‘Disease? Not On could be drastically have obvious clinical signs My Farm!’ initiative. improved if preventive but are seriously impacting Most dairy farmers, measures were taken. on performance. 83 per cent, agreed ‘it “Much of this comes Paul Williams costs less in time and down to the fact that money to vaccinate many farmers are not than to treat a disease outbreak’. measuring or monitoring disease so they do When asked ‘what are the drawbacks to not have any benchmarks as to what either vaccinating your herd’, 35 per cent of dairy their own or industry targets should be. farmers said none, yet 18 per cent do not Creating a robust herd health plan is a vaccinate for any diseases. starting point for this. Paul Williams, technical manager at MSD “Dairy farmers tend to have more routine vet Animal Health, says: “The main reason given visits than beef farmers, mainly around fertility

and their measuring centres around milk recording, but even so they do not always analyse the data produced.” Most farmers do not think they use too many antibiotics, but Mr Williams says: “Farmers will have to reduce antibiotic use, but if they do not have preventive measures in place we could end up with more sick animals.” Veterinary surgeon, Oli Hodgkinson, of Trefaldwyn Vets, Montgomery, says: “As vets we have to try to work more closely with our farmer clients to make it easier for them to take this approach. “There does need to be a change of mindset from farmers so they can appreciate the benefits of paying their vet for preventive advice rather than taking the fire brigade approach of waiting until there is a problem before calling them. “One key area where farmers are not good at disease control is quarantining new animals coming onto the farm and this has to be addressed.”

EXPERT OPINION Derek Armstrong, AHDB Dairy, lead veterinary science expert ● “In terms of disease we have to move towards ‘predict and prevent’ rather than ‘test and treat’. “Industry initiatives such as the Johne’s Management Plan which most processors have signed up to, BVD Free and AHDB’s Mastitis Control plan are all helping farmers work towards a preventative approach. “Farmers have to realise a herd plan on the shelf does nothing for animal health. They have to act upon it and when they see the results of this it will encourage them to take it further.”

Catherine McLaughlin, NFU chief adviser (animal health and welfare) and deputy chairman of RUMA ● “The situation antibiotic resistance places us in means we can no longer rely on cure rather than prevention, in either human or animal health. The good news is there are lots of reasons why prevention of disease is worthwhile. “It gives us better animal productivity. It means we no longer rely on antibiotics we should not be using. And it will preserve the efficacy of the antibiotics we do need, because what we have now is all we are going to have. Any new antibiotics will be prioritised for human medicine.”

This information was provided by MSD Animal Health, makers of Bovilis® BVD, Bovilis® IBR Marker Live, Bovilis® IBR Marker Inac, Leptavoid™ H, Rotavec® Corona, Halocur®, Bovilis® Bovipast RSP, Bovilis® Huskvac and Bovilis® Ringvac. Always use medicines responsibly. More information is available from MSD Animal Health, Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes, MK7 7AJ. T: 01908 685 685 E: vet-support.uk@merck.com W: www.msd-animal-health.co.uk

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p13 DNOMFSigned off.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

13 17/11/2017 12:05


POTTER’S VIEW

IAN

Potter

This month, Ian Potter examines the first really concerted attempt for a long time to try to change the perception of dairy by the public, and exhorts us all to get behind the campaign and excite consumers with what dairy has to offer.

T “

Some of you won’t like the adverts, or the campaign, but for me that’s a positive

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**DF Dec p14 15 Potter.indd 2

his month sees the launch of a humorous, but actually very serious, industry-wide dairy promotion campaign in a joint effort from Dairy UK and AHDB involving posters, digital advertising and social media (mainly Facebook and Instagram). So raise your glass to the all-new Department of Dairy Related Wholesome Affairs! Some of you will no doubt chuckle at the creation of this fun but fictitious department, and its recruitment for six wholesome passionate dairy lovers. But please note, all of you serial committee people who hop from one Board to another (you know who you are!), it’s just a joke. You don’t need to reply. Some of you won’t like the adverts, or the campaign, but for me that’s a positive. If all dairy farmers instantly thought the idea and visuals were great I would be very worried indeed. What matters is what consumers think, not you lot! The objective is to emphasise all the positives that dairy products deliver. The forerunner to the campaign was a very comprehensive 195-page Dairy Market Development report in January of this year by Edelman Intelligence, who are described as ‘tech geeks, political junkies, branding experts and media movers’ all rolled into one. So they tick plenty of boxes. Their advice was that any collaborative UK dairy campaign must be positive, simple and loud, and must bring back customers, be visible to dairy farmers, create value for producers and processors, as well as support all dairy categories equally. I took time to read the

weighty tome, and one line particularly caught my eye: “If we want to change consumers’ behaviours, we need to change how we behave as a category.” That means all of us have to change. Including you lot. The report emphasises the point that any campaign must be supported by all players in the dairy supply chain, so we need farmers to ensure good behaviour such as not, for want of an example, sanctioning poor animal welfare behaviour. As regular readers will know I have for decades supported the funding of carefully thought out generic dairy campaigns to promote and defend our products, and for us all to be seen to be proud of what we produce. ‘Proud of Dairy’ still is a great Dairy UK initiative (and not, as some think, an NFU initiative). The report is clear that one of the industry’s problems is ‘the entire dairy category is suffering from a lack of unified communication’. In other words, we are in-fighting and blowing the candles out on the cake while everything around us is burning down. It points out that a minority of vocal players, including animal welfare activists, vegan groups and non-dairy alternative brands are questioning the industry’s credentials, and that the consistent anti-dairy messaging from these groups has triggered doubts amongst some of our younger consumers to the point where some believe even their most extreme comments are true. And the environment that dairy products operate in is becoming more hostile all the time, as anti-dairy groups turn up the heat. The report also stated that we must all stand

DECEMBER 2017 16/11/2017 11:21


POTTER’S VIEW

‘Get behind it and give it a go’

Ian Potter rIan is a specialist milk commentator and entitlement broker. Comments please to ianpotter@ipaquotas.co.uk

up for dairy’s heritage and future, and avoid the pitfall of constantly apologising and defending in response to dairy-free diet conversations. In fact, a section of the report comes under the heading of ‘A category under attack’ because that’s what it is when those researchers monitored online discussions. Out of 7.2 million dairy postings/conversations, there were 172,000 vegan and dairy-free threads, 14,200 lactose intolerance and 2,700 dairy alterative threads. There is also a lot of misperception about milk. When questioned about the fat content of whole milk the average answer was 37% fat, with over a fifth of those surveyed believing milk’s fat content was between 80% to 100%. Only 12% got the correct answer of 3.6%. That is an industry failing in its education. Turning to other concerns, over half of respondents “worry about nutrition when buying or eating dairy products”, with 58% having health concerns over dairy. And whilst doctors, nurses, NHS, dieticians and health-related literature are the most trusted sources of information for consumers, out of 1000 surveys 60% of consumers said they trusted dairy farmers to act honestly and responsibly. Thus you are clearly critical influencers! The campaign’s priority target audience is young parents, age 18 to 36, who regularly examine their eating habits on behalf of the family – and especially on provenance and naturalness. This group are foodie trendies and four out of five enjoy trying new things. It will be a challenge to get our message across to these so-called millennials, but we have to start somewhere and now, because with half

of them supposedly attempting to reduce dairy product consumption, if we do nothing this could rise to 60%+ in 10 years’ time. The campaign is designed to surprise and excite consumers, in particular to make them re-assess the positive role dairy products play in their diet. With 81% saying the most important thing to them is that food is tasty, you can see why this campaign has a heavy focus on taste and connecting the consumer with the enjoyment associated with eating dairy, and having it as part of their lives. It’s time to kill the anti-dairy myth and to stand up and trumpet the industry’s dairy promise with the help of some endorsements and medical experts. It won’t be easy because, whether you like it or not, statistically half of young people apparently have positive perceptions of veganism, and almost 1 in 5 now claim they are lactose intolerant. But it’s up to all of us to get behind it, and give it a good go. The campaign has kick started on social media right now. From February it will also go out of home to spread the word about the natural goodness that you produce every day, and to ensure more consumers and families fall in love with dairy products. The budget isn’t mind blowing at £1.2 million, but it’s a good start and it has taken a lot of effort to make it happen. Doing nothing is not an option. So for 2018, let’s tell our great story and hold on to and increase the 63% of consumers who still love the taste of our great selection of dairy products. Merry Christmas and a happy 2018 to all of you!

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p14 15 Potter.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

15 16/11/2017 11:21


BREEDING Holstein UK has taken the bold step of adding a negative weighting for stature to its Type Merit formula in a move which the breed society hopes will discourage UK breeders from producing increasingly taller cows. Ann Hardy reports.

Type index to tackle challenge of stature

I

t has long been recognised that the Type Merit (TM) formula has encouraged the breeding of tall cows. One only needs to look at national trends to see that stature has continued to rise without abating at least since the mid1990s. We know Type Merit has played a part in encouraging this trend because, although Holstein UK (custodians of all things type) would not divulge the precise formula for the previous Type Merit, the fact was inescapable that the highest Type Merit bulls, almost without exception, transmitted high stature. Well, now there has been an about-turn by the breed society, which has not only taken on board the industry’s concerns about rising stature by revising the Type Merit index, but has also openly published the new index’s formula. And that formula squarely includes a small negative weighting for stature. (See Fig 1). Furthermore, the society has published a range of correlations between Type Merit and a cross-section of other type,

health and production traits which goes far towards helping users understand why, that when they select for Type Merit, other traits may also change. Stature In fact, it is this phenomenon of inadvertently breeding for associated traits which has played a large part in the inexorable rise in stature, alongside some other trait changes in the Holstein cow population. The other traits which have changed are, most notably, teat length (which has become progressively shorter) and rear leg set, side view, (which has become straighter). All of these trends reflect the fact that when the previous formula for Type Merit was introduced in 2007, it was at a time when straight legs, short teats and tall cows were not widely perceived to be a problem. However, Darren Todd, Holstein UK’s geneticist, says: “The old formula was allowed to run for a bit too long. It was a very good formula when it came in, but it has pushed some traits slightly out of kilter.”

Figure 1: What’s in the new Type Merit (December 2017) Type Merit = (0.85 x mammary PTA) + (0.70 x legs & feet PTA) - (0.40 x stature PTA*) + (0.20 x chest width PTA) + (0.20 x rear leg side PTA) + (0.20 x teat length PTA) + (0.10 x rump angle PTA). * For animals with a stature PTA less than zero, the weighting is (0.0 x stature PTA).

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All Nure Secretariat is an example of the sort of bull that fits the new formula with good score for udders, legs and feet, but without straighter legs and with slightly more teat length.

So, now that we have the new formula, which is in fact ground-breaking and thought to be the first purely type index in the world which includes a negative weighting for stature, what does he think it will achieve? “Well, one thing it won’t do is make cows smaller,” says Dr Todd. And therein lies the conundrum of using any multi-trait index, where correlations exist between the traits it includes and the traits it may leave out, or even weight negatively. As can be seen from Fig 1, in addition to its slight negative emphasis on stature, the new Type Merit includes a strong emphasis on mammary and leg and feet traits (both derived from the overall scores awarded by Holstein classifiers); the new inclusion of the linear

There has been a big push from breeders to include chest width Darren Todd

traits rear leg set and teat length (discouraging posty legs and short teats); and the inclusion of rump angle (discouraging high pins) and chest width. “There has been a big push from breeders to include chest width, with the hope of bringing more balance and moving away from the combination of stature with frailty,” says Dr Todd. However, he acknowledges that science has not proven any

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 12:37


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BREEDING Table 1: Selection of bulls (August 2017 indexes) Animal name TW Goodwhone All Nure Secretariat Regancrest-GV S Bradnick Mountfield SSI DCY Mogul Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood Val-Bisson Doorman Stantons Applicable Ladys-Manor PL Shamrock

and how their Type Merit (TM) changes under the new formula MAM 2.41 2.84 2.38 2.59 2.38 2.27 3.89 1.60

L&F 1.68 1.44 1.83 2.68 2.07 1.82 2.11 1.09

STA 0.42 1.16 1.55 0.16 3.10 2.53 1.88 -1.03

CW 0.44 0.23 0.75 0.64 -1.02 1.84 0.71 -0.30

RA -0.12 0.00 0.72 -0.01 -2.12 -1.26 -0.27 0.38

RLS -0.63 0.11 -2.02 -1.80 -1.10 -0.16 -0.71 0.51

TL -0.03 1.57 3.16 -1.77 1.07 0.11 -1.65 -2.84

TM 2.47 2.71 2.68 2.95 2.64 2.45 3.90 1.59

TM new 2.98 3.28 3.06 3.42 1.66 2.30 3.58 1.64

Diff 0.51 0.57 0.38 0.47 -0.99 -0.15 -0.32 0.04

Key: MAM = mammary; L&F = legs and feet; STA = stature; CW = chest width; RA = rump angle; RLS = rear legs (side view); TL = teat length; Diff = difference.

