British Dairying Gold Cup Comment: New shed leads to farm improvements

June has gone and it’s time to put pen to paper again.  I must start by congratulating Michael Eavis and his team at Worthy Farm for winning the 2014 RABDF Gold Cup Competition.  We look forward to the presentations at the Gold Cup open day coming from the pyramid stage.  Over 1,000  people combined with mud at our open day tested us but to Michael and his team this will be a walk in the park compared to the Glastonbury Festival, so good luck and enjoy the day!

So back to Wilderley.  The builders are flat out with the new cubicle shed.  Ground works are done, foundations are done and the kit building is laid out around the site.  Next week will see the frame go up and the roof go on.

The anticipation amongst staff and family is great as this shed will be a game changer for us.  Once completed it will give us another 184 deep sand cubicles, but also create a lot of change throughout the whole system.  It will release the cubicle shed next to the parlour for heifers at 12 to 17 months old.  The beds are just not long enough for cows.

Extra feed space for cows

We can finally knock down some old cow kennels that are well past their sell-by-date.  These will be replaced by extra feed trough space for cows returning from milking and also some big drive through foot baths instead of the small one outside the parlour door that causes a bottleneck and a lot of swearing!  We can also get rid of some Newton Rigg converted cubicles we use for bulling heifers, again not fit for purpose.   The added benefit of this will be extra air flow to the fresh cow cubicles next door.

All of these young stock will move onto a chopped straw and grass silage based TMR system and cut down on the constant group changes due to small bunches which is having an adverse affect on fertility.

On the nutrition front first cut grass was finally done in the first week of June.  There is plenty of fibre in it!  (Always look on the positive side).  We have just started feeding it and are very under whelmed.  We have reduced the maize back from 26kg/head to 20 kg/head and increased the grass silage to 14.5 kg.  We need to ease up on the maize to last till Christmas hopefully.

Following a full diet reformulation cows have eased back from over 39 litres to 37.5 to 38 litres.  But fat % has moved from the low 3.5% up to 3.8 %.  Interestingly we did the maths and despite an increase in butterfat yield on the lower litres, when you look at income per cow verses feed cost, the high milk/low fat route gave us an extra 30p/cow/day margin.  Not huge but it mounts up.


Careful transistion to first cut silage
Before we moved onto this years first cut Richard (nutritionist) said to keep a close eye on how they settled on to it.  He had seen some very unsettled cows and all that goes with it.  We took over a week to change from second cut 2013 but still got a few problems.  The worst being an RDA that led to complications and ultimately losing a very nice 2nd calver.  Nothing de-motivates us and the staff more than this.  We are very good at looking after ill cows, so all the more galling.

To summarise, first cut grass could do better!  This seems to be a common theme on most farms so it will be interesting to see where the winter milk production goes.  I know where I would put my money!

Now we have the Rotogrind to process straw we will go earlier on cutting the grass.  We will still look on the mature side but probably mid May instead of 20th–25th.  The processed straw is working very well in the dry cows that are now up to 7kg/head.

When straw was processed in the feeder wagon, at 5.5 kg/head, intake got a little too high and cows were getting fitter rather than maintaining condition in the dry period.  This caused a few problems in the fresh yards combined with some heat stress.

We have had one LDA and they’ve required more supportive care than is acceptable to us.  The nutrition of the dry cows is like driving a super tanker, by the time you realise that you need to turn it’s always too late.

This weekend has been very enjoyable as it was my old YFC clubs 70th anniversary ball.  It is always interesting to hear speakers from every decade talk about the skills and competitions they were involved in.  It was great to see people I’ve not seen in a long time and catch up with a drink or two.  For me YFC was about getting outside my comfort zone and having a go at anything from acting to pig judging, of all things.  I was very fortunate to win scholarships to study dairying in Japan and Israel.  These opened my eyes to what could be done.

Our last article next month will be a joint family effort.

The Higgins family were presented with the Chris May Memorial Award at the Livestock Event, for the herd with the highest average lifetime daily yield among Gold Cup qualifying herds.  It is the third time they have won the award in the last four years  Their 350 head pedigree Holstein herd produced 12,663kg of milk on three times a day milking and achieved an average lifetime daily yield for the herd of 18.42kg/day.  Pictured at the presentation above are (left to right) NMR chairman Philip Kirkham, Bill Higgins, Bill Higgins (senior), Andrew Higgins, RABDF president David Leaver and RABDF chairman of judges Lyndon Edwards.

The Higgins family were presented with the Chris May Memorial Award at the Livestock Event, for the herd with the highest average lifetime daily yield among Gold Cup qualifying herds.  It is the third time they have won the award in the last four years  Their 350 head pedigree Holstein herd produced 12,663kg of milk on three times a day milking and achieved an average lifetime daily yield for the herd of 18.42kg/day.  Pictured at the presentation above are (left to right) NMR chairman Philip Kirkham, Bill Higgins, Bill Higgins (senior), Andrew Higgins, RABDF president David Leaver and RABDF chairman of judges Lyndon Edwards.

Wilderley statistics for June
Cows in herd    353
Culls                    5
Dry (rolling)    11%
Youngstock    274
Litres/cow/day (3X milking)    39.2
Butterfat            3.53%
Protein            3.01%
SCC                   120
Bactoscan       33

Reprinted from the July 2014 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website