Friday, 6 May 2011

"The Foundation & Future of Every Farm is the Education of it's Youth" borrowed from Diogenes

We need to actively involve young people in our exciting industry. Young people with bright minds wont buy into our pasture based dairy farming system if we dont invite them to participate & to contribute. We need bright young people on our farms.
I also believe passionately that our top farmers have a huge wealth of experience to offer young people.
These top farmers have often been to university themselves so they understand whats required by students doing dissertations.
You just need to put these people together to create "the magic" & creative thinking goes wild, to everyones advantage.
Over the past 6 months
Harper Adams University, BSc (Honours) Degree in
Agriculture, Land and Farm Management student Lucy Williams has worked with
3 Pasture to Profit dairy farmers....Tom Malleson, John Millington & Rupert Major, on a project to see how Body Condition Score (BCS) affected dairy cow fertility in spring block calving herds. We used the NZ dairy cow condition scoring system where 1 BCS is equal to approx 35 kgs LWT. The target BCS at calving is 5.0. A cow that has a BCS of BCS 3 is considered to be very thin & below target.

The data indicated an important relationship between the BCS at calving & the BCS at Planned Start of Mating (PSM). The better the BCS at calving the better the BCS at PSM. This confirms the NZ studies by John Roche et al & the Irish studies by Frank Buckley

In this on farm study the cows lost a little over the 1 BCS post calving then regained condition (not quite calving condition) by PSM.

There were 847 cows data from the 4 farms included in the study. 80% of these cows calved in the first 6 week block indicating exceptional dairy cow fertility(heifers were not included in these figures).

In fact these cows had a 368 day calving interval (compared to the UK average of approx 425 days). Only 9% of the cows monitored were sold empty.

All 4 herds had a conception rate to first AI service of over 60% & the average number of AI services for a pregnancy was 1.5. Again this is exceptional.

Lucy talking to John & Herdsman Simon in Staffordshire.

Cows calving in the first 6 weeks & cows calving in the second 6 weeks were all very similar in the BCS at calving (average approx BCS 4.8) & the BCS 6 weeks post calving, approx BCS 3.65. So the loss of condition post calving was also very similar. There were interesting differences however between the two 6 week groups as to the average number of days from calving to conception. The cows in the first 6 week calving block took on average 79 days to conception whereas the cows in the second 6 week block took 108 days. This is effectively an extra cycle. This is interesting but we are unsure of the reasons. The cows calving in the first 6 weeks are a reflection of the success of the first 2 cycles of AI whereas the second 6 week block is likely to be partly related to the onfarm management of bulls.

"The study has reinforced the important fact that BCS at calving is the most influential factor on BCS loss between calving and pre mating (PSM)." Said Lucy in her summary.

It was brilliant to have Lucy as part of our team & she is to be congratulated on doing a great job of pulling the data from over 800 cows together as part of her study requirements. Lucy is one of 4 students who have been working with the P2P network this year from Harper Adams. (Kate looked at Lameness, Rob examined sharefarming & Ben did a survey about outwintering....well done guys) I would also like to thank Dr Liam Sinclair from Harper Adams University for his assistance & cooperation. It has been a pleasure to involve the University with our pasture based dairy farmers.

To the many international researchers from NZ, Australia, Ireland & USA your inputs & advice has been extremely helpful.

We look forward to John Alawneh's PhD study results from Massey University, NZ. John has used Walk Over Cattle Scales (along with BCS) in a similar trial.

To obtain research funding for pasture based dairying in the UK seems near impossible. However with persistence, hard work & the willingness of top farmers to "get involved" on farm research can be achieved & we can learn a great deal from our efforts. I would like to thank the P2P farmers & their On farm teams who have freely given of their time & expertise to make this project happen.

There has been many insights gained from this BCS monitoring project over the past 2 years.....only some have been mentioned here. A very useful decision making spreadsheet (especially related to Drying off decisions & timing) has been developed by Tom, John & Rupert as well.

If you are interested contact me.

The NZ Large Herds Conference for years has had a "Young Scientist Communication Award"....we need to take the next step in that direction too.

Current UK Pasture Measurements
Still no rain over most of the UK. Pasture covers have decreased & much silage ground has been grazed instead. Demand generally greater than growth this week. General increase in concs to lengthen grazing rotations. Some rain in the lucky areas!

Average Pasture Cover (kgsDM/ha) & Pasture Growth (kgsDM/ha/day)

South Ayrshire Scotland, AFC 2157, growth 57

Nth Ireland, 1900, 30 Brown patches in fields, silage crop V poor

Cumbria, 1995, 68 need rain

Cumbria, 2330, 50 need rain

Cheshire organic 2100, 40 dry not cut silage as insurance

Nth Wales, 2000, 48 Demand 56 V dry, feeding PK to slow round

Nth Wales, 2020, 63 good rains over past 2 days, grazing conditions fantastic!

Derbyshire, 2218, growth 48 demand 59, No rain for a month, 16.5mm over past 10wks.

Shropshire, 2650, 64 Demand 68 raining now!!

Shropshire, 2280, 45 demand 47, increasing concs to 5kgs

Shropshire, 2283, 58 demand 54, bit dry

Staffordshire, 2160, 39 very dry

Staffordshire, 2400, 34 feeding higher than plating

Staffordshire, 2000, growth = demand 46, rotation 30 days

Herefordshire, 2100, 48 AFC decreasing, 5mm rain

Herefordshire org, 1964, 35 down from 54, lower covers stressed

Pembrokeshire, 2053, 48 last week 79

Pembrokeshire, 2130, 53 demand 70, "drought" got scarey but rain yesterday

West Somerset, 1950, 35 grazing silage ground increased concs

Dorset, 2358, 54 urine patches very obvious now

Dorset, 2145, growth 48, made 18ha silage hoping for rain

East Sussex, 2115, 51 No rain, cows on OAD milking yesterday

Devon, 2250, 46

I didnt ask Cornwall too depressing! Thanks guys!


  1. Brilliant Tom that you are including bright young Uni students like this. It just shows that they are very capable & that we can manage & successfully complete worthwhile research projects....for our sector seeing DairyCo are so reluctant. Congratulations Harper too for getting involved

  2. Thank you. I agree farmers are well capable of initiating & contributing to research. We need much more of it to happen.
    I think Lucy did a great job