Grass sample analysis work

Following the last steering group meeting, it has been decided that weekly grass samples will be sent for analysis in order to ascertain grass quality and nutritional value.

The analysis will look at values for DM, Crude Protein, ME and D Value. Further details to follow, weekly collection of data will be analysed and presented for discussion at the next Dairy Monitor Farm Open Discussion on November 3rd.

Clive Hall update from farmer Phil

Sorry it’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog – so here goes.

Just a short recap on where we left off, I think we were just at the start of our service period and had synchronised a number of cows to bring their bulling date forward and we were really concentrating on good observation of any bulling cows.

My target number of cows to serve in the first twenty one days of May was ten. By by the 21st May I had served 93% of the cows which was bang on target. From then on things slowed a little. The group of twenty cows we selected to milk once a day were mainly late calved cows,lame,dirty or not seen bulling in the lead up to the service period, so we put a bull with this group.

10 weeks AI

On the 1st of May every cow had a Kamar detector glued to them, always a sticky horrible job but certainly worth doing. As any cow in the once a dayers was served either by the bull or A.I, she then returned to the main milking herd. Due to the lack of enough good fertile bulls available we took the decision that I would A.I for ten weeks rather than five or six weeks which we had done in previous years.

As the weeks went by the return rates were monitored and recorded and we stopped A.I in mid July putting two crossbred bulls in with the cows.

In July we decided to P.D a few cows served in May and not returned to get a feel as to how service had gone and so we pulled out 50 cows and 48 were in calf, so all seemed well. By the end of October when we had P.D‘d all the cows the final results were excellent, with 93% in calf for my twelve week block from February 1st 2011.

Grass, silage and increased concentrate use

The early part of the summer was really challenging with the dry weather impacting on grass growth. We had to increase concentrate and also open the silage pit to compensate for the reduced amount of grass in the diet, but we ultimately remained in control of the grass feed wedge. We had to reduce grass demand by nearly 50% for about 10 days.

The dry weather meant we have fed a lot more concentrate in the middle part of the year when we would normally only be feeding 1kg/cow/day just as parlour bait for the cows. When the rain finally arrived and grass growth began to recover we instantly removed the silage, and then after a week cut the concentrate back from 5kg to 1Kg.

Milk dropped

Cutting the concentrate so dramatically led to the quantity of milk dropping, so we then put the concentrate up to 3kg then gradually reducing it back to 1kg over a week or so. We did this because we forgot to factor in that the grass during the dry spell would have been 30% DM and when the grass really got growing it was so lush that the dry matter would have been about 15%. So in a matter of a day or two the dry matter content of the grass had halved so the cows physically couldn’t eat enough lush low dry matter grass to satisfy their appetite. Thankfully the milk bounced back and an important lesson was learned.

As a result of poor grass growth and feeding silage mid-season, our overall silage stocks are alarmingly low, so next time I will try to explain the way we plan to overcome this.


Data collection and mobility scoring

Picture 041DATA collection continues to be collected on a daily basis by Phil Asbury (Farm Manager) and saved in the ‘Daily Dairy’ to monitor key performance indicators (KPI’s).

KPI meetings continue on farm with the attendance of Phil and Geoff Booth (Fletcher & Co LLP Operations Manager) to review Clive Hall’s weekly performance.

Mobility scoring

Using DairyCo’s system, mobility scoring is now also being carried on a monthly basis.

Mobility scoring is carried out in the the yard on a monthly basis

Mobility scoring is carried out in the yard on a monthly basis

This will monitor the percentage of Clive Hall’s herd which score 0-1, 2 and 3, ensuring that any cows scoring 2 and 3 are referred for treatment. The mobility scoring data is also stored in the daily diary.

cowmobilityinstructionsjpgLearn more about DairyCo’s Cow Mobility Scoring System>>

DairyCo’s cow mobility Score Sheet>>

Electronic ‘daily diary’ used to monitor weekly performance

AN electronic ‘daily diary’, created by Dr Kay Carson (Steering Group member) is a new management tool to collect, store and analyse data at Clive Hall Farm.

GEDC0386Farm manager Phil Asbury spends 15 minutes at the end of each day inputting all relevant information from the day, for example grass growth, litres of milk produced as well as any general issues.

This ‘daily diary’ stores all the necessary day-to-day information in one place and monitors key performance indicators (KPI’s). KPI meetings continue on farm with the attendance of Phil, Geoff Booth (Fletcher & Co LLP Operations Manager) and Dr Kay Carson to monitor and review Clive Hall’s weekly performance.

Focus Areas
Clive Hall Dairy Monitor Farm Key Focus areas are:
Cow Management – health and welfare, fertility, milking /overall cow performance and young stock
Grass growth and Harvesting – grass growth performance, species and soil quality/analysis
Asset care – machinery and parlour improvements/maintenance, buildings and tracks and efficiency of utilities

Next Discussion Group Meeting – would you like to take part?

