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- New parlour combined with proactive herd health boosts production
After 10 years of planning and building, Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador Fraser Jones has officially began milking 320 Holstein Friesians at his new conventional dairy parlour.
Fraser, who farms near Welshpool, began milking on the site in November and hopes to reach a 1,000 milking herd within the next 18 months. The herd will be milked three times a day, with milk sold to Muller.
After growing the family business, Fraser now runs three dairy units, all of which are closed herds. There is then another unit dedicated to calving, dry cows and youngstock rearing.
Improving herd health
“Being an ambassador highlights to the wider farming community the importance of vaccination programmes, and the correct use of medicines. As farmers, we can be closely scrutinised, so we need to make sure we do everything by the book,” says Fraser.
“All farmers should have a vaccination regime to protect animals against disease. I work closely with my vet to establish what works best on this farm, my vet will then record all vaccinations and provide a report for the assurance scheme.
Generally, we will vaccinate against Leptospirosis in March, BVD in November, and IBR in February and August.”
To help prevent calf scours, dry cows are given a Bovilis® Rotavec® Corona vaccination at the point of drying off, which boosts antibodies in colostrum which are then transferred to the newborn calf. Bull calves, which are fattened to 14 months of age, are given two Bravoxin® 10 vaccinations, initially when they are three or four months old, and then another a month later.
“Since vaccinating cattle against these various diseases, I have noticed a marked improvement in both herd health and milk production. Vaccinating against BVD has greatly improved our fertility rates, with around 60% of cows pregnant at pregnancy diagnosis. We now also see hardly any whites, or dirty cows, which used to be a big problem for us before we were BVD free.”
As well as vaccinations, Fraser has also amended his calf feed rations to ensure herd replacements reach their full potential. Weaned calves are now being given a higher protein level to promote growth straight away. This now includes an ad-lib 80% concentrate and 20% hay, with forage levels increasing and concentrates decreasing as they get older.
Milking cows are fed a ration of grass silage, whole crop, maize, fodder beat until March, and a concentrate which is mixed in house.
Latest parlour innovations
Due to complications with planning permission, as the farm is close to Powys castle, the parlour build was delayed for a number of years. This, however, gave Fraser the flexibility to alter his parlour design to include the latest innovations.
“When I initially designed the parlour, I opted for a single point ID reader on the bridge to scan cattle as they walked over. A few years later I decided a per point ID would work better, where instead of having one reader, there is one in each stall totalling 72. This was more costly but has greatly improved my herd management as it is more reliable because I never get a false reading.
Placing the ID readers in each cubicle has also enabled me to widen the bridge meaning we have an entrance space for one and a half cows, rather than single file. This means the second cow is already halfway up the first, so loading is much quicker. As a result, we have increased our throughput per hour from a maximum of 400 cows per hour to 550 per hour.”
During the parlour build delay, Fraser looked at different renewable energy sources which would benefit his system and decided to install ground source heating into the parlour. This works by taking heat out of the milk, and natural energy out of the ground.
“The system uses a high and low temperature tank. Water in the high temperature tank reaches about 500°C purely through taking heat out of the milk, and this water then moves into water boilers to wash the parlour. To reach the desired temperature of 850°C to wash the parlour, my water heaters now only need to heat the water from 500°C rather than around 100°C which has greatly saved electricity costs.
Using heat exchangers also cools milk at the same time so that milk enters the tank at around 20°C. This means that it can go straight into the tanker, whereas previously, we had a real issue trying to cool the milk for the tankers coming two or three times a day. Cooling milk instantly has also greatly helped improve our bactoscans.
We have also installed space heaters in the office and parlour, and this stored up heat is blown out to keep the parlour thawed.”
Although this investment cost around £400,000, which is more than double the price of standard cooling equipment, Fraser will receive RHI payments from it, meaning that in four to five years’ time the investment will be paid back, and for the remaining 15 to 16 years of the system’s lifespan this will generate an income.
Productivity gains in dairy
Creating a pleasant working environment for his staff was a key consideration of Fraser’s when designing the parlour, and something he feels he has managed to achieve.
For the first few days it was a struggle as most cows needed to adjust to the system. However, after this, cows began entering the system themselves and Fraser is now milking 300 cows per hour comfortably.
“Our staff morale is a great deal better, and we find getting good staff a lot easier as they want to come and work here because it’s an enjoyable job. The only way to attract good staff is by having a nice working environment for them.
All in all, I feel the new parlour has been hugely beneficial to both herd, and human, health. The milking time is much shorter and smother, meaning cows are less stressed. Our disease prevention strategies help to ensure the herd is healthy, which again improves cow welfare.
Using technology such as ID readers in each cubicle, and ground source heat to warm water tanks, makes the job easier and more enjoyable for our workers,” concludes Fraser.
Bovilis® Rotavec® Corona Emulsion for injection for Cattle, contains inactivated Bovine Coronavirus, inactivated Bovine Rotavirus and Escherichia coli vaccine antigens, POM-VPS
Bravoxin® 10 contains Clostridia vaccine antigens. POM-VPS
MSD Animal Health UK Limited. Registered office Walton Manor, Walton, Milton Keynes MK7 7AJ, UK. Registered in England & Wales no. 946942.
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