Lancashire dairy farmer Ian Macalpine is new to the ranks of Jersey milk producers, but he reckons he would need a Holstein herd averaging 13,500 litres to earn him the income he’s getting from his Danish Jerseys.
He told visitors to an RABDF organised open day at his Laneside Farm Waddington, Clitheroe that the comparative Holstein average was based on the yield of milk, the value of the milk and the smaller size of his Jersey cows.
“We’re getting an average of 6000 litres at 6.58% fat and that equates to a Holstein herd giving 9000 litres at 4% fat. But then you’ve got to take into account the size of the cow we’re dealing with.
“We’ve got 400kg Jersey cows compared with Holsteins weighing 600+kg and we’re putting in 17kg of dry matter a head a day compared with at least 23kg needed for a black-and-white.”
Ian and Sally Macalpine switched to Danish Jerseys after losing their Holstein herd in the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Instead of restocking with 150 Holsteins they were convinced they could make more profit from Jerseys and could keep 200 head in the existing buildings.
The entire herd was bought from one source in the UK and they set themselves a target of a 6000 litres yield at 6% fat and 4% protein.
In the four years since the herd arrived there has only been one month when milk sales have been under 6% (it was 5.95%) and there was one month where it was over 7%.
“But the trick is to achieve sustainable high components and high yields.
Our experience has shown when cows are giving more than 7% they are probably not at their best.
That’s a high level of fat.
We think giving 6-6.5% fat is a level at which they can also produce the optimum amount of milk – and that has been proved here.
“Turning that 0.5% of fat into milk is the challenge and it’s a dietary one that we’re constantly monitoring.”
This year the herd has been kept inside until after first-cut silage.
Mid and late-lactation cows will be turned out this month, but early-lactation cows remain inside all year round.
Such is the dedication to feeding that the Macaplines went to Denmark to study the nutritional needs of high-fat producing Jersey cows.
This trip revealed cows being fed a diet high in sugar – and it has been replicated in the Riblesdale herd.
Molasses – fed at the rate of 1.5-2kg a head a day – is now included in the TMR ration which has been formulated by Lancashire-based consultant Graeme Surtees to maintain high milk components and lift yields.
“We want to get plenty of sugar in the diet to boost the fermentation process in the rumen and maintain the fat level.
We’re aiming for sugar content to be up to 8-9% of the dry matter intake,” he told farmers.
“The high yielding group of 56 cows is housed all year round to give total control over feed intakes.
It’s all about profit and the margins are higher with these cows kept inside.
“This group contains cows giving up to 38 litres with yields up to 8000kg.
The higher yielders are giving more than 5% fat and even some of the top yielders are achieving 6.5% – although they are exceptional,” says Mr Surtees.
Such is the popularity of Danish Jerseys that last year semen export sales outstripped Danish demand.
Soren Olesen from Dansire, the company which markets Danish Jersey semen, said there were 550,000 dairy cows in Denmark with about 14% being Jerseys.
And although dairy cow numbers were falling, support for Jerseys remained stable.
“In Denmark we have a breeding objective for 2010 to have a 6800kg national average – today it’s about 6400kg.
Our target is 5.8% fat and to maintain protein at 4.1% We don’t want a cow that’s too big; our maximum is a mature liveweight of 450kg,” explained Mr Surtees.
“Cows must have strong feet and legs, black hooves and strong udders, particularly in the front quarter.”
He told farmers that in line with the UK trend Danish dairy farms were getting bigger, but farmers were also looking at achieving improvements in fertility as well as longevity.