Robert Mintern

Somerset

For dairy technical specialist Rob Mintern, dairy farming is a huge passion. And, working for Kingshay, Rob has the opportunity to put his enthusiasm into practice in a wide range of areas.

“My key aim is to put information across to farmers in a practical way and be as proactive and preventative as possible,” he says. And this is helped by his years of practical experience managing dairy farms in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

On a day-to-day basis, Rob offers over-the-phone support to farmers on a range of topics, from cubicle dimensions to foot bathing routine. At the same time, he is involved in running workshops and farmer meetings and writing twice-monthly farming notes on various topics for Kingshay members.

He also designs and runs a variety of training workshops catering for farmers, vets, reps and college students. “I run workshops covering key areas such as lameness and mastitis.

“The key is to make the workshops as practical as possible – everyone is given some homework, such as locomotion scoring, to take back to the farm.”

While regular mailings act as a means of advertising services to Kingshay members, workshops are used to market other services to the wider community.

His work philosophy is based around understanding and reacting to what cows are telling you. “Cow behaviour speaks volumes about the pressure points on farm,” he says.

Rob has used his practical and technical experience to develop a total on farm assessment, aimed at identifying the pressure points affecting production.

HowsMyHerd is the only whole-farm assessment available. The assessment aims to highlight and prioritise key areas for attention on farm,” explains Rob.

It comprises of a one-day visit where Rob looks at parlour routine, cow flow, building layout, ventilation, ration and herd health. “I also score a representative sample of cows for body condition and rumen fill, to name a few.”

The assessment is completely measurable and evidence-based, but designed so findings are as practical as possible.

“At the end of the day, I walk round with the farmer to show him what I have found. I will always try and initiate thoughts from the farmer and get them to assess cow behaviour so they can see exactly what I am talking about.”

After the assessment, Rob produces a report specific to the individual farm.

“My aim was to make the report as farmer friendly as possible. Each report is annotated with photographs from each farm, making it easier for farmers to identify the problems I have highlighted.”

The report uses a traffic light system to identify areas for attention and puts a financial cost alongside a problem. More importantly the assessment highlights six main areas for attention and how they can be rectified.

“These are not necessarily huge investments – often you can make big changes at little expense. For example, moving the neck rail can increase lying times, reducing lameness and increasing milk production.”

So far, 60 farms have undergone a HowsMyHerd with the aim of re-visiting 50% to do a follow-up report. Rob has also begun training consultants to undertake the assessment. “My long-term aim is to have four to five consultants trained to carry out the assessment throughout the UK.”

“We also want to make the HowsMyHerd database more robust so we can provide the service to the global market.”

Those that have undertaken a HowsMyHerd assessment are also offered three months’ free Kingshay membership.

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED

“Rob’s incredibly passionate about his work. By recognising the effect of small changes on farm he is making a huge difference.”

Three achievements

 Successfully developed complete farm assessment

 Ability to put technical information across in a practical way

 Interpreting cow behaviour to help identify problems on farm

business facts

 Delivering and developing HowsMyHerd, a total on-farm assessment

 Offering technical and practical advice via farming notes, farmer meetings and workshops.

 Focusing on providing low cost solutions to high-cost problems

 Understanding cow behaviour