18 January 2002

Wise buys boost high input herds milk yield

Increasing the genetic merit of cows for the high

margin/cow herd and fertility of high margin/litre cows

are key issues for the Gelli Aur Colleges two herd

study. Robert Davies reports on progress of this Welsh

Development Agency and MDC-funded project

BUYING high genetic merit milkers has improved the output of Gelli Aur Colleges high input herd by 1880 litres in the past year. It is now on target to achieve a rolling average yield of 8250 litres/cow by March.

The Carmarthen-based college bought 32 in-calf heifers and cows from a number of sources, including the MOET herd, to speed genetic progress, says farm manager John Owen.

"We are pleased that 28 cows have lived up to expectations. The other four suffered increased stress when they arrived. This was because of foot-and-mouth restrictions, so they will be given a second chance to come up to scratch.

"Buying has accelerated the rate of improvement, but our own heifers are doing well and in November the rolling herd average was 7729 litres/cow, compared with 5852 litres last year."

Efforts to maintain the momentum of genetic improvement are continuing with the use of Holstein UK and Irelands Sire Match system. Cows are being matched with one of three bulls, mainly selected to improve yield and milk solids. The farm has bought the equivalent of 1.7 straws/cow or heifer.

Improving performance has also rekindled the management teams interest in pedigree breeding and cow classification. Good heifers have always been registered under the Golden Grove prefix, but little effort has been made to sell breeding stock. This could change as the average yield creeps closer to 10,000 litres/cow, adds Mr Owen.

This winter, high yielders are being fed a total mixed ration made up of a 50:50 mix of grass and maize silage and an 18% protein blend of wheat, sugar beet, soya and rape meal. They are also offered 3kg/head/day of a high energy concentrate outside the parlour.

"In January, when they were well into their lactations, average yield was 32 litres/head and there was no indication of a fertility problem. In the year ending in March, we expect costings to show 3000 litres produced from forage and the other 5000 litres from 2.5t of concentrates."

In November, the rolling all purchased feed cost was 4.38p/litre, which is predicted to fall to 3.96p/litre by March. Margin over purchased feed was running at £1088/cow, well up on the £700/cow/year figure before, and on target to reach £1256/cow by March.

November monthly margin over purchased feed was 13.22p/litre. This was 3.09p/litre better than in November 2000, but below the 14.61p/litre budgeted for the month. But the figure is expected to rise to 15.22p/litre for the year ending in March.

"We are pleased with the way things are going with the high margin/cow herd. We are well on the road to getting the cow performance needed to make a high input system profitable."

Most purchased cows have lived up to expectations, helping to boost cow yields this year, says John Owen.

&#8226 High merit stock bought.

&#8226 Yields increasing rapidly.

&#8226 Should become profitable.


High margin/litre High margin/cow

Cows in herd 121 96

Target yield 5000 litres 8000 litres

Calving period Feb-May Aug-Dec

Allocated area 43.3ha (107 acres) 43.3ha (107 acres)

Cropping Grass Grass/maize/wheat