26 February 1999



The real world of dairy

farming is reflected in the

experiences of our

livestock producer

contributors. Heres the

latest news from our four

busy producers. Their

reports are from Berkshire,

Gloucestershire, Stafford

and Sussex

George Holmes

George Holmes farms with

his brother David, on two

rented units totalling 144ha

(360 acres) in Sussex. They

are currently stocked with

115 dairy cows, block

calved in the autumn and

100 followers. His objective

is to decrease costs,

particularly by increasing

use of grazed grass

WE are nearing the end of the breeding period for our herd.

I have inseminated the herd to New Zealand Friesian for the first three weeks and then used easy calving Belgium Blue semen for another month.

We have now put a Sussex bull in to finish the job; 85% of eligible cows were submitted in the first three weeks rising to 90% by the end of the fourth week. Of the other 15 cows, nine were served by week six, and only six cows were treated by the vet.

We only start heat observation at the start of service, any earlier seems a waste of time. So far, the non-return for the first three-week period is just below 80%, so either we are on for our best conception rate ever or we are not spotting returns.

We have employed a mastitis consultant to help us in our ongoing fight with the dreaded strep uberis. Her advice has mainly been to make small changes.

The main change has been to stop pre-dipping the cows before milking and to instead concentrate on keeping the cows udders cleaner, so we only need to dry wipe. This has cut down over-milking, as we have no ACRs, and made the milking quicker and more pleasant.

We have also removed the ridge on the section of the cow housing which was not already open.

Our cell count is now down to just under 100, whereas it was hovering around 250 a few months ago. We are still having a few new mastitis cases, but just one a week as opposed to almost one a day in October.

At last, we have had some dry weather allowing us to spread fertiliser on pasture. We applied 100kg/ha of mon-ammonium phosphate and 125kg/ha of urea.

When I visited Australia and New Zealand, I was suprised how much phosphate they used, targeting an index equivalent to the top end of three. This increases early grass growth as well as total production. I doubt we will ever reach a phosphate index of three, but we now apply some each spring. &#42

George Holmes has cut down on over-milking and mastitis with help from his mastitis consultant on stopping pre-dipping cows before milking.

Mark Osman

Mark Osman is herd

manager for the 300ha(750-

acre) Berks farm owned by

Zeneca. It is two-thirds

owned, and 154ha (380

acres) is cropped with 117ha

(290 acres) of grass and

12ha (30 acres) of maize.

Stocking is 150 Friesian

Holstein cows, 100 finished

beef, 80 replacements, 10

sucklers and 330 ewe lambs

EVERYTHING is now housed, so the full winter feeding programme is underway. The conversion of the old cattle unit from cattle slats to sheep floors has been completed and the ewe lambs moved in.

The conversion has allowed below ground tanks to be used for extra dairy slurry capacity while housing 300 ewe lambs.

With two different sheep breeds, its interesting to see their different abilities, both physical and mental. The Scotch Half-breeds, although well fleeced, have the ability to escape from any design of feed front, whereas the Suffolk x Mules are now competing with Jonathan Edwards by jumping anything at any distance.

Our herdsman, Peter, is about half way through calving the spring group of 50 cows. This includes the suckler cows which, after much discussion, he is milking through the parlour.

Each morning there are comments, which include: "They should settle down soon and well need to replace the dump bucket cluster again."

I look on it as a challenge, whereas Peter looks on it as a crusade to get Simmental milk in the tank. The reason for milking these is that we have lost a number of cows that have gone down after calving and never stood up again.

The pessimist in me believes this is due to having bought a cow lifting hoist, but my optimistic side thinks it was a clever piece of management following the use it has seen.

In January, it was our turn to host the BGS plate meter discussion group at Jealotts Hill Farm. These are a group of like-minded farmers and managers who get straight to the bone; in our case the true profit a litre.

I can only liken it to going to the dentist, you know its going to hurt but it will do you good in the long run. The general consensus was that we were over complicating the running of the dairy, with which I agree. My only defence was that in a medium-sized unit of 150 cows, the only way we achieve a 10.4p a litre profit is from attention to every detail. &#42

Milking some of the spring calvers is proving to be a challenge for the herdsman, says Mark Osman.

Stephen Brandon

Stephen Brandon farms

100ha (250 acres) at New

Buildings Farm, Stafford, in

a ring fence, with another

30ha (73 acres) of grazing

taken annually five miles

away. He has 170 pedigree

Holstein Friesians and 110

dairy replacements. About

28ha (70 acres) of cereals

are grown each year

IN NOVEMBER we made the decision not to serve autumn calvers until this spring and then in 12-months time the whole herd would be calving in February and March. Hence, this is our last winter with some cows at peak yield. If all goes to plan the whole herd should be dry next January.

We changed our compound feed supplier in early December, and the type of ration fed, because of high milk urea levels and many cows seemed tender on their feet. The balance of rumen degradable and bypass protein in the compound has been changed to match our base ration of grass silage and 1.5 kg of maize gluten.

The results are; feet and locomotion has improved, high levels of ammonia in the cubicle shed have gone and after six weeks the milk urea levels are down by 33%, all with no loss in yield. Hopefully, the girls will be feeling healthier and conception rates may also improve a little.

Grass grew at 6kg DM/ha a day over Christmas, but that growth didnt last long and the average cover has gone backwards during January. Grass growth started me thinking about a grass budget and planning a possible date for turnout.

A mid-February turnout looked feasible, but at the moment it doesnt know when to stop raining and more recently its been snowing.

Weather permitting we may snatch the odd few days of grazing by the end of February. Cows will graze over all the grass acres initially and only when growth exceeds the cows requirement will we start to think about making silage.

The first application of fertiliser, two bags/acre of 26:13:0, was spread by a contractor with a low ground pressure quad-bike on all the grassland at home during the first week of February.

Calving started again in late January with 75 due by the end of February and the rest by early April. We should then be milking 200 cows in the next quota year. &#42

Changing compound feed has improved cow locomotion and lowered milk urea levels without causing yields to fall, says Stephen Brandon.

John Round

John Round farms 134ha

(330 acres) in the

Gloucestershire Severn Vale.

It is home to his 180-cow

Roundelm herd of Holstein

Friesians and 180 followers.

Cows average 10,000 litres

on twice-a-day milking. Maize

and cereals are also grown

AS WE approach the end of another milk year, Im pleased to report weve reached the yield targets which we set, even though at the time I thought them quite ambitious.

Milk yields have improved by over 500 litres a cow, now rolling at 10,066 with 3.36% protein and fat a little high at 3.68%. The Dairy Crest milk contract we are currently on requires a minimum 3.5% fat, ideally the level we would be at in order to extend our quota.

However, over the last three months butterfats have averaged 3.6%, by just feeding a low-fibre diet and pushing the cows for as much milk as possible. This is without the need for fish oil or other products that seem to be priced at break-even point against the cost of quota.

On the downside – to maintain the high milk, low fat yield – the ration fed is keeping cows on a knife edge. A slight change can tip them over that edge, even a change in maize variety as the Ag-bag progresses. The most serious problem is that weve had a few displaced abomasums over the last six weeks.

Half of these have been corrected by rolling the cow, thus allowing the abomasum to float under her and back to the right side where it belongs. When this has failed the vet is called and a surgical operation is needed to correct the problem.

These problems ensure my job does not become too monotonous.

The other minor problem resulting from production increase is the return to daily milk collection. The maximum vat capacity was discovered when milk was siphoned out via the wash sprinkler, this was some 7% more than the nominated capacity. &#42

John Round is succesfully keeping milk fats low, but not without some concern over cow health.

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