Calf weights: current practices and proposed action for the future

Replacement dairy heifers for Clive Hall farm and other Grassland Solutions Group Farms (Fletcher and Co) are currently reared at pasture on whole milk.

The monitor farm’s next meeting will look at this topic on October 18th at Marlheath Farm, Fanshawe Lane, Henbury, Cheshire, SK11 9PL  Further Details >>

This follows the group’s trip to Moorepark Research Centre in Ireland on September 19th and 20th.

Calves receive approximately four litres of milk/day and supplementary corn is offered if necessary. Until April 2012, heifer calves have been weaned ‘by eye’ or by weigh banding at 10-12 weeks old; basically picking out those which are biggest and strongest, as oppose to analysing measurable data.

The benefits of heifers reaching target weight at calving are numerous and widely recognised and we believe that reaching weaning targets is surely the first area to focus on to ensure that mature target weight is achieved.

Heifer weights are not only important for their fertility but are vital as they enter the milking herd; a heifer that is 10% underweight at calving will produce 10% less milk compared to those at optimum weight and this trend will continue throughout their milking life. In order to ensure all animals calving in their second lactation are at weight and in good condition, all first lactation animals are to be dried off 12 weeks prior to calving with further weeks added for low body condition or lameness issues.

We have now started to weigh calves at monthly intervals using a digital Tru-Test weigh pad and track individual liveweight gains. Calf weights and gains are compared against a target weight chart following research conducted at Moorepark, Ireland.

This year we are on ‘catch up’ and calves are not being weaned at the typical age; the duration of milk and corn feeding is somewhat longer than usual as we try to get the animals to target weight. Analysis of calf weights has proven to be extremely useful in planning feeding strategies at different stages of the calf rearing program and has allowed us to adjust current feeding practices to maximise attainment of targets.

The reason our calves are ‘underweight’ is thought to be attributable to an in-balance in three key areas and we propose to address this in the following ways:

  1. If calves are housed in early spring then they must receive ad lib corn and water at all times.
  2. Calves at pasture require unlimited amounts of the highest quality pasture on the farm which can be achieved by rotating them frequently in front of the cows. This requires attention to the fences on the units to make this possible.
  3. Ensuring calves are able to eat as much corn/meal as they require. We are currently investigating whether or not we can wean calves off milk at a slightly lighter weight and feed corn to increase liveweight gains above desired to hit target weight prior to service.


We will continue to weigh calves frequently and re-group them with others of similar weight; a useful method to prevent growth suppression in smaller individuals through them being pushed out when competition is high.

The fact that we now are able to accurately weigh and monitor calf growth is helping us make management changes to improve what we do in the future so as to promote growth. Additional monitoring of feed intake will aid us in establishing an economical calf rearing program with high growth performance.

Jessica Ross, Youngstock Manager at Grassland Solutions Farms

Polish your assets and prepare to improve profits

Asset review – it sounds dry and boring, but this is what good businesses do to maximise profits by responsibly optimising how they use their resources.

Dairy farmers should be no different. This was the main message from a recent open discussion meeting at Clive Hall, the Cheshire dairy monitor farm.

So, which assets need polishing to make more profit…

Take a step back

According to Dr Kay Carson of Streamline Farm Management, assets, and how they are managed, are the resources that drive a business.

“Profits are a measure of how efficiently resources are being used – and efficiency means maximising their value and minimising waste.”

Farm manager Phil Asbury

Farm manager Phil Asbury

Kay has been working with Clive Hall farm manager Phil Asbury at the Fletcher and Co grassland solutions farm, helping to focus management on what drives profit.

She said: “A full review of farm assets should happen annually, so that you can plan improvements, implement changes, check your progress and take actions.”

The main areas to consider in this type of grazing-based system are:
• Herd Health
• Tracks and buildings
• Soil and grassland
• Labour
• Machinery and equipment
• Feed and forage
• Fertility
• Milking and parlour

“For this type of grazing-based business, the tracks, soil and grassland are more important than housing and machinery, but efficiencies can be gained throughout most businesses,” added Kay.

The Open Meeting focussed on labour, herd health and soil/grassland.

Robust and healthy herd

“Our aim is to have a robust and healthy herd,” said Phil. “In the last 12 months this has meant focussing on scouring calves and lameness. With the calves, we were spending too much time looking after poorly animals, so we have started to tube every calf with three to four litres of colostrum and increased the frequency of bedding.

