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Maximising herd health is a priority for new dairy unit

Building a new dairy is giving Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador Fraser Jones the opportunity to implement measures to improve biosecurity, herd health and welfare.

Fraser Jones currently milks 1000 cows across three sites near Welshpool, but is in the process of setting up a new dairy unit on a greenfield site at Lower Leighton Farm, where he currently milks 300-head.

 He says: “The new unit houses 1000 cows, bringing numbers up to 2000 in total.

 The expansion will come from retained home-bred heifers. We have 350 surplus a year at the moment and expect it to take two-and-a-half years to get to full capacity.

 This means it will be a relatively young herd, but I want to ensure cows last as long as possible. It takes two or three lactations before they start to cover their rearing costs and the aim is to keep them in the herd as long as possible.

In order to do this, we have to do everything we can to keep them healthy and productive and minimise disease. This has been a key focus in setting up the new site.”

New parlour

The unit will have a 72-point rotary parlour, three new cubicle sheds, six silage pits, as well as additional slurry storage and water storage tower. 

Image of Fraser Jone's new parlour

Fraser says: “I have gone for a rotary system as I think it will be better for cows, as it will reduce the amount of time they are away from the shed and enable us to milk 500 cows an hour.

It should also be cleaner, which is better for cows and staff. We have also put in an Apollo auto-dip back-flushing system, something we have not had before, which should reduce contamination between cows and improve cell counts and bactoscans.”

Utilising technology

Cows will go through auto-refilling foot wash to remove initial dirt, followed by a footbath, which is replenished with water and chemicals every 100 cows, with the aim of maintaining hoof health.

A weighing system is being installed which will allow groups of cows, rather than individuals, to be weighed, so changes can be monitored and acted upon.

Fraser is currently trialling a fertility monitoring system, which uses eartags to record a whole host of information and, in addition to highlighting bulling cows, flags up other changes which may indicate sick cows before they show visible signs. 

He says: “I am really impressed by how accurate it is. It gives me peace of mind knowing we can pick up any health issues at an early stage and deal with them before they become serious."

The new unit will also have kitchen and shower facilities for staff which will offer two-fold benefits. Fraser says: “Staff can come to work in their own clothes, change on-site, then after work, shower and leave their dirty clothes on-farm before going home."

Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador Fraser Jones
Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador Fraser Jones

“This will be better for them and their families as they are not going home in dirty, smelly clothing, but also should reduce the risk of contamination and the chance of disease leaving or being brought onto the farm."

Being a Disease? Not On My Farm! ambassador has really focused my mind on disease prevention and brought home the importance of biosecurity, particularly having seen the extent of the measures put in place in the manufacture of vaccines.

Disease is going to play a big part in farming in the future and we have to do everything possible to minimise risk and be proactive about disease prevention and biosecurity.