Large-scale dairy: British farmers can benefit from USA experience

What can we learn from USA dairies? Aly Balsom speaks to a number of consultants and USA farmers to see what they think British farmers can learn from large scale units in the states.

Brandon Andersen, Double A Dairy, Jerome

“Whatever the size of your unit, if you can keep the close-up cow on the correct ration at the right stocking density, managing the fresh cow is so much easier.”

And keeping heifers separate at this crucial stage is well worth it to reduce competition and maintain intakes. “If your system does not allow you to keep heifers and cows separate, I would strongly recommend keeping animals at below 80% stocking capacity – if you don’t, heifers will be in for a tough time.”

Jeff Ackermen, Bettencourt Dairies manager, Jerome, Idaho

UK farmers looking to expand, should not scrimp and save in an attempt to cut costs as it will cost in cow performance in the end.

“The small amount of money you may save by putting in more cubicles, will cost you in feed space,” he says.

“Ensuring you have one lying space a cow and enough trough space is key to success.”

Farmers looking to expand to large numbers, should also have an eye to the future, he says. “It’s easy to get caught up in the ego of being ‘the biggest’, but the main disadvantage of having a large unit is the question over who will buy it when you retire?”

Ian Hildon, Genus ABS division manager north west and central USA

These large scale, high performing dairy units in the USA prove Holstein fertility is not falling away. The USA is under far greater pressure than the UK in terms of extreme temperature change yet their herds are still achieving good fertility rates.

The key to their success is having strict protocols in place – they don’t wait until a cow has calved to see what happens.

There is no doubt large-sized herds will come to the UK – Nocton is the beginning, not the end of the story.

Phil Salkeld, Genus ABS UK and EU technical services

If there’s one thing we can learn fro USA dairy farms, it’s how they monitor fertility performance. Ask an American producer what their pregnancy rates are and they’ll tell you what they were today, yesterday and last week – ask a UK producer and they’ll struggle to tell you.

It is essential UK producers learn to record fertility performance.

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