“In 2010 16% of calves were treated for scours and 90% of calves born alive reached weaning. In 2011, following the changes, we only treated 4% for scours and 95% born alive were weaned.”

Farm vet Ed Hayes of the Wright Morten practice in North Cheshire added, “This current herd health asset review is showing us that we have made good progress on lameness incidence, but we need to keep going on lameness treatment and prevention to get the current 5% of cows at score 3 on the DairyCo Mobility Score, down to zero.

“Our target is 90% at score 0/1 (currently 92% in the review), 10% at score 2 (currently 3%) and zero at score 3.

“We are also focussing on Johne’s, with a control plan in place. In 2011 the farm culled eight cows due to mastitis and we want to get that to zero by attention to detail on milking routine, using a dry wipe, looking at genetics, stopping chronic cases and good dry cow management.”

Ed concluded: “These actions come from reviewing the numbers and taking action to improve the herd as a business asset. The progress is all adding positively to the bottom line at Clive Hall.”

Get the right people into your business

Dairy farmer Ed Dale explains his approach to people management

Dairy farmer Ed Dale explains his approach to people management

Ed Dale, Cheshire dairy farmer, was very clear that the people working on his farms are a major asset and he looks for the sort of person that fits the culture he is developing.

“For me, the ‘right’ people are those that can fit in with and help us develop our culture. We want ambitious people that bring energy and persistence; they also need a positive attitude to go that extra mile and support their colleagues. And we want people who want to learn,” said Ed.

In terms of an asset review, David Heath told the meeting how this is handled in Grassland Solutions. “We want our staff to grow, so everyone has an annual review. This enables us to agree challenging and enjoyable targets. We review performance against last year’s targets before setting new ones for the coming year, and as our people grow, so does the business, in size and profitability.”

Start with soil to raise milk from grass

The basis for good grass growth and utilisation is achieving good soil condition, so the annual review of grassland management must start with the soil.

Andy Taylor of Promar International demonstrates how to review soil condition

Andy Taylor of Promar International demonstrates how to review soil condition

Andy Taylor of Promar International demonstrated to the Open Meeting what to look for when digging soil inspection pits.

“We should be digging in every field at the end of the season to look at soil condition,” explained Andy. “Good condition means well drained, crumbly soil, which is brown and smells ‘earthy’. There should be no compaction, so when the soil splits on your spade, it should break vertically; if it breaks horizontally, then compaction is an issue.

“Soil in poor condition will be wet, mottled with grey from waterlogging and might smell rancid. This is all common sense, but the impact of poor condition on reducing grass yield and grazing days will have a negative impact on the profitability of the business.”

The group also discussed the pros and cons of slot seeding versus ploughing to reseed and rejuvenate swards. The total operation cost for slot seeding might be only half that (£200 – £250/ha) of ploughing and reseeding (£400 – £500/ha), so if you can get results from slot seeding there are cost savings to be made.

However, as Andy pointed out, “If there are compaction issues, then ploughing can get rid of these and the expense will be paid back in extra grass growth. So it depends where you are starting from, which you will only know if you review soil condition in the first place.”

The Open Meeting clearly demonstrated that if you don’t review your assets and set targets, then you don’t know what to measure in the system to gain improvements.

If you don’t measure, then you can’t manage; if you can’t manage, then you are not in control; and it’s difficult to improve profitability when you are not in control of the system.

Young English enthusiasm meets Irish knowledge to tackle dairy details

A recent trip by 13 young dairy farmers and farm managers from the Northwest Livestock Programme’s Cheshire dairy monitor farm discussion group to the Irish Teagasc Dairy Research centre at Moorepark in County Cork, Ireland, sparked long enthusiastic discussion and detailed learning.

GRASS CHOICE: Mary McEvoy (far left) explains her work on grass varieties to the group

GRASS CHOICE: Mary McEvoy (far left) explains her work on grass varieties to the group

“These guys are the future of grazing based dairying in the UK and they got a lot out of this trip by sharing their passion and expertise; they know that you get out what you put in,” report facilitator Dr George Fisher and organiser Lesley Innes, from the RDPE Livestock Northwest programme, delivered throughout Cheshire and Merseyside by Reaseheath College.

Discussions among the group at the start of the trip highlighted their desire to get detailed information on three main topics: grazing management and grass varieties, outwintering, and disease control for herd health.