Silky, fine udders [the sort favoured by classifiers] are also linked to taller animals Darren Todd

benefit to having greater chest width, and admits that an intermediate score for body traits is usually the optimum. “But it’s not beholden on science to deny the breeders what they want,” he says. “And this simply means that the new Type Merit will penalise a tall and narrow bull more than it does a tall and wide bull.” Small gains This is demonstrated in the selection of bulls shown in Table 1, where a bull with a high stature and negative chest width score such as Atwood loses under the new formula, whereas those with more moderate stature and more chest width, such as Bradnick, see small gains. (Other traits shown in the table clearly also influence these changes.) The failure of the new index, with its negative weighting on stature, to breed for smaller cows, is explained by a variety

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of associations between stature and other traits. There’s a strong correlation between udder conformation and stature, partly due to the desirability of having udder height above the hocks, something which is more readily achieved in taller cows. “Taller cows tend to have longer, finer bones and an udder which sits above the hocks,” he says, also observing the link between udder conformation and straighter legs. “And silky, fine udders [the sort favoured by classifiers] are also linked to taller animals.” In other words, by selecting for good udder conformation, breeders will inadvertently breed for slightly taller cows, whether they want to or not. And, by selecting bulls for Type Merit, with its strong emphasis on udders, they are again selecting for stature, in spite of the negative stature weighting.

Table 2: Correlations between Type Merit and a crosssection of other traits (genomically tested Holstein bulls born since 2007 – August 2017 indexes) TM old TM new Mammary 0.96 0.83 Legs and Feet 0.72 0.78 Stature 0.47 0.25 Chest Width 0.09 0.20 Rump Angle -0.01 0.03 Rear Leg Side -0.13 0.01 Teat Length -0.14 0.02 PLI 0.36 0.36 Direct Calving Ease -0.16 -0.13 Fertility Index 0.06 0.00 Lifespan 0.29 0.34 Milk (kg) 0.21 0.23 Fat (%) 0.03 0.04 Protein (%) -0.02 -0.04 This fact is corroborated by the correlation coefficients in Table 2, which show a small positive correlation (0.25) between the new TM and stature. “This means that if you select a bull with one point for Type Merit you will get, on average, 0.25 points for stature,” says Dr Todd, remarking that this link was stronger in the previous TM (also seen in Table 2) which did not include a negative weighting for stature. Composite index The whole phenomenon of traits being correlated with one another, inevitably begs the question of whether it is worth having a composite index at all? “Absolutely,” insists Dr Todd.

“There’s always been a desire in breeding science to have an overall index as every farmer certainly doesn’t have the time to go through the full linear breakdown for every bull.” However, he is happy to admit that Type Merit should not be the only index used by breeders. “I would like people to use Type Merit in conjunction with Profitable Lifetime Index, and if they have the time and inclination they can then look at a more detailed breakdown of the bull’s linear profile showing individual traits,” he says, suggesting those who wish to do so can positively select against stature, among other traits.

DECEMBER 2017

**DF Dec p16 18 Breeding(CORRECT).indd 4

16/11/2017 15:22


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17/11/2017 11:03


MVF CONFERENCE

Taking stress off heifers a Boosting farm profitability by maximising cow longevity was one of the topics up for discussion at the recent Mole Valley Farmers Optimum Lifetime Performance dairy conference in Somerset.

E

uropean producers with the best heifer survival rates are ensuring all heifers are introduced to dry cows two months prior to calving and receive a hoof check at the same time. According to Dutch vet and CowSignals founder Joep Driessen, about 20% of heifers were leaving the herd in their first lactation, which represented a huge loss of potential and a significant cost to farmers. He believed ensuring a smooth transition into the milking herd was one of the main areas that could help reduce these losses. As a result, he advised assessing

heifers’ feet prior to calving. “Only 50% will need trimming but all of them will need checking and cleaning,” he said. Adjust This would help prevent laminitis and subsequent sole ulcers. Introducing heifers to dry cows at the same time would also give them time to socialise and adjust. Mr Driessen added: “Pressure on the hoof and social stress go together as social stress leads to over standing. They may only rest for seven hours, rather than 14 hours, and that is ruining these heifers when they calve in.”

Pressure on the hoof and social stress go together as social stress leads to over standing Joep Driessen Running a separate heifer group post calving could also bring a 10% uplift in heifer yields

High culling rate is big drain on farm bottom line JUnderstanding the return on investment for everything you pay for, rather than being caught up with cost alone, is essential to ensure long-term profitability during milk price volatility. US dairy business consultant, Matt Lange, from Compeer Financial Dairy Consulting Team, said tracking income over total feed cost, including forages, was a key parameter to understand.

Matt Lange: understand ROI.

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“That is the most important metric. Am I getting what I’m paying for? I have a client with the highest milk per cow, but third from dead last on profit. Ask how much does it cost to produce that milk. It may be more profitable to be a 40-litre herd versus a 45-litre herd,” he stressed. Only by understanding costs of production and return on investment for various inputs could farmers cut costs effectively. For example, breeding costs could be high, but if pregnancy rates benefitted, then it was worth the investment. “Moving from an 18% to a 20% pregnancy rate will result in £40 more profit per cow per year,” Mr Lange said. Understanding ROI was also just as important when making culling decisions. For example, he said it took four lactations or more before a cow would make you any

money. Consequently, replacing a third lactation cow, for example with a heifer was ‘highly inefficient’. He added: “Understand your death losses and herd replacements costs. It’s not just about how much things cost, but how much I have invested in them and my return on investment.” Death losses Death losses should include any animal that died on-farm or was worthless at culling. This would then impact on net herd replacement costs (NHRC), which was the difference between an animal’s cull value and what she was valued at on the farm. For example, if a cow was valued at £1500 and her cull value was £500, that equated to a £1000 loss. At a 10% cull rate in a 100-cow herd, that resulted in a £10,000 loss or £20,000 with a 20% cull rate.

Mr Langes added: “If you culled 18 animals which were valued at £1500 (totalling £27,000) and you received on average £500 for them at culling (totalling £9000), then you would have a £1000 loss per animal or a £18,000 NHRC. Now take that £18,000 and divide it into the number of litres you shipped over that period and that is your NHRC on a per litre basis.” Mr Lange said UK farmers should be targeting a net herd replacement cost of something less than 2.15ppl. If NHRC was higher than this, producers should ask themselves why. Were there more dead cows, were they shipping less milk off farm, had cull value reduced or culling rate gone up? Equally, when death rate was over a figure of 4-5%, farmers should look at areas such as feed and housing.

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 12:41

S M R


MVF CONFERENCE

s as they come into herd How to maximise cow longevity FARMERS with the best cow survival rates are doing the following: rEnsuring access to a clean, dry, comfortable lying area rCleaning cubicle beds three times a day – adding an extra clean has the potential to reduce somatic cell counts by 40,000 cells and improve resting time

Joep Driessen: about 20% of heifers were leaving the herd in their first lactation.

due to reduced stress, and consequently could lead to a reduction in losses. Stress-free handling was also important, whatever the age of stock, especially considering it could take half an hour for a cow to calm down, during which time

rCreating a stress-free calving line rPutting fresh feed on top of calves as soon as they are born – this encourages the mother to eat her first feed whilst licking the calf and improves intakes rProviding 85-90cm of feed space per dry cow and 75cm for milking cows.

she would not be ruminating. “It is very simple. Never go in the flight zone of the cow or behind her as she can’t see you. As soon as she reacts to get up in the cubicle, step back. That is the key thing to teach staff so as to avoid stress,” Mr Driessen said.

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LIC CONFERENCE Ways to lower the cost of milk production got a good airing at this year’s Livestock Improvement Company’s annual conference entitled Survival of the Fittest. Jonathan Wheeler reports.

Tighter control of variable costs is good place to start

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armers in the top 10% of a new dairy industry study cut feed costs by 45% in response to milk price cuts in 2016, and made only slightly lower margins per hectare than they did in 2015. The figures come from the LIC’s Comparative Farm Profit (CFP) dataset, and were revealed at its annual conference in Birmingham. This prompted Pasture to Profit consultant for LIC UK, Piers Badnell, to ask: “What on earth were they spending all that money on? Everyone in the survey managed to reduce their variable costs, so why were those costs incurred in the first place?” The CFP dataset compared the performance of almost 100 dairy farmers and revealed that there is still a huge gap between the

In general those in the top 10% are more business aware and more self-critical and analytical Piers Badnell performance of the top 10, the top quartile (25%) and the average. The most startling figure is that the top 10% farms cut feed bills from £1133/ha to £622/ha, with that reduction contributing to variable costs nearly halving from £2233/ha to £1182/ha.

Despite those cuts, milk output fell by just under 20% and margin per ha by much the same amount from £1398 to £1159. “Everybody saw the drop in milk price coming and got the message they needed to cut back and really went for it – some more than others. Those who took a wider view realised this is a never ending process and are always reviewing what they are doing. “In general those in the top 10% are more business aware and more self-critical and analytical. “They accept there is more action they can take rather than believing they have done as much as they can and can’t do much more.” The dataset also revealed that, while there is less than two pence a litre difference in milk price across all the participants, production

costs varied by 8.92ppl. The average cut back in costs between 2015 and 2016 was about 1ppl, although the top quartile achieved a 2ppl cut and the top 10 managed 4ppl. For the future, he suggested the way forward relied on identifying which individual cows were inefficient at turning grass into milk solids, culling them from the herd and concentrating on those which convert feed efficiently.

Recruiting right staff is a highly complex process

D

airy farmers should pay as much attention to their herd’s staff as they do to their animals’ genetics or growing grass. This is according to Nollaig Heffernan, an independent management consultant, who said farmers who struggle to recruit and retain good staff may have only themselves to blame. Speaking at the conference, she said: “Complaining that there are no good employees available is

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lazy. Look at yourself as an employer first.” She said that people with a good employment record would find potential workers tend to approach them, whereas those with poorer records may be forced to take whoever they can find. “You may also end up being forced to hold onto workers who you do not really want, which is putting your business at a disadvantage.” The solution, she said, was to pay greater attention to the whole

employment process, starting by creating clearly defined roles and providing meaningful contracts of employment. “If you cannot be bothered to put together a contract of employment, what message does that send to the employee pool?” Pitfalls One of the biggest pitfalls was employing someone to an ill-defined job. “If they thought they would be filling one type of role but end up

doing another, that will feel like very insecure employment.” She claimed that poor communication was also likely to leave employees feeling insecure. “If you ask an employee for their opinion and then punish them for what they say, don’t expect them to ever offer you their opinion again. Your relationship will be poorer for that.” Relying on interviews alone to select the correct candidate for any role was unscientific in her view. Her preferred option

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Comparative Farm Profit analysis rThe LIC’s Comparative Farm Profit analysis is a benchmarking system which aims to compare performance on a ‘level playing field’. It does this by excluding rent, finance and the Single Payment, setting

is ‘situational interviewing’. “Bring potential recruits onto the farm and give them a trial period, but that should be at a time when you can get the best out of them, and not during critical times like calving. Baptisms of fire are not a good idea.” References She stressed the importance of knowing how well the potential employee would fit into the situation and the team, and advocated phoning references. “Explain the role the candidate is applying for so they can provide

a £30,000/year value on unpaid labour (based on a 2500 hour working year), and including depreciation in infrastructure and machinery. The figures are expressed over the whole farm area – both grazing and support blocks.

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12/10/2017 09:52 09:21 16/11/2017

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Methodical checklist helps improve calf health Calf rearing involves a complex combination of processes and no two units are the same; even within a single calf unit, some calves will face different management challenges to others.

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ets with a keen interest in youngstock health are taking a consultative-based checklist approach to assessing and improving calf rearing efficiency. Vet Sarah Gibbs from Lambert, Leonard and May (LLM), near Whitchurch, Shropshire, says: “Having a clear checklist of key areas to audit before you go on-farm ensures nothing is forgotten during a consultation. “Invariably, calf performance problems are the result of multiple factors, so it is key to always take a holistic approach and consider everything going on at a rearing unit.”

She says although a calf health investigation may be initiated for one reason – for example, high rates of scour – a number of factors could contribute to the ‘front of mind’ issue. Taking a methodical approach ensures all important areas are explored. She says: “When you first visit a farm to investigate a calf health issue, I think it is really important to start by asking the farmer what the main concerns are and what they would like to achieve. “Having this recorded means you ensure these needs are addressed as you move on through your investigation.”

Sarah Gibbs is a vet at Lambert, Leonard and May. She has a keen interest in youngstock health and takes a methodical checklist-based approach to assessing and improving calf health.

New calf health checklist WORKING with a number of vets experienced in investigating youngstock disease management issues, MSD Animal Health has developed an interactive calf health checklist tool to help map out workable action plans to improve the situation on any farm. MSD Animal Health veterinary adviser Kat Baxter says: “Our tool explores and records calf health performance across five core areas to help identify strengths and weaknesses of any rearing unit’s environment and processes. “Working through a series of 10 questions within each area,

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DAIRY FARMER

**DF DEC p24 25 MSD (signed off).indd 2

designed to tease out where a rearing unit is in terms of accepted best management practice, allows vet and farmer clients to quickly pinpoint areas needing attention. “Repeating every six or 12 months is a way to keep on track, allowing both parties to monitor progress against agreed targets.” MORE INFORMATION Interested in exploring how an interactive calf health checklist approach could improve your youngstock rearing efficiency? Contact your vet for further information.

