30 November 2001

Practical solutions on offer for key issues

Are mastitis and poor fertility

limiting the potential benefits

of your cattle breeding

programme? The British

Cattle Breeders Club annual

conference in January aims to

offer some practical solutions

MANAGING mastitis and fertility are practical challenges that John Downing and fellow cattle producers face everyday.

That is why as chairman of the club, he is keen to see next years BCBC conference focus on these and other key issues.

He farms in partnership with his wife, Rachel, at Wintersell Farm, Surrey, a mixed unit on 152ha (375 acres) of heavy clay land. The dairy herd has always been the main business and this year will supply about 1.6m litres of milk to Dairy Crest.

"The 200-cow herd of pedigree Holsteins are managed on a high input, high output system, with cows calving mainly through autumn and winter. Cows average 9000 litres from 2.5t a year of concentrates fed in a mixed ration."

To achieve these high yields, cows producing more than 40 litres a day are housed overnight to minimise body condition loss and sustain milk production.

With the recent improvement in milk price, Mr Dowing is optimistic about the future and plans to expand towards 300 cows. The first phase is to contract out some replacement heifer rearing from next spring to release building space.

Replacement heifer breeding at the unit involves DIY AI on all cows and heifers, using up to 10 different Holstein bulls, including some sexed semen. Mr Downing is keen to find out more about new technologies available for improving AI conception rates at next years BCBC conference.

Deciding which bull to use for breeding replacements is difficult with the large choice available. Mr Downing selects bulls balanced for improving udders, feet and legs in addition to performance and is keen to use bulls proven in the UK.

"It is important to have cows which cope with UK winters in cubicles. HUKIs new bull ranking will help producers achieve this and will be outlined by board member Tim Harding at the conference, before its launch in Feb 2002."

The ranking will take production, type merit, cell count and lifespan into account providing optimum performance and longevity, allowing lower culling rates, says Mr Downing.

One of the main reasons for culling is declining dairy cow fertility, which has received much bad Press lately. Mr Downing believes part of the problem is that herd management has not kept up with the rapid advances in cattle genetics. "High production cows require a completely different nutritional approach."

His herds fertility is about average, with 50% of cows conceiving to each service. Although these rates are acceptable, he hopes to gain valuable tips from the fertility session at the conference. It is the largest session, reflecting the importance of this issue with breeders, he adds.

In common with other producers, Mr Downing would also like to see fewer cases of mastitis at Wintersell Farm. Strep uberis has been identified as the main bacteria causing mastitis and he hopes the mastitis session, particularly a paper on vaccination, will shed light on combating the disease.

&#8226 The conference will be held on 22-24 Jan, near Telford, Shrops. Further details are available from Lesley Lewin (01392-447494). &#42

BREED societies future role within the beef industry and matching breeding objectives with resources available on-farm to maximise profitability are two issues being addressed at next years BCBC annual conference.

In the future, breed societies must offer more to cattle breeders than the traditional record keeping role, says the British Limousin Cattle Societys Ian Kerr. "The industry has undergone considerable change and breed societies must also change to survive.

"There must be more commercial emphasis. Our society is already supporting beef marketing initiatives. Breed societies may also have a role in funding technical projects, such as improving product quality, to help producers closely match market needs."

One change in the industry is a greater emphasis on maternal traits to maximise profitability, says MLC beef scientist Duncan Pullar. "The main consideration when selecting maternal breed is to match animals with available feed resources."

"It is easy to define breeding objectives, such as number of calves weaned a cow, but matching breed with feed resources to maximise returns can be tricky. This is why one conference session is dedicated to practical breeding solutions for different environments," says Dr Pullar. Suckler cows tend to be fed a wider range of feeds, most being fed poorer quality forages compared with dairy cow breeds.

Societies must offer more than tradition

CONFERENCE PROGRAMME

Tuesday Jan 22

&#8226 Session one – Beef breed societies, where to now: David Benson, Charolais Society; Lesley Lewin, South Devon Society; Ian Kerr, Limousin Society; John Lewis, Sussex Cattle Society.

&#8226 Session two – Breeding tools and how to use them: John Williams, Roslin Institute; Gert Nieuwhof, MLC; Marion Tilson, Berwickshire producer.

&#8226 Session three – Meeting market needs: Richard Phelps, Southern Counties Fresh Foods; Basil Lowman, SAC; Paul Hinwood, Worcs producer.

&#8226 Session four – Practical breeding solutions for different environments: Berke Tiechert, US producer; James Playfair-Hannay, Roxburghshire producer.

Wednesday Jan 23

&#8226 Session five – Which way now: Peel Holroyd, consultant; Scott Ruby, US producer; Amir Arav, Volcani Research Organisation, Israel.

&#8226 Session six – Fertility: Mike Coffey, SAC; Melissa Royal, University of Nottingham; Dick Esslemont, University of Reading; Mark Glover, North Yorks vet.

&#8226 Session seven – Mastitis: Peter Edmonson, Somerset vet; Simon Wheeler, Pharmacia Animal Health.

&#8226 Session eight – The next generation: William Templeton; Graham Bell; Philip Halhead; Alan Swale.

Thursday Jan 24

&#8226 Session nine – Indices, what is their future role: Tim Harding, HUKI; Erling Strandberg, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; David Selner, Genetics Consultant, USA.

&#8226 Session 10 – The future, reasons to be cheerful: Jack Koopman, East German producer; Kevin Bellamy, MDC.

WINTERSELL FARM

&#8226 High input, high output herd.

&#8226 Bulls selected for cow longevity.

&#8226 Undergoing expansion.