Grazing heights to get output per hectare and grass utilisation right

“There was a lot of talk at the last Positive Farming Conference that keeping residual grazing heights at 3.5cm through the season would get us to the right balance between grass utilisation, milk output per hectare and fertility, but we discovered that this isn’t right,” commented Ed Dale, who had a number of his farm managers on the tour.

Grazing research scientist Elodie Ganche explained, “We grazed paddocks down to 2.7 cm, 3.5 cm or 4.2 cm residual heights for the first two rotations, and then these paddocks were split and grazed at either 3.5cm or 4.5cm for the bulk of the season.

“2.7 cm was too tight and 4.2 cm too lax for spring grazing. Keeping at 3.5 cm all the way through utilised the most grass, but going from 3.5 cm in spring to 4.5 cm in the main season produced the highest grass and milk solids yields per hectare,” she concluded.

Geoff Booth, Operations Manager for Andrew Fletcher’s Grassland Solutions set of farms, summed up for the whole group, “We got the strong message that grazing residuals down to 3.5 cm in spring, then relaxing to 4.5 cm for the main season, and making sure that they are down at 3.5 cm again before the end of the season gets optimum cow fill, grass growth, grass utilisation and output per hectare, so that’s what we will be aiming for at home.”

Cows choose the best grass varieties

For many decades, new grass varieties have been tested for yield by simulating grazing with a mower cutting every four weeks. But are the varieties that are best under the cutting bar also the best under real grazing? After all, the action of grazing and feet with cows is very different from that of a mower.

This was the question that researcher Mary McEvoy is working to answer in a radical and detailed set of experiments. “The reason that we used mowers to simulate grazing is that doing experiments on a large scale with cows is very, very much more expensive. If different varieties perform in the same rank order under real grazing as they do under the mower, then we can have more confidence in our development of varieties to meet the practical needs of dairy farmers.” She added, “And farmers need grasses that don’t just yield, but are palatable and produce the best intakes and milk yields – and you can’t measure these with a mower.”

So, what is the answer? “This work is unique in the British Isles,” Mary continued. “And it’s telling us a mixed story on the rankings, and some powerful lessons in terms of production. The top two yielding varieties under the mower [AberMagic and AberChoice] were also the top two under real grazing, but the rankings for other varieties were not the same.”

Mary added, “This work is telling us that grazing intake is influence by a number of factors that do not work in isolation; little things that add up to make the difference. So varieties with high sugar content, higher leaf-to-stem ratio and larger leaves give better intakes, but the amount of leaf-to-stem is the most important. Farmers don’t tend to use just one variety in a field, but a tetraploid like Spelga will give 1.2 kg milk/cow/per day and 0.2 kg milk solids/cow/day more than a diploid variety like AberMagic; and whereas we can get grazing residuals down to 3.5cm with the tetraploids, we struggle to get below 4.2cm with the diploids.”

Monitor Farm facilitator Lesley Innes concluded: “A grazing sward needs a balance of varieties to suit the needs of the system; tetraploid and diploid, and various maturity classes. But this work is showing us how varieties really impact on milk production, and that’s exciting and useful.”

Bold and flexible approach works for outwintering

“There has not been much research on outwintering systems,” commented George Fisher after the group had discussed the issues involved. “And this applies to Moorepark too. The farmers are way ahead of the scientists and the great thing about a group like this is that they ask the right questions and share their knowledge to get the best answers, even in the absence of research data.”

Senior Researcher Paddy French told the group that, “Investing in cubicles and a slurry system can actually work out cheaper over 20 to 25 year period than going for outwintering pads, so we are seeing a shift away from pads in Ireland and most of the outwintering if with youngstock.” He added, “If this is done on the milking platform then we suggest outwintering on a mix of up to 70% fodder beet and 30% silage; off the milking platform, then you can go for forage kale.

The conclusion of the group was that they could go to 80% fodder beet / 20% silage for outwintering dairy stock, but this required a flexible approach – monitoring health and performance on a regular basis.

Handling diseases

Noel Byrne, who has a long career in dairy systems studies and analysis behind him, spoke to the group about a recent disease survey in The Republic of Ireland. Bulk milk and blood antibody testing from 320 herds revealed that there were high rates of exposure to IBR, BVD, Leptospirosis and Salmonella. “However, this type of survey picks up vaccinated herds as well, so it’s not easy to interpret results,” Noel explained.