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Case study WHEN Richard Blackburn of Baddiley Hulse Farm, near Nantwich, Cheshire, first asked vet Sarah Gibbs for help with calf health issues last spring, his key concerns were variable growth rates and too many scour-related losses in the first seven to 10 days of life. Mr Blackburn says: “When Sarah first came out to investigate, she took a very methodical approach, which I and Jack Howell, who is in charge of calf rearing, found really useful. Following this visit, we received a calf health report, which listed some key recommendations.” Miss Gibbs says: “Working through a checklist certainly highlighted a few areas we could improve on. “The first suggestion was to move calves out of the calving yard and into individual hutches

as quickly as possible to promote a cleaner environment for newborn calves. Generally, Richard’s housing is very good and age groups are managed well to avoid older calves being in contact with younger ones. “However, it is important to make sure calf hutches are cleaned out after every calf. Pressure-washing inside walls will remove faecal contamination and reduce the chance for scour bugs to be passed on to the next calf.” Miss Gibbs also investigated a possible colostrum quality issue. “Colostrum quality reduces as time progresses after calving and bacterial contamination can block absorption of antibodies in the gut, which is why it is important to collect colostrum as quickly and cleanly after calving as possible. “Initial tests showed, on the whole, the colostrum was of good

Heifer calves at Baddiley Hulse Farm now have temperature monitoring ear tags fitted by the LLM VetTech team.

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Jack Howell (left) and Richard Blackburn invest in veterinary support to improve calf health.

quality, but the bacterial count was a little high, so we suggested steps to improve cleanliness.” Mr Blackburn now feeds newborn calves four litres of colostrum before they are six hours old. Any excess colostrum is frozen and thawed gently before administering cleanly to calves via ‘perfect udder’ colostrum bags. Miss Gibbs says: “When we first tested for adequate colostrum transfer, most calves were below the serum protein target, making them susceptible to disease. “We aim to have 80% of calves above 5.5g/dl and we are achieving this on Richard’s farm, suggesting good transfer of immunity and good colostrum management.” Miss Gibbs also ran Mr Blackburn’s calf feeding rates through LLM’s own calf powder calculator, which identified his feeding rate at the time would only support 0.5-0.6kg of growth per day,

even allowing for calf jackets. She says: “When we first visited, the feeding rate was 2.4 litres of calf milk replacer twice-a-day [4.8 litres in total]. It needed to be nearer six litres per day to support the 0.8kg per day target growth rate. This has now been adjusted and calves are growing consistently well again.” Mr Blackburn says: “Some farmers look at vets and see cost, but I see my relationship with LLM as an investment. Staff are always pro-active and looking to innovate. “LLM’s VetTech Service is a time saver, particularly with calves, and time is money. They check colostrum, measure growth rates, ensure vaccination protocols are followed and put in temperature monitoring tags. Scour problems are under control, calf mortality is next to nothing and if we have a dead calf there is an investigation. We are also getting a much better price for beef calves.”

Use medicines responsibly. See: www.noah. co.uk/responsible for more information. Further information is available from MSD Animal Health, Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes, MK7 7AJ; Tel: 01908 685 685; Email: vet-support.uk@ merck.com; Visit: www.msd-animal-health.co.uk.

DECEMBER 2017 **DF DEC p24 25 MSD (signed off).indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

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INTERVIEW

Speculation has been rife about the future of Chester-based breeding company Cogent, but its ann tie-up with Sexing Technologies in the States promises to bring us a whole raft of new breeding adva a much wider stud choice. Peter Hollinshead talks to Cogent’s managing director Mark Roach.

Sexed semen breakthro offers new breeding op

T

he speculation has finally come to an end and Cogent has been sold to Texasbased Sexing Technologies (ST). What will this mean for the Cogent brand here in the UK? The Cogent brand, identify and culture will remain exactly the same. One of the reasons we chose to partner up with ST was because they would keep the Cogent business operating as normal, and they would give us the genetic and technological firepower we need to make advances in the marketplace. Yes, and we’ll come on to the firepower bit in a

moment, but it’s a fact that Cogent has kept a minority shareholding... can you tell me how big that retention is and what the selling price was? Well, Wheatsheaf (investment arm of Grosvenor Estate) was the previous owner of Cogent and they have kept a 24% share in the new business, so Grosvenor will still be a minority shareholder in Cogent and ST have bought 76% of Cogent. The reason Wheatsheaf and Grosvenor have kept a minority interest is because Wheatsheaf on its wider platform is invested in 20-30 companies across the wider bovine sphere, so there are some very good synergies between Wheatsheaf and ST. One example is the Growsafe business which is

owned by Wheatsheaf and provides feed efficiency data which ST has been working with for the past four years. Just what you didn’t say, though, was what sort of cash changed hands? Well, I think that is commercially confidential, but we think a fair price has been achieved for Wheatsheaf and a fair price for ST. Okay, why would ST want you as you are already a licensee of their sexing technology and they have a growing foothold on the European mainland… was it just as an entrée to the UK market or to be able to place some of their bulls here as an insurance safe haven in case of disease outbreaks back home? I think there are a number of advantages for ST. First of all we provide ST with a very strong UK platform and also a European base, and the routes to market which we have internationally tend to be very different to theirs, and so I think we complement each other there. Also, as you mention, we will be able to create a parallel breeding programme in the UK which spreads ST’s biosecurity risk, so I think there are a number of very, very good advantages and synergies between the two businesses. How do you rate your alliance with ST going forward in achieving the aims

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DAIRY FARMER

you want to achieve? Well, another one of the reasons we chose to partner up with ST is that they are a very strong business with a lot of financial clout, they are highly profitable and want to become the number one in the bovine genetics market, and that aligns very closely with what we want to achieve. Now I can remember the sixth Duke launching Cogent with the intention of what he termed, if I remember correctly, restoring ‘the UK as the stockyard of the world’. Has he failed in that wish? No, I don’t think so. This latest move, I think, enhances that objective of the sixth Duke. When he launched Cogent in 1995 with Tim Heywood, I think his overriding objective at the time was to bring world class genetics to UK dairy farmers at affordable prices, and I think Cogent has achieved that, and this tie-up with ST with all their bull firepower will only enhance that. Yes, but it goes slightly further than that doesn’t it, because one of the original propositions put forward for Cogent was that it would be a British-based stud made up of British-bred bulls and that no longer seems possible, so do you concede the best genetics lie elsewhere? I think genetics is a global industry and British dairy farmers want access to the best genetics wherever they are around the

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INTERVIEW

t its announcement of a eding advances coupled with h.

hrough options world. The Cogent bull stud will still be in operation and we will have a UK breeding programme which will run parallel with the US breeding programme, so the very best genetics will be available to UK farmers from wherever they need to be sourced. Now the sixth Duke liked being involved with cattle and farming, and I suppose while he lived he was able to afford that indulgence… and I use that word particularly because I read that Cogent lost £4.6m last year on a turnover of £12m, so have the Grosvenor accountants moved in and taken over? No, not at all. I think everyone will accept that the last two or three years have been incredibly difficult for the dairy industry with low milk prices, and that the supply trade and AI businesses have found it very difficult to make profits over this period. I think these headline figures are somewhat misleading in that last year all the development costs of a new IVF business in the US are in those accounts, as well as development costs in Russia, Australia and Canada. We have restructured the business and we are now back in profit so the decision to sell the business to ST was not based on past performance, and now we have new owners the past accounts are totally irrelevant anyway. But it has always been difficult

Mark Roach has responsibility for the Grosvenor herd and has just put up a new unit for 1800 cows.

for Cogent to make a decent return on the business, hasn’t it, and it is a highly competitive world out there so how viable would Cogent have been if it had been left on its own? It is unfair to say Cogent has never had successful years – in some years it made very good profits, and it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Going forward Cogent could have remained in its current form and it would have become more of a niche business. The main reason we decided to merge with ST is because the industry is changing fundamentally. When I came here in February my first task was to stabilise the business, and it has restructured, and we are now back in the black. But we wanted to look forward to see what we needed to do to have a long-term sustainable business and to be a leading player in the global market. What became obvious is that the industry is changing and there are three factors behind that. One is genomic testing, the second is the sexed semen technology, and the third is the

establishment of female nucleus herds. What that means if you put these three things together is that genetics is closing off, so the best genetics are now becoming propriety genetics and some of the very best bulls are now not released, and those top bulls that are released are released with sexed semen. So it is very difficult to source bulls around the world unless you have your own genetics programme, but the cost of setting up genetic programmes is astronomical. So unless you have got a global reach and big turnover you can’t afford to spend the money to generate the genetics you need to get that turnover, so it has become a Catch 22 situation. So we had a choice – a choice of staying as a niche player in the market or merging with somebody else. I think we were honest enough to realise we have lost the genetics arms race and unless you are at the forefront of this race it is very, very difficult to catch up. When we looked around the world we quickly realised that ST were going to be one of the

major players going forward, and my personal view is that with currently five or six players in this market, that in a period of five years I suspect there will be only two or three major players in this market. So we made a positive move and we approached ST – they didn’t approach us – to secure the long-term future of Cogent with a partner we believe will be tomorrow’s winner. Something like 95+% of bulls entering AI come out of closed genetic programmes, so there are very few bulls on the market that are not tied into closed programmes. So it’s a classic case of supply and demand, and those few bulls are incredibly expensive and not always the best genetics either because the closed programmes are holding on to the best genetics. It’s very, very difficult for tier 2 and tier 3 companies to compete in that marketplace unless they become niche, and it’s our ambition to be a global player not a niche player, and I think the merger with ST will take us there.

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INTERVIEW Okay, let’s get back to the impact of the acquisition. I presume you will now have access to an even greater range of top ranking bulls through ST will you? There were a number of reasons we chose ST, and one was the genetic power they have. They have the largest genetics programme in the world – they have something like 7000 females in that programme and are creating 5000 embryo pregnancies per annum, and they currently have four of the top 10 Holstein bulls in the US GPTI list and eight of the top 15 Jersey bulls on the GPTI list, so their genetic power is unquestionable and the pipeline coming through we think will be second to none in the industry. As an example they have the current number one PLI sire Ruby Agronaut, which will be available here. The other important part which we think will be a game changer for UK dairy farmers and others around the world

is the sexed semen technology and the launch of Ultra 4M. Up to now sexed semen has been packed in two million cells (sperm cells), but the technology has advanced to the stage now where the sorting processes are much more efficient and we can double up the number of cells in a straw to four million. We think that will be a game changer because we will be able to launch sexed semen for use on cows as well as heifers. And of course nobody wants Holstein bull calves so we will be launching Ultra 4M sexed semen around Christmas time and I for one, as a customer, am very much looking forward to using it in the Grosvenor herd. By cells I’m not sure what you mean… are there more sperm per sample? Four million sperm cells per straw rather than two million sperm cells per straw, so the efficacy of the product and its ability to get animals in calf is very much increased. Trial work taking place with ST in Germany and elsewhere has shown very good results using Ultra 4M sexed semen in cows.

So why hasn’t that doubling up been used before? Presumably it’s less efficient on the use of semen if you are using twice as much as before? It’s about the efficiency of the sorting processes. We were the first company to commercialise sexed semen way back in 2000, but back then the sorting speeds were very much slower than they are today, so the technology has advanced and that has enabled us to increase the number of cells in a straw.

there will be two brands of Ultra 4M semen in the marketplace.

But the economics of it to a layman would suggest you are only able to make half as many straws from a semen collection as previously? Yes, but the sorting rates are so much higher and in terms of output per hour it is so much higher with 4M than 2M. Also the new medium we are using will enhance the quality of that semen and its ability to get cows in calf.

Now you have been sexing semen domestically for Genus, and still are as far as I know, yet Genus-ABS has developed its own sexing process in the States which it is alleged has infringed the ST patents resulting in a peculiar litigious triangle. Will you continue to sex semen for Genus in the UK? Well, I think that is a commercial, in confidence, contract that we have with Genus and I wouldn’t like to comment on that, and the litigation is more a question for ST than Cogent, but what I will say is that going forward ST sexing technology and Genus sexing technology will be going head to head.

Have you got the machines here to do it? Well, we only just signed the deal with ST over the last three weeks and already the machines have landed from America. They will triple our capacity here and we are very confident we will be able to supply the market by Christmas. And are you alone in being able to offer this type of semen? In the UK we will be the only providers of Ultra 4M sexed semen and we will have 12 new generation sorting machines in there. But ST will be doing the same, so won’t that give rise to a conflict in the international markets in which you operate? No, we don’t think that will be the case. Cogent will be selling Ultra 4M into its outlets in some 40 countries around the world and ST has its own outlets around the world, but most of these outlets don’t have a big crossover. Where they will,

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Will your tie up with ST give UK producers twice the bull offering they may have had to date, and are even the top bulls likely to have sexed semen available from them? Absolutely, all the top bulls we have available will be available sexed, and some will have come from the ST programme and some will come out of our own programme here in the UK.

