A Welsh dairy co-operative’s attempt to improve the average protein percentage of 100m litres of milk it collects has achieved good results.

Four years ago South Caernarfon Creameries started an initiative to boost the yield and quality of cheese made at its Pwllheli plant, particularly between January and March.

In early 2005 milk averaged 3.22% protein compared with 3.18% in 2004. Producers sending milk above 3.23% protein picked up a 0.8p/litre bonus.

The 182 producer suppliers were encouraged to attend farm open days and evening technical meetings, says Peredur Williams, the co-op’s farms liaison manager.

It has involved working with the Welsh Assembly and EU funded Welsh Dairy Development Centre at Gelli Aur College, Carmarthen, the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Aberystwyth, and independent consultants.

“We had a tremendous response from members, encouraged by quality bonuses and the knowledge they will benefit financially if we make and sell better cheese.

We have taken a multi-pronged approach covering breeding, nutrition, grassland management and cow health.”

Mr Williams says the onus is to feed quality grass and conserved forages to cows.

So to help producers, the co-op provided free silage analysis and rationing advice.

He believes protein levels will continue to improve as crossbred heifers on members’ farms start milking.

“Thousands of semen straws, offered at competitive prices, have been used on the 18,000 cows run by members.

These include Jersey, Montbeliard, Norwegian and Swedish Red, Normandie and Brown Swiss bulls.”

Eurwyn Edwards, Glynllifon College, Caernarfon, farm director, adds that in 2004 about 40 of the 120 cows in the 7206-litre herd were inseminated using straws from Scandinavian Red bulls.

“We hope there will be more benefits than just increased milk protein.”