“Animals with persistent disease, or PI’s, must be a focus in our control programmes,” he said. “You can buy a clean in-calve cow and she is OK, but she might be carrying a PI, so if you are going to vaccinate, you need to vaccinate all calves early. From testing 2,200 weanlings, we know that 40% of herds in Ireland have an ‘active’ BVD problem, and it’s pointless vaccinating if there are PI’s in the herd, because the vaccination will not cure them and they go on infecting the rest of the herd, so we urge farmers to identify and cull out the PI’s.”

The group wanted to discuss Johne’s control, but Noel explained that the disease is not prevalent in Ireland. However, Ed Hayes of Wright Morten vets was with the group and lead a session on the issues. Ed advised, “If you are serious about getting on top of Johne’s, then you have to follow a rigorous programme. Anything less may turn out to be a waste of time.” The programme should contain:

• Milk test all cows four times a year (results: Green = OK, Yellow = possibly infected, Red = Infected)

• Blood test red cows to confirm disease identification before culling

• Calve all green and yellow cows separately from red cows

• Identify daughters from red cows and decide their future

• Do not pool heifer colostrum to feed to calves

• Keep the calving yard clean

• Remove calves from the calving yard soon after birth

• Don’t pool and use colostrum from yellow and red cows

A place for automatic milkers in the field?

Perhaps the most radical work that the group were show at Moorepark was a systems study comparing a conventional and automatic milking in a spring block calving, grazing based system.

Steven Fitzgerald, Manager and researcher at the Dairygold Farm where the study is underway, explained the reasoning. “The objective is to integrate an automatic milking system (AMS) into a grazing system. The trial is on a 24ha grass milking platform, with 63 cows; it cost €175,000, which includes the AMS, concrete infrastructure and automatic shedding gates to make sure that the cows go to the right paddocks after milking.”

It took 4 days to train the cows to use the system, which seems a short time considering the furthest paddock is 400m away. “It works very well,” Steven told the group, “There is no difference between the different breeds in using the system; Friesians, Norwegian Reds and Jersey crosses have all used the system equally as well. The cows are milked 1.8 times per day on average and the practical outcome is that one person can operate this system, with time released for concentrating on the cows and working at alternative employment.”

Steven admits that the place for the system is probably where a farmer has alternative employment and the AMS allows them to hold down several jobs, otherwise the investment has a payback time which is too long.

Forthcoming meetings for autumn

Dairy MF discussion group (closed group), 20th September.
Topic: lameness and mobility scoring.

The group will discuss their herd’s foot care routine and the cost benefits of reducing lameness through mobility scoring and monitoring. The group will walk the host farm tracks for further discussions.

Dairy MF discussion group study trip 27th/28th September.
Moorepark Research Centre for Agriculture, Ireland.

Over the two day study trip the group will attend Moorepark Research Centre where presentations and discussions which will cover; animal health, out wintering and grazing management systems/grazing trials/grass varieties. Following the discussions, the group will visit Curtains Farm and one of the Dairygold farms. The Dairygold Demonstration Farms act as showcase units for the latest grassland, dairy husbandry and herd health practices from the Teagasc dairy research centre at Moorepark. This will allow the group to observe and discuss the research from an on farm perspective. These research farms provide an essential link between the development of new technology at research level and the adoption of these practices at farm level.

Open discussion meeting 3rd Nov, topic and full details to follow

June 2011: Reducing Lameness for Maximum Profit and Production

MAKING improvements on mobility is one of the areas of focus for the herd at Clive Hall and the meeting covered all aspects of lameness.

20110690Over 20 farmers attended this discussion meeting to hear how an indepth lameness investigation and analysis had been carried out on Clive Hall’s herd by Ed Hayes and Oli Maxwell (Wright & Morten Vet Group) prior to the meeting.

The results and recommendations were presented and discussed on the day, including disease prevention and control.

A foot care action plan for best practice & improvement at Clive Hall has also been prepared by Ed and Oli.
View Ed’s presentation>>

Jo Speed (Dairy Co) discussed the value and cost benefits of mobility scoring with the group.
Read a detailed technical report on what Jo had to say >>

In addition Jo also gave an overview of her findings from her Nuffield Scholarship ‘Lameness Prevention in Dairy Cows’.

The third speaker of the day Kay Carson (Agricultural Economist) discussed with the group “lean management” and its systematic approach to reducing lameness at Clive Hall.