I don’t know what their sexing technology entails but with your new sexing technology do you believe yours will be superior? Well, the good thing about pregnancies and AI is that it only takes a few months for people to find out whether their cows are pregnant or not, so I think we will learn very, very quickly as to how effective these technologies are as within three months farmers will either have pregnancies or not, and so the answer will be out there very quickly and we are looking forward to that. So you see a bit of a scrap there do you? Well, we are very confident in

DECEMBER 2017

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16/11/2017 14:10


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INTERVIEW our product and we’ll have the best genetics and we think we have the best technology, so we feel that our combination will be a very strong combination for us to take to the marketplace. Okay, you claim it is business as usual in the UK but will there be redundancies as ST attempts to bring the outlet into what might be claimed is a more viable form? It’ll be the very opposite actually. With the enhanced offering we expect some very rapid growth in our business. We expect our turnover and market share to increase significantly as we go forward and so we are now actively recruiting for people to join our company, so if there is anyone reading this who wants a career in bovine genetics then get in touch. You have recently been appointed as managing director of Cogent, what is your personal strategy going forward? As I say we will have the best genetics available anywhere in the world and we will have the best reproductive technologies, but one of the last missing pieces of the jigsaw in bovine genetics is food conversion rate. ST is very close to launching a food efficiency index, so I think in the next three years I will be very disappointed if we don’t double our market share.

of US cattle breeding we may be looking at here – I am particularly thinking of pure beef embryos into dairy cows which may be a possible solution where we are seeing a lot of Jersey crossbreds in the UK at the moment? I think the embryo business is probably a little bit further out, but following on from using female sexed semen on cows the next step is male beef sexed semen for the beef farmers. How far down the road is that for dairy cows? I think male sexed semen will grow quickly over the next couple of years. It will be mainly used on cows rather than heifers as the best genetics are generally the heifers, and we will see female sexed semen used in them and male sexed semen being used on the cows, and with our beef progeny testing giving much more reliable data on calving ease, we will be able to launch easy calving sires into the male sexed semen market. How far down the road will this male sexed semen be? I think six to nine months away.

Does that imply that you will become the number one genetics company in the UK? Genus has somewhere about 55%, and they are the number one, but we think we will be able to give the UK dairy farmer a very strong alternative to the market leader.

People may have been a little reticent to use sexed semen for two reasons, namely conception rates and sex ratio… can you offer improvements in these two areas with your new sexed semen? We have been using sexed semen here on our own farm for the last 20 years, and we are very confident that 90-94% female calves will be born. With regards to conception rates we have been consistently achieving 5060%, sometimes 65%, conception rates in heifers. The Ultra 4M product gives us the opportunity to take sexed semen to dairy cows and generally up to now most people would not have had the confidence to use sexed semen on cows.

Are there any other aspects

Can you give me a figure as to

What’s your market share now? We are in the low teens and we would hope to increase that substantially.

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DAIRY FARMER

the conception rate with cows? The figures we have seen with trials in Germany have been very close to conventional semen – within five percentage points of conventional semen. In due course you will be advocating sexed semen for cows as strongly as heifers? There’s no doubt in time people will only use sexed semen as the processes improve – they’ll use sexed female semen for their replacements and male sexed semen for their surplus animals for the beef industry. If you use sexed semen on cows, how much do you think it will grow your market? Well ultimately I firmly believe all semen sold into the sector will be sexed semen. It’s like blackand-white and colour TVs – no one has a black-and-white TV any more. How long will it take? The market for sexed semen will easily double in the next two to three years and in a few years I expect sexed semen will be half of our semen sales. Okay, just slightly off the semen track, you are also carrying the responsibility for the Grosvenor dairy unit and have just put up a spanking new unit

for 1800 cows – do you see dairying prospering after Brexit and will scale be everything? I think Brexit is the elephant in the room at the moment and perhaps most disconcerting is all the uncertainly surrounding it. I am particularly concerned about three areas – probably in order of importance – and they are firstly the trade deal and the nightmare scenario of tariff-free imports and tariffed exports; the second area for most dairy farmers is access to labour; and the third area is the whole area of subsidies – subsidies are likely to be environmentally based and we will be competing with neighbours in Europe who will be subsidised, so we will need to have a very much more efficient industry to compete internationally. Just finally on this topic, what faith do you have in politicians to give farming a fair solution to the problems we face as food production and agriculture don’t weigh very heavily with them, do they? They don’t when people have full stomachs but when food gets in short supply that is a very different matter, and my hope is that agriculture is not traded off for finance, or the car industry or whatever, in any settlement we have to come to.

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MILK MARKETS This month NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes gives us his thoughts on the way the industry is going and whether producers should be focusing more on margin than actual milk price.

Forward contracts offer means for fixing margin

I

have just returned from the World Dairy Summit in Belfast where the development of milk prices over the next six-12 months was a hot topic. Those who follow the future market trends, made easier now by AHDB publishing the Future Milk Price Equivalent, will see that future markets are falling. The main question at Belfast was just how far they’d go. While it’s troubling to see, I don’t believe we are in the same position as we were two years ago. The markets have adjusted to the end of quotas and global demand is still growing. Torsten Hemme, from the IFCN Dairy Research Network, presented an interesting piece showing the cyclical behaviour of milk markets. It emphasised that the main impact on whether we have a readjustment or a crash is how processors and buyers react to sentiment and gossip. One area that is raising huge concern to all in the dairy supply chain is the Commission’s plans for releasing skimmed milk powder (SMP). With fat markets starting to fall, the last thing we need is for low price SMP to be brought onto the market – it’s the high fat prices that have kept farmgate milk prices where they are currently. Thankfully to ease the worries of some, there have been risk management options provided for dairy farmers by some buyers. The font of all knowledge on futures, Sascha Seigel at the European Energy Exchange, hinted that the majority of UK

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**DF Dec p32 Oakes.indd 2

Michael Oakes: farmers will be working with their milk buyers to ensure they can guarantee that margin.

milk buyers are in discussion with him on how they can utilise various trading mechanisms to manage risk. Currently here in the UK we have Yew Tree Dairies, County Milk Products, Crediton and Muller offering their farmers forward contracts of various lengths at different milk prices. The key here is that using these options is not a way of beating the market – good luck with that – but instead one of protecting your margin. Volatility In the market volatility session in Belfast it was surprising to see the French processors union, ALTA, state that using futures or forward contracts isn’t for them, and isn’t relevant for many EU countries. Their risk management plans revolve around moving milk out of commodity into branded and higher value products. Clearly

not everyone sells higher value and branded products, hence the clear need for more risk management options. Risk management is not all about forward contracts and futures, though there are risks on-farm as well as in the supply chain. It has become clear many dairy farmers do want to take control of their supply chain risk by locking in forward prices as all current options are oversubscribed. But tied to this is reducing risk on farm through productivity and efficiency gains. If your cost of production is above the five-year rolling average UK milk price, then supply chain risk management will be of limited help unless you can guarantee a retailer aligned contract. But even here the retailers are supporting efficiency and productivity gains within their supply base. A farmer I know has locked

in all his milk volume for the next nine months at 28ppl with one of the aforementioned milk buyers. Cost of production Not a ground-breaking price I hear you say. Maybe not, but that farmer’s cost of production is in the low 20’s ppl, so he is confident he will secure a good margin on every litre he produces over the next nine months. Plus he does not need to check his phone or email at the beginning of each month to see what’s happening to milk prices or compare his milk price in any milk price league table. Going forward this will have to be the norm. Farmers will be focusing on margin rather than milk price and working with their milk buyers to ensure that they can guarantee that margin, even with global dairy markets continuing to swing up and down as, in reality, they always have.

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 10:34


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SOILS One of the basic tenets of ‘biological farming’ is that the soil must be ‘right’ to optimise resource use and produce maximum output.

Soil must be in good shape for best results

P

roducers should not activity, and while microbes are rely solely on soil not visible to the eye the prestests to ascertain the ence of earth worms is a great ‘health’ status of their indicator of soil health. fields, but need to use “Everything starts in the soil sight and smell as well to help and ultimately returns to the them in their soil analysis. soil,” he said. “It is a living sysThat is the opinion of US soils tem alive with trillions of organexpert Gary Zimmer, founder of isms that sustain life.” Midwestern BioAg and chamHe added: “This is the fundapion of ‘biological farming’, who mental principle of biological told a Staffordshire audience farming,” and stressed that that relying on test results alone biological farming should not would often result in false ferbe mistaken as organic farming. tiliser recommendations. “Biological farming puts the At an open day at Brewood emphasis on achieving naturally Park Farm, Coven, organised productive soils.” by fertiliser company QLF, he While all forms of measuresaid farmers should trust their ment can be variable, he said instincts alongside a range of tissue testing plants can be one testing models, and that soil of the most effective. sampling was likely to provide “Tissue testing analyses exactly varying results across the field. what is in the plant and can con“These recommendations are firm trace element deficiencies necessary, but only take into before they affect production.” account a tiny bit of the soil He added that when testing picture, and farmers may find plant tissue there are four major that despite providing ‘required’ minerals which are tested. nutrients they may not be avail“We want to look at levels able to the crop,” he explained. of calcium, magnesium, phos“Soils should smell healthy phorus and boron as these are and should be teaming with ‘indicator’ minerals. Redrock Machinery - QPHS _Redrock Machinery - QPHS 16/11/2015

Gary Zimmer at Brewood Park Farm.

“Indicator minerals require a complete biological system to get them up to the desired level.” Uptake To increase the plant’s ability to take up these nutrients and to ensure they are not ‘locked’ in, Mr Zimmer confirmed the importance of feeding the soil. 09:56 Page 1

“A liquid carbon-based fertiliser, such as QLF’s Boost fertiliser, doesn’t just feed the plant, it feeds the soil. “It is rich in carbon to provide energy to benefit soil bacteria, which enhances plant nutrient availability to help improve plant performance, root growth and crop quality.”

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DAIRY 15/11/2017 37 13:06 FARMER 17/11/2017 13:14


MAIZE This year, maize crops have generally done exceptionally well with some bumper harvests reported, but the question is knowing how well they will feed.

Maize looks good but allow clamp to ferment

I

nitial analysis of this season’s maize silage suggests farmers should be looking forward to crops which will perform well when eventually fed, according to Trouw Nutrition GB which runs the UKs largest forage analysis laboratory. Reporting on more than 700 samples received by the company already this year, technical director Dr John Allen says the initial signs are encouraging, but he is advising farmers not to rush into clamps and give feeds a chance to ferment fully. “The growing season was typified by crops struggling to mature properly and many were late being harvested,” he says. “Several samples we have seen are not yet fully fermented and will benefit from more time in the clamp before being added to diets. That said, once fed they have the potential to perform well.” The table below compares

Farmers should give maize silage a chance to ferment.

this year’s initial crops with a similar sample from last year, and shows this year’s crops are on a par with last year. Dry matter is similar at 32.9%, ME virtually the same at 11.25MJ, while starch is close to 30%. Early samples “The ME at 11.25MJ is consistent with early samples seen

Early 2017 maize silage analysis 2016 early samples Dry Matter (%) 33.9 Crude Protein (% DM) 7.3 D-Value (%) 72.9 ME (MJ/kg DM) 11.2 pH 3.9 Lactic (g/kg DM) 38.8 NH3-N of total N (%) 5.4 Ash (% DM) 3.87 Starch (% DM) 30.3 NDF (% DM) 40.0 ADF (% DM) 22.2 Lignin (g/kg DM) 24.7

Source: Trouw Nutrition GB

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**DF Dec p38 Maize.indd 2

over several years. NDF content is slightly lower this year with a higher lignin content suggesting that despite the season some crops were harvested at a mature stage, possibly as they were left in the field to allow the stem to dry out more before harvest.” Dr Allen says the key will be to leave crops to fully ferment and to allow starch degradability 2017 early samples 32.9 7.4 71.7 11.25 3.94 50.7 5.3 3.87 29.9 36.9 19.4 34.7

to increase as the fermentation acids break down the protein matrix which surrounds the starch granules. Improve “Just because you have maize in the clamp, it does not mean you should rush to include it in diets. Allowing a complete fermentation will improve feeding characteristics and clamp stability.” Dr Allen says it will be important to assess total silage stocks and plan for the full winter. “With some good quality grass silage and promising maize silage, it will be possible for some farmers to increase the proportion of forage in the diet. “However, this should not be done if it increases the risk of running out at the back end of the season. The prudent approach will be to assess stocks, set realistic forage intakes, and then to supplement forages to deliver good rumen health and cost-effective production,” he claims.

DECEMBER 2017 17/11/2017 11:15

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HEALTH Despite the livestock sector making good progress in reducing its usage of antibiotics, there is still a lot more to be done. Lauren Dean reports from the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance conference in London.

