For Joanna Binnington’s 154-cow herd of pedigree Holsteins, allowing all members of the dairying team access to the same software has enabled targeted feed, health and cost improvements to be made, resulting in impressive performance statistics.Interherd was introduced in May 2006 at Thakeham Place Farm and is now in use by all those involved in the day-to-day management of the herd. “The integrated nature of both Herd Companion and Interherd is what makes them so effective in our situation,” believes Mrs Binnington. “Our vet, nutritionist and herd manager all have access to the same information, three to four days after milk recording takes place.”
Having supplied Marks & Spencers through Dairy Crest when the retailer decided to go down the GM free route, they have now been on the contract for seven years. “Our priority has always been to produce milk that meets our contract, which means adapting to what the market defines quickly.”
Run on 160ha (400 acres) of free draining greensand, homegrown forage includes maize, wholecrop spring wheat, first cut silage and second cut haylage providing both long fibre for the lactating and dry cow ration.
Rations are formulated for high milk yield and butterfats, as this is what the contract defines, explains Thakeham Place Farm’s nutritionist Neil Moorhen, feed product manager of Southern Valley Feeds. “Both highs and lows are fed in one group in the winter a basic ration of M+35, with in-parlour feeding topping up higher yielding cows, with a high of 62 litres a day. During summer, high yielders are kept in at night and are paddock grazed during the day, while low yielders are grazed 24 hours.”
Rolling lactation has averaged at 11,500 litres a cow for several years, with a more recent move towards a 40 day dry period and the herd on target to achieve an impressive 385 day calving interval.
“The objective is to have a flatter lactation, to both meet our contract requirements and maintain cow condition, an aspect which has been made easier through the use of Interherd,” believes Mr Moorhen, who has more than 20 clients now using the facility, at different levels.
“Both energy and lactation status are closely looked at, which identifies individual yield and milk quality and at a touch of a button we can calculate where alterations to the ration need to be made. I then adjust the blend accordingly and advise on the overall ration.”
In addition, the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) facility takes the paper chase out of analysing figures and puts the farm in a better position to measure performance against those with similar business characteristics. And this has revealed the Thakeham herd is currently in the top 5% producers for lifetime daily yield, while ranking high in calving interval, milk quality and SCC.
From a herd health perspective, using the Swift Cell Checker function allows any discrepancies to be identified soon after milk testing takes place, adds vet James Dixon. “Not only this but, through previously entered data, we can identify any treatment individual cows have had to date, helping target treatment far more effectively and efficiently. Repeat, chronic and new infections can all be highlighted, which has not only help us pick out culls, but also save money on treatment which isn’t needed.”
Because the herd block-calves, targeted mastitis prevention is vital and this is made considerably easier using the programme. “Somatic cell count status can be defined in blocks, including whole lactation, up to 99 days, 100-199 and 200 plus, meaning we can identify where incidence is concentrated.”
“Retrospectively, trends can be identified and preventative measures can be taken to avoid situations,” he adds. Fat and protein levels are also monitored by Mr Dixon and bloods are taken routinely in September and November to ensure condition.
There are so many different applications which we are still learning about, explains Mrs Binnington. Courses are offered free of charge, both to those involved entering data on-farm and those analysing data remotely.
And the cost of the system is more than worth it, she adds. “We paid £600 to buy the initial programme and pay £25 a month to fully integrate data. This includes as many courses as necessary. We have found it is beneficial to go on several, as there is so much it has to offer.”
Herd manager, Graham Tucker, enters all servicing data once a month and other data, such as mastitis incidence, on a more regular basis. “The most important thing is to write absolutely everything in the diary, so that when you come to update records everything can be inputted. We only have one person entering data so that it is more cohesive.”
|What is interherd?|
Interherd and Herd Companion are available to all dairy producers who milk-record with NMR, free of charge. This information can also be accessed by vets and consultants, providing they sign a permission form. To take advantage of the added facilities, such as Key Performance Indicators and Feed Monitor Plus, contact NMR (email@example.com 0870 162 2547).