Managing for Performance, Maximising Forage Utilisation and Cow Health was the key focus for the recent on-farm technical dairy road shows, organised by the Davidsons Dairy Tech team.

The technical road shows, focusing on efficient, sustainable dairy farming, were held at three prominent dairy units over a 3 day period, bringing together four industry leading speakers, with the practical discussion sessions tailored to each farm.

The first of the interactive road shows was hosted by the Vevers family at High Plains Farm, Longtown, followed by the Agnew family at West Dhuloch Farm, Stranraer with the final event hosted by the Veitch family at Greenside Farm, Cumnock.

With a focus on performance of the dairy herd, the speakers covered a range of topics, focusing on practical solutions to increasing efficiency, cow comfort and welfare as well as focusing on better production and utilisation of home grown forages.

The interactive sessions were located at different work stations across each of the farms, and looked at a range of important topics:

  • Jonathan Huxtable – Ruminant Manager for the UK, Ireland and Finland from Zinpro UK covered a range of practical topics related to transition management, commenting that “we should be targetting a level of 0% lameness for cows and heifers within the dry period, with a good foot trimming routine key to achieving this target”. Along with assessing cow comfort, feed and water space, dry cow nutrition and areas such as foot bathing routine his key message was that “transition makes up 80% of a cows’ performance, but accounts for only 20% of the lactation, so every effort should be made to ensure a smooth transition at calving for the future performance of the herd”.

  • Michael Davey, an Independent Dairy Consultant travelled over from Ireland specifically to talk at the Dairy Tech Road Shows focused on forage production, and challenged the attendees on producing both Quality and Quantity when it comes to making and ensiling silage. “Understanding what we are looking at in the field, reading the leaves of the grass plants, and working with the Dairy Tech team to look at pre-cut analysis are all essential parts of achieving good quality grass silage”, commented Michael. Cutting silage by the calendar should be a thing of the past, and we should instead be concentrating on when the grass is ready”, said Michael, and by doing so farmers will be able reap the rewards three fold by consistently producing silage of a higher nutrient value, with greater intake characteristics and improved cow performance.

  • Richard Colley, Scotland and Northern England Manager for United Molasses discussed the role of liquid feedstuffs in dairy rations and the role of a well balanced ration for optimised performance. “Liquid feeds and the role of sugars should be considered as part of a well balanced ration, to complement the forages produced on farm alongside the existing concentrates in the TMR” commented Richard, going on to assess the role of additional sugars within the ration and the benefits of liquid feeds in terms of aiding intakes and rumen efficiency to help utilise more fibrous forages, which he predicted could be the case on a lot of farms this winter due to more bulky, mature 1st cut silages.

  • Mark McFarland and Csaba Adamik of Lallemand Animal Nutrition explored a range of topics across the three days, focusing on optimising rumen health and ways that farmers can look to enhance rumen efficiency, forage utilisation and cow performance, with particular attention focused on understanding and reducing heat stress both for cows out at grass and in housed situations and the key importance of improved fibre digestion within the rumen. Mark discussed the role of Lallemands live yeast, Levucell Titan SC, explaining to attendees “the role of live yeast within the rumen has many benefits, helping to create a more consistent rumen environment, aiding the health of the cow and improving utilisation of the ration, in particular forage digestion. Through a more efficient rumen, we can see improved yields, as well as better allowing the cow to deal with heat stress conditions”.

Across the three day road show events, attendees also learned more about the individual host farms, the history of each of the family run units and the current performance of the herds. The Dairy Tech team provided an introduction to each farm, and how they work alongside their customer to achieve current results on farm.


High Plains Farm, Longtown

Matt Vevers and his parents, Richard and Julie run 420 Holstein cows along with 380 youngstock across 400 owned acres and 100 acres rented. There are another three full-time and two-part members of staff and all milk is sold to Arla on a manufacturing contract. Cows are housed all year on cubicles and calving takes place all year round.

Milking cows are split into three groups for management purposes to include fresh calvers and high and low yielders on a full TMR system. The TMR of comprises molasses, Traffordgold, straw, silage and a bespoke meal. The high and fresh calvers are fed the same diet whilst the lows are on a separate diet all managed by Davidsons Dairy Tech consultant, Sam Hodgson. Current production stands at 10,124kg at 4.11%BF and 3.35%P with a 35% pregnancy rate. The farm takes three cuts of silage a year with 360 acres cut twice and 250 acres being cut three times as this allows for grass reseeding and extra grazing for in-calf heifers.

West Dhuloch, Stranraer

Grazing cows through the summer is key for the fourth generation of the Agnew family who run 200 pedigree Holstein cows across 300 owned acres and 90 rented, with 270 followers. Robert and Susan are in charge with twin sons, Robbie and Craig having left school almost a year ago working full time on the farm while eldest daughter, Kate is at university in Edinburgh studying primary teaching.

Keeping the cows out at grass from March to November helps keep costs down. During the winter, cows are housed in cubicle sheds with mattresses and sawdust, fed a TMR comprising of silage, straw, molasses and a bespoke Davidsons meal through a Kennan feed wagon. Having switched over to Davidsons 18 months ago Dairy Tech consultant, Michael Carruthers, keeps an eye on silage quality, testing the silage regularly and optimising the ration through regular tweaks to the bespoke ground meal formulation. Cows on average produce 8800kg a year at 4.1%BF and 3.4%P with all milk sold through First Milk on a Nestle contract.

The family has also just started a five-year plan to lower carbon emissions, which involves sowing different grass seed mixtures, rotational grazing, and reducing water requirements, electricity and antibiotic usage. Robert has also reduced his use of fertiliser and made more of slurry this year for the harvest of three cuts of silage. The aim is to produce forages with a 35% dry matter. Silage quality has a massive impact on our milk production, so we need to get it right. We moved from two cuts to three cuts to help increase energy and protein in the ration. We like to have the cows out in the summer to enjoy the grass. We are lucky, we can grow grass for fun here, added Robert. Along with the diet I believe that if we can keep the cows correct during the transition period we can get our calving index lower which in turn helps the cows get in calf quicker and back producing milk sooner, said Robert

Greenside, Cumnock

Some 240 Holstein cows, alongside 230 followers are managed at Greenside Farm, where David and Liz Veitch run their business along with son Adam and daughters, Louise and Holly. Herd numbers increased when the family purchased the 150-acre neighbouring farm, East Borland which runs alongside the 200 acres at Greenside.

Cow numbers are at capacity for the size of the farm, with the herd producing 9500kg per cow per year or 33.4kg per day, on a Muller Milk & Ingredients Co-operative contract. The milking herd is fed a TMR based on grass silage, supergrains and chopped straw which is complemented by a bespoke meal made up by Dairy Tech consultant, James Bendle, with cows fed to yield in the parlour. Dairy Tech monitor CIS milk recording data, parlour data and carry out regular metabolic blood profiling with Edinburgh Vet School and their DHHPS service, to keep a close eye on herd health and performance.  High yielders tend to be housed all year round with low yielders grazed in the summer months after first cut silage has been taken. Three cuts of silage are taken each year and silage quality is key to milk production and ideally, we should have it cut and covered within 48 hours. Having our own silage kit is a lot more flexible and resulting in a better quality feed”, said David.