We are now developing the dairy monitor farm discussion group so that you can contribute to the monitor farm project by expressing your views, experiences and ideas. Through this discussion group and knowledge transfer you and your business could see the benefit.

An on-farm open day will be held at Clive Hall Farm early September and all are welcome to attend. The day’s demonstrations will relate to Clive Hall’s focus areas which were identified by the steering group using the lean management style process mapping.

Full details are to follow, if you are interested in attending and would like more information on any of the above please contact Lesley Innes, Reaseheath College Tel: 01270 625131 ext 308 / mobile 07788 721 943 Email:

Spring calving, “magic day” and fluorescent paint

THIS spring we will calve 210 cows in 11 weeks and rear 95 heifer calves to 90 -110kg in 10 weeks.

Spring calving

Spring calving

One of the main objectives of this monitor farm is to look at the principle of lean manufacturing – after all, that’s what we do! All farms are a production line of some sort whether it be milk, meat or grain.

Mapping out the road ahead
We want to look intensely at every single thing that happens on the farm and map out the thought process behind all the major decisions.

We will make a road map that aims to make the farm even more efficient and profitable, and will also help other farming businesses look at their own farms and become better through being involved in the monitor farm experience.

The year so far…
Anyway, I will give you a run down on what has happened this year so far. As I said before, Clive Hall is spring-calving, so from December 23 2009 every cow on the unit was dry – so no cows to milk over Christmas and New Year – happy days.

Dry cows are housed on sand cubicles and fed self-feed silage. As they start to get close to calving the cows are moved onto straw bedded yards and fed good quality hay. The start of calving is February 1st. By Feb 7th, the calved cows were out at grass day and night. You mean ‘so and so’ I hear you say, but they’ve got a leather and fur coat- so what’s the problem?

By Feb 21st 110 of the 210 cows and heifers had calved. The animals that are at grass are allocated 8 to 10kg dm/ cow plus 5kg/dm concentrate and 1 to 3kg/dm of silage if they want it.

We aim to graze 33% of the farm in the first 30 days from turn out – as more and more animals calve, the larger the area we allow the cows to graze each day. This spring has been slow as regards grass growth so we have kept the grazing cows limited to 8kg/dm of grazed grass 5 kg/dm concentrate and 3kg/dm silage.

“Magic Day” and “Rocket Fuel”

Regrowth like rocket fuel

Regrowth like rocket fuel

The whole farm was grazed by April 8th which coincided with magic day. That’s the day the farm actually grows more grass than the cows can harvest.

By eating the old grass that’s been there all winter, the regrowth now is like rocket fuel – it’s better than anything your rep can put in your feed hopper.

It’s great to know that we’re actually starting to graze fields for a second time this year before most of Cheshire has even turned a single cow out. I did keep the milkers in for two days when we had the snow because they couldn’t physically get the grass, but as the snow disappeared they were pushing at the gates to go out again.

Late March and the wet weather was a pain. Total farm cover was down to 1639 kg/dm/ha and with very little silage left in the pits, a big load of bale silage was bought from up Leek, Staffordshire to get me through that period .The cows have easily made residuals of 1300 on all but 1 of my 31 paddocks, without too much loss of body condition.

We started the Second grazing round on the 8th April with farm cover at 1700 kg/dm/ha- still a little low but I am confident the farm will gain cover with the good weather and longer days.

Problem cows and metri check

Our focus areas now are dirty cows and non cycling cows – with only 6 cows left to calve as of April 12th. Ed Hays, our vet from Wright and Morten (a fellow Liverpool supporter), came on the 8th April to go through any cows or heifers that had problems at or soon after calving.

It’s so important that any problem cows are sorted out now so they at least have some time to clean up and start to cycle ready for the 1st May when we start to A.I.

Part of the daily morning routine through February and March has been to shed cows out and metri check them for metritis and treat any problem cows with either metricure, excenel or tylan depending how bad they are. Any cows that are fine and don’t have a problem have a white tail tape and are left to get on with it – thankfully I’ve used lots of white tape!

Painting and De-horning

Fluorescent stripes

Fluorescent stripes

This week (10th April) we tail painted all the 205 calved cows- quite a sight with a fluorescent green stripe on the back of every cow. Again, this helps to identify those non-bullers and they will be vetted again at the end of the month.

Reaseheath students have been a great help this spring as they have de-horned most of my heifer calves. I’ve got two groups of 40 outside using the milk bar trailer behind the quad bike. These calves will be shipped away when they are 90 to 110 kg to be reared, and the best ones will return in two years as replacement calving heifers.

So it’s been busy over the last three months but the weather has warmed up and spring has sprung at last. There will be lots more to report as the year goes by.

Phil Asbury