The meeting ended with a farm walk to led by monitor farmer Phil Asbury, outlining the improvements made to tracks, the benefits seen and plans for further improvements.

Are lame cows costing you money?

FOUR months of depressed yield before a cow is showing any clinical signs of foot problems – coupled with poor fertility and mastitis – means a lame cow can generate a loss of £500 in terms of treatment and milk income.

And at the current rate of lameness in UK herds that could be costing individual dairy farmers as much as 1p for every litre of milk produced.

20110686Those were the stark facts presented to farmers at Clive Hall Farm’s (Cheshire’s Dairy Monitor Farm) last discussion group meeting, which is delivered through Reaseheath College, Cheshire.

DairyCo mobility specialist Jo Speed explained the importance of early detection of lameness by adopting regular mobility scoring as part of routine herd management.

“Identifying lameness at the earliest stage, well before a cow shows obvious mobility problems, can mean avoiding substantial and unnecessary losses caused by associated health problems.

“A cow’s yield can be adversely affected by lameness for four months before it’s actually identified – and during that time many of the associated health issues have already started to take effect and have a compounded impact on the animal’s performance,” said Jo.

She told dairy farmers that veterinary research had shown that a cow with a lameness problem in her heifer lactation was three-times more likely to be lame in her second lactation.

Jo Speed (left of picture) at Clive Hall Farm

Jo Speed (left of picture) at Clive Hall Farm

“A cow with a sole ulcer – which is like walking around with a stone in your shoe – is the most serious in terms of welfare, as well as resulting in lost revenue.

“Research has shown that a cow with a sole ulcer can cause losses totalling £519; cows with white-line disease and digital dermatitis are more treatable but can still rack up costs of £323 – and 83% of that figure is caused by lost yield.

“Other costs are incurred including veterinary treatment, increased labour and higher culling and replacement costs. And lame cows are also more susceptible to other infections simply because their immune system is being challenged,” said Jo.

Lame cows have a longer interval between calving to first service and data from monitored herds has shown there’s a 100-day interval between calving and conception where cows are suffering from foot problems. Pregnancy rate to first service is also 10.4 days longer in lame cows.

“The aim should not only be to reduce the number of lame cows in a herd but also to improve the herd’s overall mobility and to identify lameness as early as possible and take effective action,” said Jo Speed.

The StepMetrix is one of the latest technological advances in identifying lameness and dairy farmers at the event were told that although costing £25,000 – and there were two units currently in use on UK farms – it was providing a valuable method of monitoring cow mobility.

“The StepMetrix provides a platform for the cow to walk over which in turn measures the way she is walking and detects any imbalances in her movement. The equipment assesses if the cow is “paddling” or “leaning” on any particular foot and produces a reading that is in effect a mobility score,” Jo explained.

Dairy farmers at the Livestock Northwest event also heard that more supermarket milk contracts demanded a lower level of lameness in the herds of their suppliers.

“Undertaking routine mobility scoring not only improves welfare but is also having a direct impact on margins by avoiding losses associated with lameness.

“Mobility scoring is easy to apply to any herd. There are four scores. The “zero” and “one” score applies to cows that are perfectly sound and showing no signs of lameness. Score “two” cows are the ones that really need to be identified.

“These are the ones that may appear a little stiff or show some abnormality of movement. They may also demonstrate untrue tracking – which refers to them failing to show correct and level movement where the back feet “track” or land in the same place as the front feet.

“Another indicator is the arched back or a nodding head associated with pain from the foot. An arched back isn’t always a sign of lameness and may be linked to some other form of trauma or calving damage.”

Jo Speed said farmers had to ask themselves if the cows they considered fell into the score “two” category would benefit from treatment?

“In most cases these cows do need treatment and it’s the most critical stage in order to prevent further deterioration of the problem.

“Ten years ago, when I was trimming cows’ feet these score “two” cows wouldn’t have been singled out for treatment – but now we know they have to be dealt with to prevent them falling into a score “three” category.

Farmers were urged not to regard mobility scoring as “another industry gimmick”.

“It really can have a major effect by lowering a herd’s incidence of lameness simply by prioritising cows with mobility issues. As well as treatment there are preventative measures such as regular foot-bathing which should become part of routine lameness management.

“If farmers began to rate the level of infection caused by digital dermatitis in the same way they regard mastitis, it could be far more effectively dealt with and would make foot-bathing a routine year-round practice.”

