5 October 2001

Genetic merit boosted by


THE genetic merit of the autumn-calving high margin/cow herd at Gelli Aur, has been boosted by the purchase of 30 top-notch cows from four high yielding herds.

John Owen is not prepared to reveal what he paid, but admits the cost was substantial. The figure will be factored into the herd accounts over several lactations. The same number of animals was sold through an agent and the change should accelerate the improvement in genetic potential needed to get the best from the high input system.

"We are also finding that the latest batch of home-bred heifers are performing well, so we were already on track towards higher yields," he adds.

Cows in the herd were housed two weeks before the start of calving, to steam them up with extra feed and ensure they had the right balance of minerals. Before calving, their daily ration was 18kg of silage, 2kg of straw, 5kg of whole-crop wheat, minerals, magnesium and 2kg of blended concentrate.

After calving straw was withdrawn, whole-crop increased to 12kg/head, minerals increased by 50%, blend-concentrate went up to 10kg/cow and 3kg of concentrate was fed in the parlour.

By getting a smooth transition onto the production ration and correct mineral balance only one clinical and one suspect case of milk fever were recorded among the first 50 cows to calve. There have also been no retained placentas so far, says Mr Owen.

Cows have reached peak yield quickly. But there is some concern about the 65:35 ratio of bull to heifer calves being born. The position was even worse with spring calvers with only one heifer born to every four bulls.

Forage conservation for both herds has gone well. About 7t/cow of fresh grass silage has been made for autumn calvers, compared with 5t/cow for spring calvers. Autumn calvers have already started on the 140t of whole-crop wheat in store.

The 11ha (28 acres) of maize is looking promising. "Six years of growing has indicated that the Towy Valley is not the marginal maize area it was thought to be, so later maturing varieties are being tried to get a higher cob to leaf ratio."

Kingshay Trust costings for the high margin/cow herd show rolling yield is up from 5706 to 6915 litres/cow, though yield from forage fell from 53% to 32% of the total. Milk fat is down by 0.09% to 3.93%, but protein improved from 3.25% to 3.32%.

Average milk price is almost 2p/litre better, but year on year rolling average concentrate use is 0.12kg/litre higher at 0.32kg. Concentrate cost £4/t less, but the all purchased feed cost/litre is up 1.07p at 4.39p/litre.

Margins over purchased feed have increased since last August with the rolling MOPF for the herd at £107,288 or £932/cow, an improvement of £220/cow.

Mr Owen expects the gap between margin/cow achieved by the two herds, which stood at only £23/cow in August, to widen as the genetic merit of the high input herd improves.


The two-herd study at Gelli Aur is sponsored by the Welsh Development Agency and MDC.

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