Excellent management and an eye for detail have paid off for Cheshire-based dairy farmers Tom and Karen Halton, this year’s winners of the NMR 2016 HerdWise award.
Runners-up last year, the Haltons of Chance Hall Farm, Astbury, Congleton, stepped up their protocol in their 500-cow herd of three-times crossed Montbeliarde, Scandinavian Red and Holstein.
NMR Vet Karen Bond and National Johne’s Action Group chairman and dairy farmer Lyndon Edwards judged the awards, noting that the year-round calving system made Johne’s control both critical and challenging for Haltons.
“We’ve got 500 cows calving all year round so we can never give anything a rest,” said Mr Halton, who is currently getting 9,500 litres a lactation with a calving index of 385 days and a 24% pregnancy rate.
Fortnightly clean-out protocol
- Disinfect with hypochlorite
- Hydrated lime on the floor
- Floor covered with sawdust and shavings
- Clean, fresh straw placed on top
“Colostrum management is so important – this gets the calves through their growing phase because of the immunity they get.”
A tagging system is used, identifying calves as “possible”, “likely” or “positive” for Johne’s, in line with HerdWise, a Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) accredited programme.
Group pens are cleaned fortnightly once calves are over ten days old. Risky animals are red-tagged and then bred to beef bulls, an option made possible with the use of sexed semen.
“Beef calves and dairy calves are also on fortnightly cleaning routines using hypochlorite solution,” explained Mrs Halton. “Teamwork is really important and we have protocols up on walls so everyone be reminded how to minimise Johne’s.”
NMR Vet Karen Bond said: “All calves go through two pens at Chance Hall, they get don’t get a break and they are group housed, which is where a lot of farms struggle. Tom and Karen make it work through attention to detail.”
All five finalists received a certificate to mark the achievement with the top award, the HerdWise Silver Salver and a £500 HerdWise voucher going to the Haltons.
This year’s runners-up in a field of 50 entrants were Martin and Carol Beaumont from Shornhill Farm, Twycross, Warwickshire.
The judges said investing in calf hutches had boosted calf health in their 260-head block calving herd. Regular reviews and assessments with the farm vet have ensured “all bases are covered” in controlling the disease.