April 2011: Fertility targets and achievements – report from (closed group) meeting

A DAIRY monitor farm discussion group meeting (for 11 members of the closed group) was hosted by Andy Goodwin of Dale Farms at Congleton Farm, who are mostly spring block calving dairy farmers.

20110647 -1Farm vet Ed Hayes of Wright and Morten Vets and XL Vets discussed with the group the targets each set and the varying factors that may make a positive impact on their forthcoming service period.

Monitor farmer Phil Asbury explained to the group Clive Hall’s fertility targets for after the 12 week service block: empty rate 9% at 12 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ), this was discussed within the group in comparison to their set targets.

He said that this year the cows started bulling from late March, and that the target was to have 80% of the tail paint rubbed off by the end of April, with the remaining 20% of cows obviously having not expressed heat.

Phil stated that he would focus on those 20% of cows at this point to improve the chance of cycling, for example having Ed check their reproductive tracts with an ultrasound scanner, diet, grass/nutrition and consider a small group of problem cows being milked once per day.

The 12 week service period at Clive Hall, started on 2nd May.

20110651-1Other topics discussed included: heat detection and non-cycling cows, AI technique, disease at calving, method of checking cows for dirty / disease after calving, retained cleansings, importance of easy calving, assessment of non-cycling cows before the service period begins and fertility of bulls.

Ed went on to ask the group, “What are the key factors that will make a difference on fertility rates?” which included the following:

• Minimise disease at calving – national average for disease in UK herds.
o Retained cleansings – 5%
o Milk fever – 5%
- Effective dry cow management

• Calf statistics-national average
o Twins – 3%
o Dead calves – 7%
o Assisted calving – 5%
- Appropriate bull selection
- Identification of calving difficulty

• Identify calving disease promptly and treat effectively, including metritis and whites. Sick animals means lost milk and a poor return to ovarian cyclicity
o Identify affected animals and treat aggressively – tail tape colours to aid identification of uterine disease status
o Sign off cows as clean

• Identify non-cycling cows and attempt to improve submission
o Tail paint before PSM (planned start of mating)
o High risk cows may be in once a day group
o Hormonal intervention following Ed examining cows not seen bulling just before PSM and those cows not served by 3 weeks after PSM.

• Accurate heat detection goes on for expressing heat
o Caution of false heats/missed heats

• High standard of AI technique imperative
o Refresher courses are recommended
o Temperature of the straw should be stable
o Number of straws and thawing time should be taken into consideration
o Thawing technique

• Fertile Bulls- an annual bull breeding soundness exam by a vet is essential
o Scrotal circumference
o Microscopic examination of the semen
o Any physical abnormalities, including lameness
o Number of bulls required

• Set fertility targets and review anually
Submission rate first 24 days of service period 90%
o Conception rate 50%
o Cows bulling before PSM -80%
o Numbers pregnant in 3 week blocks
- Week 3- 45%
- Week 6 -68%
- Week 9 -91%
- Week 12-90%
- Empty rate should be less than 10%

• Good grazing essential

April’s meeting report: Grazing management

FOURTEEN farmers attended a discussion meeting held at Clive Hall to discuss the management system in use by Fletcher & Co.

The focus of the evening meeting was grazing management at Clive Hall, which is the key to success to the group of farms. Monitor Farmer Phil Asbury and Geoff Booth (operations manager Fletcher & Co) led the group on a farm walk across number of fields to discuss the performance and challenges of each, including Clive Hall’s reseeding policy.

Phil and Geoff updated the group on Clive Hall’s challenges for 2011 and other targets and achievements with the aim of increasing margin per litre using the lean system of management, monitoring key performance indicators.

Challenges for 2011

1. To lift pre grazing height in order to:

A. Grow more grass (without impacting quality)

B. Increase grazing round length (normally a 18-22 day circulation rate) when shortfalls are predicted (particularly due to current climatic conditions), therefore reducing the need to feed silage/meal at high expense

2. Replace 100 tonnes DM shortfall (due to current drought) as economically as possible

Targets and Achievements for Clive Hall

1. Calves reared on site up to weaning at 90 kg

2. Replacements to arrive first week of January

3. 45% heifers reared (v 55% bull calves)

4. Empty rate 9% at 10 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ) (Empty rate last year 9% at 12 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ))

5. Cull rate 16% half barrens half in calf May/June (sold as in-calf cows) this is also 2011 target

6. Milk yield; 5200 litres – 2011 target; 5600 litres

7. Grass production; 13.25 tons DM / hectar

8. Grass grazed; 11.5 tons DM / hectare

9. 500 kg wheat feed/dairy concentrates/ cow

10. 4 pence /litre labour charge

Concluding the evening meeting, Phil Asbury stated ‘in order to meet 2011 targets and challenges it is important to maintain the high standards we have already set at Clive Hall. In addition we would like to meet our ‘empty rate’ target so that we can cull the lower achieving cows.

