WHILE AVERAGE milk yield in NMR-recorded UK herds continued to rise in the year ending Sept 2004, milk fat percentage fell for the seventh year running, reports NMR.

In Holstein cows, which represent almost 93% of NMR-recorded cows, milk yields rose by 2.9% to average 7943 litres. But fat has dropped to 3.85% from 4.1% in 1996/7, says NMR.

Protein levels have also fallen in the past year, with protein percentages now averaging 3.23%, compared with 3.29% in 2001/02.

Milk quality fell in all the major breeds, says NMR, with only Shorthorn, Island Jersey and Montbeliarde showing increases in either fat or protein levels. These breeds each have less than 1% of the total NMR-recorded lactations.

But the trend for increasing somatic cell counts over the past four years has reversed, with a 1000/ml fall.

The average is now 187,000/ml for Holsteins. The top herd on milk production was Andrew and Sue Sanders’ Isle of Man-based Holstein herd, which averaged 13,061kg and 889kg of combined fat and protein