More still to be done to cut antibiotic use

A

griculture has proven it is making headway on its pledge to invest in disease prevention and reduce the problem of antimicrobial resistance by 2020. Defra figures showed sales of antibiotics had hit a Government commitment more than two years early, with a reduction of 27% across the board, the lowest level on record since data was first published in 1993. Perhaps most importantly, there has also been an 83% drop in sales of Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort, critical for human health. While these figures were praised for leading the way when compared to use in Germany, France and the Netherlands, usage in the UK remains about 15 times higher than Norway, the leading country for low antibiotic use in Europe. UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “We need solidarity across the profession. No veterinary professional must offer an easy route to antibiotics where they are not justified. “Tackling antibiotic resistance requires a commitment across all areas of animal health, together with work on human use by colleagues in medical professions.” The Defra report highlighted a fall in antibiotic use in food producing animals from 62mg/kg

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No veterinary professional must offer an easy route to antibiotics where they are not justified Nigel Gibbens in 2014 to 45mg/kg in 2016, surpassing the Government target of 50mg/kg by 2018. Officials said the result was a ‘commendable achievement’ from the agricultural and veterinary sectors, as the industry began work on sector-specific targets. But speakers at the RUMA conference at Sainsbury’s, Holborn, last week, which announced the targets, warned farmers the bulk of the challenge was in enhancing the farmer-vet partnership. RUMA said its targets task force, made up of leading veterinary surgeons and a farmer from each of the beef, dairy, egg, fish, gamebird, pig, poultry and sheep sectors, as well as observers from regulators Food Standards Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, would enhance responsible use. One particular hot topic was

antibiotic-free labelling, which the panel agreed was confusing and ‘totally misleading’. Martin Smith of pig producers BQP said: “Can we stop giving the public this conception that if meat is not labelled antibiotic-free, it is pumped full of antibiotics?” Poultry Sectors were urged to follow in the footsteps of the poultry meat sector, which has continued to lead the way in antibiotic reduction with a 71% drop between 2012 and 2016. It has been labelled a ‘pathfinder’ for the industry, after having ceased all preventative treatment and use of the highest priority critically important antibiotics (CIAs). The dairy sector has promised a 20% reduction, with particular focus on halving use of the highest priority CIAs, through a new

Dairy Antimicrobial Stewardship Group (DASG). Some of the strategies used include reducing the use of antibiotic dry cow therapy and injectable products, and cutting back on group treatments such as antibiotic footbaths for lameness. Di Wastenage, dairy farmer and chairman of the DASG, said the sector needed to be ambitious about what it could achieve. She said: “While use is lower than in some sectors, there are clear areas to tackle where use can be habitual, or common disease problems go unchallenged. “For example, eliminating BVD and persistently infected animals from the herd is one of the obvious places to start.” She said calf rearing and digital dermatitis were two of the antibiotic use hotspots.

DECEMBER 2017

**DF DEC p40 RUMA (CHECK PAGE NO).indd 2

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DAIRY FARMER

41 16/11/2017 14:58


MILKING A combination of higher vacuum levels and ill-fitting liners can cause teat barrel congestion and actually slow down milking times. Ann Hardy reports.

High vacuum levels can slow down milking time

D

airy farmers could make better decisions about their choice of milking liners if they were aware of the dimensions of their cows’ teats. This conclusion can be drawn from work undertaken collaboratively between the Irish Government’s Moorepark Research Centre and the University of Wisconsin in the USA. Overseen at Moorepark by John Upton, he says: “Whether the farmer, vet or machine technician does the measuring is not important, but to make an informed decision about milk liners, teat dimensions should be measured.” The two key measurements are mid-barrel diameter and teat length, and a clear ruler is probably the best, simplest device for doing the job. His advice follows newly published findings from the project which were presented at the British Mastitis Conference held last month in Worcestershire. They build on the well-established principle

To make an informed decision about milk liners, teat dimensions should be measured John Upton

that whilst increasing system vacuum level will increase milking speed, there comes a point beyond which congestion in the teat-end will cause a reduction in milk flow rate and lead to longer milking times for some cows. Congestion But teat-barrel congestion is driven by factors other than simply the milking machine’s vacuum, and the work at the two research centres has established that high mouthpiece

chamber vacuum brought about by ill-fitting liners also creates congestion. “This can be caused by too much space between the teat and the barrel of the liner which reinforces the concept that liners should be matched to the herd,” says Dr Upton. “If you have very high levels of mouthpiece chamber vacuum, you will have congestion in the teat-barrel area which has the effect of congesting the teat-end tissue through increased capillary pressure

or constrictions in the venous pathways,” he says. “For this reason, high levels of vacuum in the mouthpiece chamber can result in reductions in the teat canal diameter resulting in slower milking.” As well as reducing peak milk flow rate and increasing milking times, he says high levels of teat-end congestion also cause discomfort to the cow and could increase the risk of mastitis. “Peak milk flow rate is reduced because the effective area of the teat canal is reduced when congestive forces build beyond the elastic limit of the teat skin,” he says. “Furthermore, the teat canal of a congested teat closes more slowly after milking, resulting in a greater risk of mastitis-causing bacteria entering the udder. “There will always be a disparity between younger and older animals so you are never going to meet the exact needs of 100% of the cows,” he says. “But by measuring your cows’ teats, you can make a more informed decision rather than just taking a stab in the dark.”

Hand-held mastitis detector arrives in UK JEarly detection of sub-clinical mastitis is now possible with a hand-held device from Northern Dairy Equipment. The company has just been appointed UK distributor of the Mas-D-Tech analyser used extensively in the States for the early detection of mastitis in cows. The device measures the

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**DF Dec p42 Upton.indd 2

conductivity of a small milk sample taken straight from the udder and gives an indication of whether sub-clinical mastitis is present or not. If detected the affected quarter should be sprayed for three consecutive days with a special lotion (or cream) which is sold separately. It is claimed that catching cases early with the Mas-D-

Tech will help stem the infection and prevent the case turning chronic and necessitating the use of antibiotics. Routine testing Cows should be routinely tested three days after calving, at drying off, in cases of high scc or btscc, and when any new cows are introduced into the herd.

Price for the Mas-DTech is £375. The lotion spray costs £49 per 50 cows and the cream £29 for 30 cows.

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 10:38


DECEMBER 2017 DF_12_P43.indd 3

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MILKING

New approach for finding e Missed udder infections and subsequent missed treatments are costing dairy farmers dearly, but a new detection device currently under development could end all that. Chris McCullough reports.

A

Canadian company is now addressing the issue of udder infections and is working with its own detection system which is claimed to accurately detect any changes in the mammary system. EIO Diagnostics has come up with a new system which scans udders in the parlour, either via a mounted scanner in robotic milking systems or a hand-held device, and relays the images to a screen where infections can be identified easier. The company claims its solution detects these infections dramatically sooner, and cheaper, than any other approach currently on the market. It uses a technique known as multispectral imaging which detects udder abnormalities as they form. Animals which are affected by harmful pathogens, even at Somatic Cell Count (SCC) levels which are generally considered sub-clinical, can then be identified by farmers. Being able to identify a Staphylococcus aureus infection, even when a standard SCC test is showing levels below 200,000, gives farmers an effective tool for minimising production losses.

EIO diagnostics sensor is positioned at the other side of the robot stall at Balme Ayr Farms.

The hand-held device, which is about the size and shape of a small tablet, can tell the health of an udder in less than one second. Used in bigger automated milking parlours, the mounted device identifies and monitors cows as they enter the milking stall or robot. It integrates with DeLaval VMS or Lely Astronaut robotic milkers and can also be integrated with automated feeders, leveraging existing animal identification systems.

One of the mounted sensors in its protective casing.

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The brains behind the detection system is Cory Spencer, who started EIO off in the barns of his Happy Goat Cheese Company in the Cowichan Valley, Canada. Concept Cory is a goat cheesemaker and had experienced a mastitis problem with one of his 100 goats. With his neighbour Damir Wallener, a proof of concept solution was brought to life over the spring and summer seasons of 2017.

Damir is the chief executive officer of EIO and said the interest the company is receiving from farmers indicates their system is unique. He says: “From the intense interest we are receiving from actual dairy farmers, the answer has to be no, there are no similar systems on the market. “There are automated SCC and electroconductivity devices available, but they share the problem of trying to identify udder infections

EIO diagnostics sensor scanning udder on this robotic milker.

DECEMBER 2017

**DF Dec p44 45 Milking AUTO MAS.indd 2

15/11/2017 10:42


MILKING

g early stage udder infection by measuring something indirectly related to the actual infections. “No other product also works with dry cows or pre-calving animals that don’t regularly pass through the milking parlour,” he adds. The EIO Diagnostics system is currently being tested in several commercial dairy barns on Vancouver Island, using both goats and cows. The company is also preparing for its first large scale deployments, one in New Zealand and one in Wisconsin. EIO says it prices the system on a service model rather than individual hardware sales, and each system will differ on the number of scanners required. “It very much depends on the usage model and milking parlour style,” says Damir. “For the same size herd, a rotary milking platform

needs fewer devices than, for example, a double 12. “EIO manages all the hardware, software, updates and maintenance, for a fixed price, with no surprises. For goat dairies, the pricing is £2.29 ($3) per month, per goat tested. For cows, it is £3.82 ($5) per month per cow. From the farm’s perspective, by reducing per-animal lab tests, or saving just one bulk tank from being dumped, the service pays for itself very quickly.” Spectrum Once the device visualises an udder, it takes a number of measurements from various parts of the spectrum. These are run through a complex mathematical model, generating a pass or fail signal. “This takes less than a second,”

Cory Spencer with sensor.

says Damir. “The measurements are also pushed to EIO’s software cloud, where they are combined with all the other imaging done at all the other barns. “Over time, improved models are pushed back down to the devices, allowing every farm to learn from what is happening on every other farm. “The system can send emails,

text messages, and it can use messaging apps or update a cloudbased dashboard. Basically, any internet-dependent communication channel is either supported or easy for us to add. “Over the next couple of months, in partnership with a highly regarded university dairy science program, we will publish fully quantified results showing how well our detection matches up with actual pathogen tests. “The system is in commercial deployment with select customers. Right now we have the capacity for perhaps two or three more customers, with general release planned for fall of 2018. “The test deployments are in Canada. The first commercial deployments, happening right now, are in New Zealand and the United States,” Damir adds.

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p44 45 Milking AUTO MAS.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

45 17/11/2017 10:22


MILKING A Pembrokeshire family has created a 21st Century dairy farm to cope with the expanded herd and plan ahead for the next generation. Debbie James reports.

Milking time cut by half with new rotary

S

eimon and Eleanor Thomas have grown their herd of pedigree Dairy Shorthorns to 730 cows over the last 20 years, making it one of the largest registered Dairy Shorthorn herds in the UK. But as numbers increased, milking became a drudge, as it was taking 12 hours a day to milk 600 cows in a 12-unit double-up parlour. So with Seimon and Eleanor’s two children, 22-year-old twins Sion and Hanna, joining them in the

business, it was time for a rethink. Upgrading to a 70-point rotary was a significant investment, but it has enabled the family to slash milking times by more than 50% and improve the way they manage the herd. Alongside a purpose-built calf rearing shed with capacity for 200 calves, they have created a modern system which makes dairy farming more appealing all round. Seimon, who is the third generation to farm at 700-acre Drysgolgoch, Llwyndrain, says:

“These days, you need to make farming more attractive for young people. No-one wants to spend 12 hours a day in the parlour. “In the old parlour, we were milking 600 cows and it was taking us an hour to milk 100. We can now milk 300 in an hour.” Adapting Cows adapted quickly to the state-of-the-art Dairymaster Swiftflo rotary parlour. Seimon says: “We had one or two cows which were fidgety in

the old parlour, but they were settled on the rotary. “I think it is because they are on the move and they have their individual stalls, which makes them more relaxed during milking time.” The hi-tech milking equipment includes touchpad technology, which displays important information such as milk yield, milking time and somatic cell count data. It can also display if a cow is on heat and flags up freshly calved cows so colostrum can be diverted. The rotary is fitted with automatic

The Thomas family’s new 70-point rotary parlour.

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**DF DEC p46 48 THOMAS rotary .indd 2

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 10:43


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MILKING cluster removers and automatic teat sprayers, and the Thomas family has also incorporated the MooMonitor+ health and fertility monitoring package into their parlour. Seimon says: “All bulling cows are drafted automatically and it also picks up cows which aren’t very well.” A 31,000-litre Dairymaster milk tank allows for further expansion, although there are no plans to increase the herd beyond 800 cows, because the grazing platform would not support greater numbers. Cows produce an average annual milk yield of 6000 litres at 4.2% butterfat and 3.5% protein, with milk sold to Freshways on a liquid contract. Milk is produced from forage with up to 6kg/day of concentrates fed in the parlour. The herd is split into two blocks: 60% calving in spring, and the remainder in autumn. Sion says the breed is a good match for the farm’s grass-based system: “The Dairy Shorthorn is very good at converting grass into milk, as they graze well and look after themselves. They suit this farm. “Milk producers have got to be

Hanna (left) and Eleanor Thomas.

efficient. You have to have cows which are going to produce for you. “If you have to throw too much feed at them and they do not

No-one wants to spend 12 hours a day in the parlour Seimon Thomas

Seimon Thomas.

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DAIRY FARMER

**DF DEC p46 48 THOMAS rotary .indd 4

produce, you are in trouble. Grass is the cheapest feed, but cows have got to utilise it.” Cows are culled mainly for poor fertility and lameness, but foot health has improved significantly since changes were made by laying one-and-a-half miles of artificial grass on the surface of tracks. In addition to family labour, the business employs two full-time workers. Eleanor and Hanna are in charge of calf rearing. Calves are reared on-farm, with heifers retained for breeding and bulls sold at market or privately at about three weeks. Unfortunately, the herd has been subject to TB movement restrictions since May.