If this objective is met, 5% of the lowest achieving cows will be replaced therefore helping us to meet the milk yield target’. Phil also concluded ‘Although we are on target for grass growth, by looking closer at nutrient management planning and our reseeding policy, this will help reduce the annual forage shortfall’.

Future Events
1. Open Beef and Sheep Monitor Farm Discussion group meeting 24th May 2011- Langford Farm.
Link to more information

2. Open Dairy Monitor Farm Discussion Group; 14th June, venue Clive Hall.
Link to more information

Dairy Monitor Farm Business Group Meeting Report – Calf housing and disease prevention

HOST Farmer Steph Randles; Marton Hall Farm, Marton, Macclesfield.

The Dairy Monitor farm discussion group met mid-January and intend to meet on a regular basis with a different group member hosting the farm walk part of each meeting.

The objective of the meetings is to discuss a topic that is relevant to not only Clive Hall Monitor farm, but to all group members and wider community, looking at various topics in relation and comparison to Clive Hall.

The meeting began with a farm walk at Marton Hall (a block calving New Zealand style system very similar to Clive Hall) and the group headed towards the calving yard as farm manager Steph Randles explained that they have plans to extend both the calving yard and the calf housing to ease management.

Good Calving Yard, Housing and Disease Prevention…
Discussions that followed were led by Ed Hayes and Olie Maxwell (Wright and Morten Vet Group); covering factors that determine a good calving yard/calf housing with disease risk prevention management.

The main topics and discussion outcomes and recommendations included;
• Calving yard
o Stocking density-15m²/cow (the more the better)
o Frequency of cleaning out- every 3 weeks
o Frequency of bedding up- daily
o Removal of calf- as soon as possible

• Calf housing and management
o Stocking density
- Less than 6 weeks old; 1.1m² /calf
- More than 6 weeks old; 1.5m²/calf (group housing)
- Age grouping within one month
o Ventilation; air movement vital to reduce humidity- stagnant air is worse than draughts
o Feed hard feed from day 1. Water should be available from day 1

• Calf disease; sours and pneumonia. Causes; inadequate colostrum, environment and pathogen load
o Scours
- Pathogens; Rotavirus, Coronavirus, Coccidiosis, Cryptosporidia, E.coli, Salmonella
- Treatment costs (excluding labour) £44/sick calf. £59 less milk in first lactation
o Pneumonia
- Pathogens; Viruses in primary stages (Rotavirus, Coronavirus), pasteurella bacterium in secondary stages
- Treatment, anti-inflammatory are vital
- Treatment costs (excluding labour) £43-£54/calf/1st treatment (£104 second treatment)

• Colostrum
o How much should be fed; 3 litres in first 6 hours plus 3litres in 2nd 6 hours
o Quality; test with colostrometer to assess quality- ZST testing
o Adult cow colostrum is better quality than from a heifer
o Risk of pooling colostrum; know your Johnes status, identify any positive cows and remove
o For passive immunity, colostrum must be fed within the first 24 hours

Calving Targets
The meeting ended by discussing the group’s targets at calving time compared with the national average and the importance of setting targets. Ed and Olie who led the discussions ended the meeting by saying; “You can control the number of calf losses where possible through disease prevention.”

National average;
• Calves born dead-8%
• Die before weaning-3%
• Die between weaning and bulling-0%
• Cases of scouring- 6%

The discussion group feedback was positive from both block and year round calving systems. Both Marton Hall and Clive Hall are due to start their 12 week calving block on the 1st February. Monitor farmer Phil Asbury had commented that “the meeting was an ideal refresher for calving starting soon”.

Clive Hall Farm will be hosting it’s monitor farm open day on Wednesday, February 23rd at 10-30am.

Contact Lesley Innes at Reaseheath College Tel: 01270 625 131 ext 308 to confirm your attendance.