See techniques to put cows on a firm footing

Producers hot-footing it to this month’s Dairy Event, Stoneleigh Park, on 20-21 September, will see the spotlight put on lameness – an issue costing a 150-cow herd £10,000 annually, according to show organiser the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

Alongside practical demonstrations from foot-trimmers Steve Bradbury and Norman Walker, RABDF reports entries for dairy classes up for the fourth consecutive year with 220 head entered by 72 exhibitors vying for the HSBC Supreme Championship and £1000 Eprinex prize.

“Cattle remain at the heart of the Dairy Event. RABDF is increasingly aware of the fact lameness has been among the biggest on-farm issues for 30 years.

Lost production and treatment costs a massive £200m to the industry,” explains Nick Everington, RABDF chief executive.

Practical demonstrations of foot-trimming techniques will run throughout the two-day event.

Judging of pedigree cattle classes by inspection takes place on Wednesday, culminating in the announcement of the HSBC championship that afternoon.

The emphasis in the judging ring will be on purebreds, but there will be plenty to see if crossbreeding is your chosen route to dairy success.

However, producers looking for sires to crossbreed on to black-and-whites to improve production traits are advised to select breeds with a strong genetic improvement programme, warns Mike Coffey, head of SAC’s genetic evaluation unit.

“The benefit of hybrid vigour is lost when only one of the parent breeds is genetically improving itself,” explains Dr Coffey.

It is also lost when breeding back to the same breed as one of the parents – offspring revert to the breed average.

Hence good records of parentage are essential for future crosses, he says.

Similarly, hybrid vigour is only useful when the F1 crossbred cow produces more than both parents, he says.

“So if you cross an 800kg Holstein with a 400kg Jersey and you end up with a 600kg cross; it is commercially better to have the Holstein.

Consider doing the sums on crossbreeding in your herd, as that loss of milk has to be made up by profit in other traits.”

Dr Coffey also reminds producers that a crossbred animal isn’t a uniform average of both parents.

This can create problems with housing, milking and feeding, so determines the choice of breed.