Good colostrum management is the foundation of the calf rearing system. All colostrum is collected and calves are bottle-fed four to five litres within the first hour after they are born. Powder Eleanor says: “If there is plenty of colostrum, they will have another feed. If not, they will have it mixed with second or third milkings for three days. After this, they have powder mixed with milk from second, third or fourth milkings after calving. We use a skimmed milk-based powder, because it mixes well with milk.” The parlour is fitted with a transfer line, which pumps milk directly into holding units in the calf shed. A mobile milk tank then heats, pasteurises and accurately dispenses milk into a multi-teat feeder, according to age and number of calves in the group. Investment in the new infrastructure co-incided with one of the most challenging periods for the dairy industry, but with prices now at a more sustainable level, the family is optimistic for the future.

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 10:45


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16/11/2017 15:49


MUCK & SLURRY Despite having his own home-grown supply of straw, Somerset producer Alistair Hardwick believes that sand produces the ideal cubicle bedding for his high yielding Holstein herd. Debbie James reports.

Cubicle sand helps boost lying time for top yielders

A

separation system is allowing a Somerset dairy farm with an annual throughput of 1500 tonnes of sand bedding to remove this material from slurry to prevent settlement in storage, and to control the nutrients spread onto the land. Alistair and Jill Hardwick were using straw from their arable enterprise coupled with mattresses as bedding for their 350-cow high yielding Holstein herd at Church Farm, Stanton Prior, west of Bath. But in 2010, a decision was made to upgrade cow housing. “We had been operating in a 1960s shed and the dimensions weren’t suitable for cow cubicles,’’ Mr Hardwick recalls. “The cubicle design and ventilation were not appropriate for a modern system so we either had to modernise or give up dairying.’’ The Hardwicks opted for the former and investigated all the possibilities with support from Tim McKendrick, a dairy specialist with the Dairy Group. “We looked at all the possibilities and initially we thought we would carry on with mattresses and straw because we had good availability of straw from our arable operation,’’ says Mr Hardwick. “However, Tim persuaded me to consider sand and after a while I came round to his way of thinking and left the design to him.” The new facility has three pens of 100 cubicles under one roof, with deep bedded sand in the stalls and rubber matting in the feed passages. An important element of the design brief was a system for sep-

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**DF Dec p50 51 M&S SAND.indd 2

Sand bedding encourages Alistair Hardwick’s cows to lie in the cubicle stalls for longer periods.

arating the sand from manure and liquids, and there was plenty to go at as the high yielding herd is fully housed and uses five tonnes of sand per cow per year. Wellbeing “Sand is perfect for cows to lie on and great for their wellbeing, but once the cow has finished with it everything about it is difficult. We had to find a system that would minimise those difficulties,’’ says Mr Hardwick. The system at Church Farm revolves around a series of settlement lanes and tanks for storing the liquid and the fibrous part of the manure, but first all the waste passes over a separator manufactured by NC Engineering. Passages are scraped with a tractor and scraper, and the waste deposited in a slurry channel. Dairy washings are used to flush the channel into a reception pit.

At that point, the waste passes over the separator. This is a simple piece of equipment with brushes and rollers for separating sand and liquid from the fibrous part of the manure. The sand and liquid drops into a three-lane settlement area and in here it is kept moving by gravity. “It continually moves in a snakelike fashion and the sand drops into the bottom of the settlement lanes,’’ Mr Hardwick explains. The separated water is stored in a circular tank and pumped into an above-ground store and spread on the land either using an umbilical system or a slurry tanker. The wedge-shaped settlement lanes fill with sand every two weeks at which point they are cleaned out. The manure is pumped out once a week because there is limited storage under the separator. The sand and fibrous material are stored in separate areas and

spread on the farmland when appropriate. Some farmers have abandoned separation systems because parts need replacing frequently which is both expensive and inconvenient, but Mr Hardwick says there is only one part in his set-up that needs to be replaced often. “The slurry is pumped from the reception pit to the above ground tank, a distance of four metres. The impeller on this needs replacing four times a year.’’ While Mr Hardwick once took some convincing of the advantages of sand bedding, he is now one of its greatest advocates. “Most people make the connection between sand and mastitis prevention and that is very much the case, but from our point of view its major benefit is that it encourages cows to lie down more,’’ he says. Which is important for this Holstein herd which produces a

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 15:06


MUCK & SLURRY

Brushes and rollers in the separator remove the sand and liquid from the fibrous part of the manure, and the sand settlement lanes are cleaned out every two weeks.

Waste sand is currently spread onto land when appropriate but Mr Hardwick hopes to eventually recycle it and re-use as bedding.

milk yield average of 12,000 litres on a level profile, with 300 cows in milk at any given time. Cell counts range between 120,000 and 150,000 cells/ml. “Cows don’t get swollen hocks so lameness has greatly reduced, cows stay cleaner and in seven years we have only had one heifer that has refused to lie down in the cubicles,” he adds. Mr McKendrick says research

can’t be grown – and it takes its toll on machinery. But at Church Farm the end goal is to recycle the sand to reuse as bedding. “If it was straw or sawdust we wouldn’t think of recycling it but because it is sand it can be washed and reused,’’ says Mr Hardwick. “Because we can re-use it, and some are showing that it is possible to do so, then why not.’’

indicates the softer the bed, the less chance there is of physical injury and damage to hocks and knees. Happier “Cows are happier getting up and down on sand and there is a benefit to feet as cows slip less.’’ The cost is competitive at around £17/tonne, but a downside of sand is that it is a finite resource – unlike woodchip and straw it

For obvious reasons it needs to be dried before being suitable for re-use and this is the stumbling block to the Hardwicks investing in a high-cost recycling system. “It works in systems in North America because the climate is different to ours, but we will hold off going down this route until we can see that it is being used successfully in our more temperate and wetter climatic conditions,’’ declares Mr Hardwick.

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DAIRY FARMER

51 15/11/2017 15:10


MUCK & SLURRY One Welsh producer has dramatically enhanced the nutrient value of his farmyard manure by adopting a methodical approach to storage. Debbie James reports.

Simple approach will double potash levels

T

he nutrient value of stored farmyard manure can be increased considerably by turning and covering it. This approach has been shown to double potash values and significantly increase phosphorous levels during a Farming Connect trial at a Pembrokeshire farm. The Miles family – Gerald, Ann and their son Cazz – use composted manure from their herd of Welsh Black cattle to grow cereals and vegetables at Caerhys, near St Davids. Until this year, they had stored manure uncovered and there were no interventions whatsoever until it was spread on the land. The family was keen to establish if nutrient values could be enhanced if the manure was treated differently, and they participated in a trial through their work as a Farming Connect focus farm. With advice from ADAS horticulture specialist Chris Creed, manure was covered with plastic sheeting and the heap turned every month, and to give some comparison, a second heap of manure acted as a control. Covering manure prevents leaching of valuable nutrients and reduces nitrogen losses from gaseous ammonia. Turning the heap causes it to heat to a higher, more even, temperature throughout. The ideal temperature is 60degC,

52

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**DF DEC p52 MILES Compost.indd 2

Cazz Miles (pictured with trial and control compost) says composted manure is farming’s most valuable by-product.

as this will kill weeds and most pathogens. Introducing oxygen enhances microbial activity, which breaks down the particle size of the manure, rendering nutrients more available in soil. The results of the trial showed not only was the potash value in the covered heap double that of the control, at 5.99kg/ tonne freshweight compared to 2.73kg, but the phosphorous was much higher too, at 3.71kg compared to 2.8kg. The magnesium value was also greater, at 1.9kg/t freshweight compared to 1.49kg. Enhancing nutrients in manure is of benefit to all farmers,

regardless of their system, Chris says, and by analysing their compost farmers can apply it at the correct rate for the crop being grown. Cover Gerald says: “Farmers always spread manure at 10t/acre, then find they have run out. By taking time and a little effort to manage manure, we can produce good manure which will cover a far greater area on-farm.” Cazz believes composted manure is the most valuable by-product of farming: “It is an asset we should all really manage better to fertilise our farms.”

At Caerhys, manure is used in the production of heritage varieties of corn and also vegetables grown for a Community Supported Agriculture boxed vegetable scheme. A Farming Connect nutrient management plan provided soil analysis of growing areas and polytunnels at Caerhys, and showed some have a potash and phosphorous index of 3, equivalent to values more commonly associated with high input systems. Chris says: “It is tremendous to see these levels on an organic farm and it demonstrates what is possible in a self-contained system.”

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DAIRY 27.09.16 53 12:57 FARMER 17/11/2017 11:51


MUCK & SLURRY

Reap benefits of keeping c Slurry disposal can be a costly affair, so one Devon producer decided to make less of it by keeping all clean water out of the dirty water system. Debbie James reports.

A

beyond maximising milk producto divert rainwater away from the t Taylor’s Down slurry system, which prevents more Farm, Devon, dairy tion, as he can now divert rainwater which falls onto the shed into than 5000cu metres of clean water farmer Alistair from entering the system. Vanstone estimates local watercourses. Previously, because rainwater Mr Vanstone says: “I have roofing his cow landed onto a dirty yard, it had calculated the amount of clean feeding area has reduced slurry to go into his slurry lagoon. water we are now capturing is as volume by more than half. Managing slurry and dirty water much as one-and-a-half times the Mr Vanstone, who milks 186 We have a solution for you! had been a key issue and, because volume of the lagoon. dairy cows, invested £56,000 in of the farm’s sloping aspect, it “This was water we previously measures to protect his herd from had to cart around the countryside, rain and to slash the volume of waste would have been costly to expand the slurry pit capacity from the which had diluted the concentration destined for his slurry lagoon. existing one million litres. and value of our slurry.” The farm is located on the edge By keeping as much clean of Dartmoor, where average annual water as possible out of the slurry rainfall is 60in (1520mm). Savings system, the pit does not need to During wet periods, Mr He estimates that roofing the be emptied as often, and the slurry Vanstone’s cows would eat less yard has saved him £1400/year in is more valuable as a fertiliser.One Shot System and Sand also wasted feed, so he decided spreading and irrigation costs, while Cannon System Mr Vanstone also fitted gutters to cover the feeding area. fitting gutters and downspouts to all The benefits of this have extended and downspouts on all buildings buildings has generated further savings of £4750. He says: “Rainwater which BED BED WITH WITH SAND? SAND? We have have a solution a solution for you! for you! lands on buildings is diverted into BEDWeWeWeWITH WITH SAND? BED SAND? BED WITH SAND? haveaasolution solutionfor foryou! you! have We have a solution for you! the clean water system, which disBED BED WITH WITH SAND? SAND? We have We have a solution a solution for you! for you! charges to several ditches, rather than draining into the dirty water system.” Mr Vanstone invested £26,000 SandSand Cannon Cannon System System One One ShotShot System System to roof the feed area, but other work SandCannon CannonSystem SystemSystem Sand One Shot System Sand Cannon System One Shot System One Shot System Sand Cannon One Shot System associated with the project, includSand Sand Cannon Cannon System System One Shot One System Shot System laying concrete, increased the Sand Cannoning System Sand Cannon System total cost to £56,000. He calculates the investment has a 10-year payback, but said No matter what the challenge is of your there are benefits in addition to sand separation requirements.... reducing slurry volume. 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DAIRY FARMER

The cow feeding area was previously exposed to cold winds and rain direct from Dartmoor Alistair Vanstone is outdoors, but the Holstein is a soft breed. When it is raining, she doesn’t like eating as much and there is more food waste. “The cow feeding area was previously exposed to cold winds and rain direct from Dartmoor, but enclosing this area has reduced feed wastage and improved animal health.” Mr Vanstone said he would encourage farmers considering a similar investment to spend time at the planning stage before committing money to capital projects. Consent Extending an existing store will need consent from the Environment Agency, or its equivalent, if storage capacity is to be increased, irrespective of the size of expansion. Planning permission may also be needed if the dimensions of an above ground store are being changed. Any major expansion

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has been made in spreading costs rCows have wasted less feed since the feeding area was covered.

DECEMBER 2017

**DF DEC p54 55 VANSTONE Clean water.indd 2

17/11/2017 12:03


MUCK & SLURRY

g clean water out of lagoon means any pre-1991 construction has to meet current Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil regulations. Another consideration is that extending an existing store, such as a steel tower, can reduce its structural integrity, which can invalidate the warranty, thereby breaching regulations. It could therefore be more expensive to extend an existing store than to build a new one. For many farms, it is not so much the volume of slurry produced which puts pressure on a store, but the volume of water needing to be collected. As Mr Vanstone has demonstrated, measures to prevent this water from becoming contaminated can be a cheaper solution than replacing or improving storage.

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**DF Dec p56 57 58 Milk Prices.indd 2

DECEMBER 2017

Prices hold as trade steadies JWith dairy commodity prices reversing sharply over the last couple of months, milk price increases have slowed dramatically as milk buyers start to take a more cautious approach to forward milk pricing. Unfortunatley, the decline in markets is at such levels the reporting of milk price cuts may not be too far down the track. At the moment, it is fair to say no milk buyer wants to be the first to have to announce a negative move, which means more than likely prices will hold for 2017 allowing suppliers to at least enjoy their Christmas festivities. But heading towards the New Year, January milk pricing will likely be a different picture. The UK’s second largest milk buyer Arla Foods, following its increase for Oct’17, has confirmed a price hold for Nov’17. The company says it expects milk volume to increase moving into 2018 and this, coupled with increased activity in global markets from non-European players, means that commodity markets are now in balance, bringing some softness into commodity prices in Europe. The company’s price hold still maintains our manufacturing

standard at a forward leading price of 32.30ppl with 31.05ppl on our liquid standard right up there as well. Both prices include the company’s current forecast 13th payment of 0.836ppl and 0.805ppl respectively. Currently we still have some price increases trickling in as some buyers look to maintain price competitiveness. One of these is Dairy Crest Davidstow which has confirmed a further increase to see out the year with an increase of 0.5ppl from Dec’17. This increase is the fourth consecutive monthly increase, taking the total level of price increases for 2017 to 6ppl. This is made up from eight price movements through the year, including the penny cuts for June and July, and takes our manufacturing standard litre* up to 32.0ppl. The same level of price increase for our liquid standard litre* takes the price up to 30.92ppl. Other milk buyers have increased prices, mainly for Nov’17, and include Paynes Farm Dairies which has increased by 0.5ppl to take our liquid standard up to 30.5ppl. In addition, Blackmore Vale Farm Cream is increasing 0.75ppl to 30ppl.

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

15/02/2017 08:25

16/11/2017 13:58


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

News in brief... Morrisons joins milk price table

Freshways rise for November

JThis month our milk price league reports on milk prices paid for Aug’17, and with it we have the Arla Foods Morrisons prices reported for the first time. Starting from Aug’17 our Arla producer in UK Arla Farmers-Morrisons pool receives a 0.96ppl premium above the standard UKAF price (also having to adhere to the Arlagarden criteria) for meeting the required Morrisons welfare standards, while our producer in the segregated grazing pool receives an additional premium of 0.23ppl. Including the applicable forecast 13th payments, our two prices report Aug’17 at 29.80ppl and 30.03ppl respectively.

JHaving previously confirmed a guaranteed minimum milk price increase of 1ppl for Oct’17 supplies, Freshways actual increase for the month came in at 1.17ppl to 30.17ppl. In addition, the company has confirmed a further 0.4ppl to be added from Nov’17, taking our liquid standard up to 30.57ppl. This latest increase represents a total gain of 5.52ppl from seven price movements with one month of the year still remaining. The company’s Open Market Price (B price) for an individual’s supplied litres over profile was 35.02ppl, with Sept’17 confirmed at a very competitive level of 36.41ppl.

Winter premium JSouth Caernarfon has started paying suppliers a new 0.5ppl winter premium on all litres supplied for the period Nov’17 through to the end of Feb’18. Although this premium falls outside the parameters for inclusion in our manufacturing standard litre, even at its current price level of 31.03ppl, the additional income will no doubt be welcomed support for producers this winter.

Wensleydale lift JWensleydale Creamery increased its milk price by 0.75ppl from Nov’17, and following the 1ppl from Sept’17, this latest rise takes the company’s total level of increase to 5.1ppl for the year to date. Our manufacturing standard litre goes up to 31.20ppl, with our liquid standard litre increasing by the same amount to 30.25ppl.

DECEMBER 2017 **DF Dec p56 57 58 Milk Prices.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

57

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Maintaining a good milking routine and protecting your herd from harmful bacteria is imperative to producing high quality, clean milk. Here at Genus ABS we constantly strive to improve our Valiant udder care range and we’re pleased to announce that Valiant Foam-Ultra is our new and improved pre-milking product which offers these fantastic benefits: • 21 day stability - once mixed, it’s ready to use for up to 21 days! • Specially developed Chlorine Dioxide - disinfects from the moment it’s applied, even in the presence of >20% organic matter. • Surfactants - cut through organic matter. • Unique combination of skin conditions humectants, emollients and exfoliants (Hex-3). • A new fresh pepperment smell. • Also available in wipe format.

Contact us to today to find out more about our NEW Valiant Foam-Ultra

Telephone: 0870 162 2000 www.genusbreeding.co.uk

17/11/2017 11:32


MILK PRICES Latest milk prices from

LIQUID PRICES (4% b/f & 3.3% prot) Müller Milk Group – Booths Müller Milk Group – Waitrose ∞ Müller Milk Group – M&S ∞ Müller Milk Group – Tesco Arla Foods – Tesco Müller Milk Group – Sainsbury’s Arla Foods – Sainsbury’s UK Arla Farmers – Tesco Müller Milk Group – The Co-op Dairy Group Crediton Dairy Dale Farm NI ≠ Dale Farm GB (Kendal) UK Arla Farmers – Morrisons (Grazing) Yew Tree Dairy UK Arla Farmers – Morrisons Blackmore Vale Farm Cream Paynes Farms Dairies UK Arla Farmers – Liquid Meadow Foods Meadow Foods Lakes Freshways Grahams Dairies Pensworth Dairy Müller Milk Group – Müller Direct First Milk – Scottish Mainland Balancing First Milk – Midlands & East Wales Balancing Simple Average Simple Average (excl. retail contracts) MANUFACTURING PRICES (4.2% b/f & 3.4% prot) Barber A.J & R.G Wyke Farms D.C – Davidstow ∞ The Fresh Milk Company – Level Profile ‡ First Milk – Haverfordwest First Milk – Haverfordwest Tesco Cheese Group Wensleydale Dairy Products The Fresh Milk Company (Lactalis) UK Arla Farmers – Manufacturing South Caernarfon Glanbia – Llangefni (Constituent) Belton Farm First Milk – Lake District Solids Arla Foods – Direct Manufacturing Simple Average ‘B’ Price Indicators FCStone/Milkprices.com UKMFE (gross) FCStone/Milkprices.com UKMFE (net) Delivered spot milk (net to the producer)

Jul’17 4.0/3.3 Before Seas’lty

Aug’17 4.0/3.3 Before Seas’lty

12mth Ave Sept’16 Aug’17

Diff Aug’17 v Jul’17

Latest Confirmed Milk Price

(i) 30.50 30.29 30.08 29.37 29.12 27.97 27.85 29.45 27.91 28.50 29.04 27.74 28.03 27.50 28.03 27.50 27.45 28.03 27.15 27.15 27.12 26.25 26.50 26.19 25.49 25.80 27.92 27.16

(ii) 30.50 30.12 30.08 29.58 29.33 27.97 27.85 30.23 28.41 28.50 30.84 28.74 30.03 29.00 29.80 27.50 28.45 28.82 28.15 28.15 28.40 27.75 27.25 27.69 26.39 26.70 28.70 28.16

(iii) 30.54 30.27 29.58 28.93 28.68 27.61 27.49 27.07 26.89 26.86 26.11 25.94 25.76 25.75 25.74 25.71 25.70 25.65 25.54 25.54 25.39 24.90 24.74 24.54 24.10 24.02 26.50 25.37

(i) v (ii) N/C -0.17 N/C 0.21 0.21 N/C N/C 0.79 0.50 N/C 1.80 1.00 2.00 1.50 1.77 N/C 1.00 0.79 1.00 1.00 1.28 1.50 0.75 1.50 0.90 0.90 1.01 0.99

(iv) 31.10 30.92 30.44 29.45 29.20 28.21 28.09 32.47 29.39 31.00 31.34 29.49 32.26 30.00 32.03 30.00 30.50 31.05 31.00 31.00 30.57 29.75 30.00 30.50 29.09 29.40 30.32 30.31

29.91 29.66 28.00 29.05 28.19 28.19 28.45 28.47 29.17 28.53 28.00 28.00 27.42 27.04 28.44

29.91 29.66 28.00 29.05 28.73 28.73 29.45 28.47 29.98 29.28 29.00 29.00 27.93 28.08 28.95

28.38 28.19 27.47 27.28 26.90 26.90 26.80 26.70 26.69 26.59 26.43 26.21 25.91 24.48 26.78

N/C N/C N/C N/C 0.54 0.54 1.00 N/C 0.82 0.75 1.00 1.00 0.52 1.03 0.80

31.19 31.22 32.00 30.61 30.57 32.07 31.20 30.03 32.30 31.03 31.00 30.75 30.45 30.16 30.89

37.60 33.72 33.95

39.49 35.81 35.35

31.66 28.08

1.89 2.09 1.40

Notes to table Prices for both Liquid & Manufacturing tables paid for producer sending 1mltrs/yr on EODC with Bactoscans of 30,000/ml and SCCs of 200,000/ml. Prices exclude capital retentions or AHDB levies, seasonality, balancing and A&B price schemes. Excludes annual/part annual growth incentive schemes not directly linked to dairy market price movement. Liquid price for milk containing 4% b/f and 3.3% protein. Manufacturing price for milk containing 4.2%/b/f and 3.4% prot. (i) Jul’17 prices before seasonality or B pricing. (ii) Aug’17 prices before seasonality or B pricing. (iii) Table ranked on simple rolling 12mth average of monthly prices from Sept’16 to Aug’17 before seasonality or B pricing. (i) v (ii) The difference Aug’17 prices compared with Jul’17. UK Arla Farmers prices include forecast 13th payment +0.77ppkg (+0.785ppl) based on our liquid standard litre. UK Arla Farmers prices include forecast 13th payment +0.80ppkg (+0.816ppl) based on our manufacturing standard litre. Müller Milk Group – Müller Direct standard price quoted before monthly supplements which for Aug’17 and being the final payment was +0.167ppl. First Milk Haverfordwest includes Tesco Cheese Group Premium of +0.67ppl for Aug’17. Fresh Milk Company price before Morrisons monthly cheese supplement +0.042ppl for Aug’17. ∞ Price includes 12mth rolling profile payment fixed at 1.15ppl. ‡ Price includes 12mth average rolling profile fixed at 0.57ppl. UK Milk Futures Equivalent (UKMFE) net to producer includes 5% processor margin and allowing 2ppl ex-farm haulage + milk testing. Average delivered spot milk price net to producer allows an average 2.5ppl covering haulage from farm to customer + milk testing/admin and margin. (iv) Latest confirmed milk price (before seasonality or B pricing) at the time of going to press. N/C in this context means no change announced moving forward from Aug’17. UK Arla Farmers 1.51ppl increase from Oct’17 includes forecast 13th payment +0.82ppkg (+0.836ppl) based on manufacturing std litre. UK Arla Farmers 1.44ppl increase from Oct’17 includes forecast 13th payment +0.79ppkg (0.805ppl) based on liquid std litre. Yew Tree increase of 1ppl effective from the 15th Oct’17. Fresh Milk Company price of 27.5ppl from Jan’17 is guaranteed minimum price for 2017. Fresh Milk Company announced 1.5ppl increase spread over 2mths (Oct’17 +1.0ppl / Nov’17 +0.5ppl). Barber announced increase of 1.28ppl spread over 2mths (Oct’17 +0.77ppl / Nov’17 + 0.51ppl). Müller Milk Group – Waitrose increase of 0.8ppl effective 14th Sept’17. All prices (excluding First Milk) are before monthly retail supplements. First Milk Haverfordwest Tesco Cheese Group price quoted as a dedicated group price commencing Sept’17. Milkprices.com cannot take any responsibility for losses arising. Copyright: Milkprices.com

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**DF Dec p56 57 58 Milk Prices.indd 4

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 10:56


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DAIRY MARKETPLACE

NEW products Advances in sexed genetics JIntelliGen, formerly known as Genus Sexed Semen, is the global brand behind the technology which enabled Genus ABS Global to launch Sexcel Sexed Genetics. According to the company the IntelliGen Technologies process to develop sexed bovine genetics does not subject cells to high pressures, electric currents and shear forces. The result is a product which helps customers maximise their profitability and reach their end goals in a fast and efficient manner, the company says. For example, the launch of Sexcel in India last month now helps dairy farmers add more females to their herd and increase the supply of high quality milk. Bull calves, while unwanted by the producer, are considered sacred in the Hindu religion and therefore cannot be sent for slaughter. This results in an overpopulation of unwanted bovines and economic hardship on producers. The company says that the availability of IntelliGen Technologies to others in the industry creates a competitive marketplace for sexed genetics technology. ■ Details on www.genusplc.com.

60

DAIRY FARMER

This month, we take a look at the improved Gator range, real time dairy updating and a brand new milk dump bucket.

New Gator boasts big towing power

J

ohn Deere’s new full-size Gator utility vehicles offer the company’s quietest ever cab, more room for both driver and passengers, and an extremely efficient heating system. Available early next year, the new petrol XUV 835M and diesel XUV 865M models are being preceded this autumn by restyled HPX 815E, XUV 560E and XUV 590M Gators, which feature new model numbers and several specification updates. The 54hp XUV 835M and 23hp 865M offer power steering, a CVT transmission and a top speed of 37mph or 31mph (60kph or 50kph) respectively, plus a tight turning circle and optimal weight distribution for superior off-road performance. There are more than 90 attachments, from snow blades to winches, and the new models feature large

42-litre fuel tanks to keep them running longer between fill-ups. The spacious pressurised cab can accommodate three people for off-road use only, incorporating noise isolation and sound dampening. The heating system includes a windscreen defrost feature. The versatile and durable cargo box has a load capacity of 454kg,

while towing capacity has been increased by one-third to 907kg and total payload capacity is 680kg. The 815E’s updated cargo box has a load capacity of 454kg and both the sides and the tailgate, which has a pick-up style one-handed latch, can be easily removed to provide a flatbed-style load bay. ■ Details on www.johndeere.co.uk.

Major upgrade to NMR’s Herd Companion system JNMR’s web based dairy management system Herd Companion has seen a major upgrade, including real-time data entry and reporting. Producers can now add events, through a PC or tablet, onto their NMR system, eliminating duplicate data entry.

The information updates immediately on the NMR database and it will have real-time links with the dairy management systems UNIFORM and InterHerd+, improving efficiency and accuracy. New data security features are

also being introduced in the latest Herd Companion. Producers will control access to herd data by setting up specific access permissions rather than sharing login details and passwords. ■ Details on 03330 043 043, or www.nmr.co.uk.

DECEMBER 2017

**DF DEC p60 61 NEW PRODUCTS.indd 2

16/11/2017 14:03

Arable F


DAIRY MARKETPLACE

Livestock identification tag guide JA new livestock identification and tagging guide from Allflex helps farmers make better use of tag-derived animal data and monitoring intelligence. While the 32-page guide provides full details of the Allflex range of identification, monitoring and livestock intelligence products, it also contains a wealth of useful information on topics including the use of EID and tissue sampling tags to both monitor daily liveweight gains and assess disease status. It focuses on the benefits of tagging livestock from birth and looks at eartagging best practice. The guide provides information on how to incorporate

GOT A NEW T? UC PROD

tag-derived animal intelligence into whole herd and flock management software programmes, and is illustrated throughout with a selection of farm case studies. ■ Details on 01207 523 150.

New dump bucket connects to milk line JDairy Spares’ new Vaccar dump bucket is made of a strong polyethylene resin to withstand the ‘bumps and knocks’ of everyday use in the dairy parlour. It connects easily into the milking line and is ideal for isolating individual cow’s milk, eg for collecting colostrum. Capacity This robust dump bucket has a 30-litre capacity and comes with a two-nipple lid, suitable for 16mm milk tubing. It retails at £135 plus VAT. ■ Details on 01948 667 676, or www.dairyspares.co.uk.

New products are featured in each issue of Dairy Farmer. Please send details and pictures to Jennifer MacKenzie at mail@jennifermackenzie.co.uk, or call 07977 397 258.

Arable Farming_Tough 1 **DF DEC p60 61 NEW Times_Effiency_M5000_139x210.indd PRODUCTS.indd 3

14/11/2017 16/11/2017 16:39 14:02


WORKSHOP TIPS

WORKSHOP tips with Mike Donovan Mike Donovan looks at how to make a big bag handler which should prevent unloading mishaps.

Pallet fork can cut bag straps

F

armers do not realise All of these have sharp edges and minimal contact area with the bag of fertiliser the bag loop, particularly reversed they buy effectively becomes their property forks, which have been nicely sharpened on concrete floors. once it is no longer These can be so sharp on the lorry deck. So the £300 or so dangling in the loop does not mid-air belongs to even have to slide for the edge them and they face n r desig u to cut – the the consequences o y r o y b gf movement if it is dropped. rAsksinto be checkreisd a idea l inspecto it Yet I regularly of the bag is a a loc way to get see bags unloaded enough. It some d o e o g st tim cases it may not using bale spikes right fir and pallet forks, or damage the loop so even worse, pallet forks the bag fails on the journey from lorry to store, but will which are turned over so they wait for the next lift. can get under a curtain sider.

IP

TOP T

Solid job with wide struts and threading tubes through the frame gives added strength, but there is little to prevent tubes from bending sideways.

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**DF DEC p62 DONOVAN.indd 2

This design carries a single loop bag on the centre tine or a double loop on the two outer tines, and is mounted on a Zerrard frame.

I would not have a bag lifted with anything which was not round, even though there are some handlers commercially made using box section tines. Those few centimetres of loop are supporting up to 1000kg, which is increased when the loader lifts. A bag handler is not a hugely difficult thing to make and we have featured many in the past. You do not need massively thick tubing. However, you do need reasonable diameter tubes (I would say about 4in) and strong support struts (at least 14in). Struts need to be two-dimensional with something like angle iron. Then you will need extensive welds around the tine to make sure it is well anchored with strong loader brackets. Once completed, it should have a LOLER certificate which

gives it a safe working load (SWL). Inspectors are contactable online or in the Yellow Pages. Your local engineering company may well have someone qualified to inspect and certify your bag lifter. Finding a local inspector and asking for your design ideas to be checked out is a good way to get it right first time. SWL certificates are obligatory for all lifting equipment, including bale spikes and other machines, as obviously lifting a fertiliser bag has major safety implications.

About Mike r Mike is a machinery columnist offering tips on building or modifying farm equipment. Sign up for his free newsletter at www.farmideas.co.uk

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 11:56


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17:32


GOOD EVANS

GOOD

Evans

You can spot a dairy farmer from a mile off This month, Roger Evans tells us how he is coping with the late flush of autumn grass, awaits with bated breath the results of his latest TB test, and finally does a bit of people spotting as he mixes it with the locals in Ireland.

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**DF DEC p66 67 EVANS.indd 2

A

ll this will have changed by the time you read this, but I don’t think we have ever had so much grass at this time of year. Admittedly, the bulk of it is away from home and we are still bringing fresh grass home every day for low yielders. It was very tempting to cut it and bale it in plastic, but if you cut it all off you have to start feeding it fairly soon afterwards, so we hope to graze it off with dry cows and heifers. It is surprising how much it costs to bale and wrap late grass – it certainly costs more than it is worth to sell. There are big stacks of silage bales everywhere, so it needs a hard winter to have a bit of a clear out. Mind you, it has not been helped by being understocked. We lost 19 cattle a bit back with TB. They were mostly in-calf heifers which would all have been milking now. The problem was we were getting about 18ppl at the time. The compensation would not have bought you another in-calf heifer, not that it was an option as we were so short of money the compensation went towards paying the rent. As I say, I have never seen grass growing at this time of year like it is now. When you are cutting it every day, you cannot help but notice the speed of regrowth, even after a couple of days. Another thing which has been noticeable is the speed with which autumn-sown crops have germinated. I do not think I have ever seen them up so quick.

This has been a notable topic of conversation in the pub, but then some tractor drivers will tell you anything. I think it is to do with spending so much time on your own, but nevertheless, soil temperatures must be high. We are smack bang in the middle of a TB week. It is Wednesday today, we injected yesterday, so we will be reading on Friday. We have been clear since April, but I am not hopeful of passing again. There are farms shut down all about us, and more than 20 cattle went from a farm about two miles away very recently. I had thought we might go into an official cull area this year, but from snippets of conversation I hear, we are in an unofficial cull area. Farmers have had enough and if they take the law into their own hands, who can blame them. Certainly not me. Habit A small group of us locally have gotten into the habit of going to Ireland for a four-day break in autumn. Well twice might not yet be a habit, but it could be building to one. I don’t take my wife, as I couldn’t afford for both of us to go. This year we spent three nights in Killarney, which, if you want to meet Americans, is as good a place as any to go. This year we flew to Shannon for the first time. If you take an early flight you can, by 10am, be having a gigantic full Irish breakfast washed down with a pint of Guinness. That is probably as close to living the dream as it is

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 12:33


GOOD EVANS

I stopped outside watching the world going by, and there are few better places to do that than Ireland

possible to get. We took a sort of coast road from Shannon to Killarney and passed lots of well invested dairy farms. I could see the evidence, by how fields were cut, that several of them were doing the sort of zero grazing we are. Who knows, we could be doing something right for a change. I also saw lots of cows which had little stumpy tails about a foot long, which is not a practice we will ever adopt, as it is one which does them no credit. One day we drove around the Ring of Kerry. I have done it before, but it is always worthwhile. We stopped mid-morning in a small town and all the others went to browse in a shop. I don’t do shopping, well only charity shops if I need new work clothes, so I stopped outside watching the world going by, and there

are few better places to do that than Ireland. I see this man in overalls about to cross the road towards me. Immediately, I knew several things about him. I knew he had recently been milking cows, it was in a herringbone parlour, he did not have one of those big aprons you wear for milking, and his cows had been eating lush autumn grass. He was covered in the stuff. He had long hair which was full of it, and he had tried to wipe it off his face, but all he had done is smear it about. The rest of him had so much of the brown stuff on him it was actually dripping off. His traverse of the road brings him face-toface with me, where I am leaning on a road sign. I say “I reckon you are a dairy farmer.” He says: “Sure now, however did you know that?”

DECEMBER 2017 **DF DEC p66 67 EVANS.indd 3

DAIRY FARMER

67 15/11/2017 12:34


FINANCE Dairy farmers across the UK may be encouraged by the better milk prices, but any increasing profit brings greater tax liabilities. Mike Butler, of Old Mill accountants, looks at the best course of action to protect against increased tax bills.

Plan now to slash tax liability

It is essential farmers think about their tax planning now to protect themselves from a potentially hefty tax bill

A

verage UK milk prices reached more than 30ppl in September – a swing of at least 8p/litre when compared with 2016/17 averages. While this is very welcome news for dairy farmers, it will also put many into complete chaos in terms of tax. For example, in the case of a dairy farmer producing 2.5 million litres a year, an additional 8ppl – not taking into account other influencing factors – has the potential to deliver an additional £200,000 in profit. Though the dramatic price leap is obviously positive for the industry, farmers are at risk of a sharply increased tax liability. This situation could be compounded further if such profits were to continue into 2018/19. While we all hope price trends continue upwards, it is essential farmers think about their tax planning now to protect themselves

Expert opinion rWhile it may be easy to stick with what you have always done, this is a sure-fire recipe to end up paying more tax.

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**DF DEC p68 FINANCE.indd 2

from a potentially hefty tax bill at the end of the year. It is too late trying to save tax after the event. Fortunately, there are several options available to mitigate tax for those who act now. The first step is to forecast your profit position for the current year, which is something done quite easily. As most dairy farmers typically have a March 31 year-end, we are now already seven months through the current accounting year. By the end of December, we will have an even clearer idea of where the current year will end up. Profits If profits look set to reach higher than average levels, farmers who need to invest might consider offsetting Income Tax liabilities using the Annual Investment Allowance, which is a 100% up-front allowance for qualifying expenditure on plant and equipment up to the value of £200,000. Another option is to pay more into your pension, as it is an extremely tax-efficient way of saving for retirement, while also reducing Income Tax bills. Self-Invested Personal Pensions can also be a good tool for succession planning and funding future investment in the farm. Another way to minimise liabilities is to invest in an Enterprise Investment Scheme. This entails buying shares in a business, while also benefiting from 30% Income Tax relief. Schemes last three years, at which point they can be cashed

in, with any capital growth being tax-free. To reduce Income Tax bills without making any changes to the business or parting with hard-earned cash, for farmers trading as sole traders or partnerships, is to use the recently introduced five-year farmers averaging provisions, which enable producers to smooth profits and losses over a longer period than before. All sole traders and partners should be considering this, although if higher profits are sustained, the benefit will eventually run out, at which point more proactive planning will be needed. One such longer term option is to consider transferring the farming business into a limited company. This offers the potential for significant tax savings due to the 19% level of Corporation Tax against a potential 40% Income Tax rate. However, there are a number of other factors which need to be taken into consideration, including the impact on Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax, so it is vital to seek professional advice. Paying more While it may be easy to stick with what you have always done, this is a sure-fire recipe to end up paying more tax. To make the most of muchneeded higher profits we are seeing, farmers must strike while the iron is hot, reassess their business tax planning and invest the surplus wisely. n For more information contact Mike Butler on 01749 335 029.

DECEMBER 2017 15/11/2017 12:05


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in a British-built dual clutch 175hp New Holland T6 Dual clutch benefits | 4 cylinders | Low fuel consumption | Seamless operation | Multifunction joystick

To enter visit farmersguardian.com/nhcomp DF_12_IBC.indd 1 FG New Holland tractor comp ad Oct17 v5.indd 1

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NO ONE WAS EXPECTING THIS Treating mastitis with Metacam® also improves fertility 1

We’ve come to expect therapeutic efficacy and productivity benefits from Metacam. What we didn’t expect, until recently, were fertility benefits too. A new large-scale (over 500 cows) landmark study found that adding Metacam to standard antibiotic therapy for mastitis is associated with a greater first-service conception rate, fewer inseminations required to conceive and a higher probability of pregnancy by 120 days post-calving compared with cows receiving antibiotic therapy alone1. Expectations of Metacam treatment are changing. Are yours? Ask your vet if treating mastitis with Metacam could work for you.

Reference 1. McDougall et al (2016) Addition of meloxicam to the treatment of clinical mastitis improves subsequent reproductive performance. J Dairy Sci 99(3): 2026-2042. Advice on the use of Metacam 20mg/ml solution for injection of cattle, pigs and horses or other therapies should be sought from your veterinary surgeon. Metacam contains meloxicam. UK: POM-V IE: POM. Further information available in the SPC or from Boehringer Ingelheim Limited, Animal Health, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 8YS, UK. Email: vetenquiries@boehringer-ingelheim.com. Date of preparation: Aug 2017. AHD10246. Use Medicines Responsibly.

DF_12_OBC.indd 1 A4 SPS and DPS.indd 3 Metacam Cattle_farmer

09/11/2017 16:22 10:59 15/08/2017

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