Pictured: Alastair Thompson Beaverlodge Farms with David Beacom & Christopher Cahill of Lakeland Agri.
Overlooking the Lakeland Dairies production facility at Artigarvan, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, the milk from Beaverlodge Farms hasn’t far to go before it is processed into nutritious, fresh dairy produce.
The man at the helm of this proactive farming business is Alastair Thompson. Previously Alastair managed all aspects of the business on the ground, however more recently; he has taken a step back to focus his attentions on dry cow and young stock performance, and to drive the business forward from a managerial perspective.
In the past, the herd of 500 cows was milked across two milking units, roughly 2 miles apart. One herd was entirely grass based, while the second was housed. With this set up, Alastair felt management was being stretched and had concerns over the supply of good labour. Alastair aimed to simplify the system. Additional housing was constructed, the entire herd was consolidated and now reside on one unit.
Alongside the consolidation process, the herd underwent a phase of expansion. Today over 600 cows are milked on the farm, with the system evolving to all high performing fresh cows housed, while the staler cows are grazed full time, with a small buffer feed.
18 months ago, Beaverlodge Farms joined the Lakeland Agri and Premier Nutrition Transition Management System (TMS) programme, as a way of improving the efficiencies around the transition of their cows from the dry period into the milking herd. The programme is a management tool, whereby an independent assessor walks through the cows once per month to assess a number of key criteria in the fresh cow, and the close up dry cows, which when combined, will give the individual farm a score to assess the success of their transition programme.
Michael Boyce, manager of the milking herd on Beaverlodge Farms, had the following to say on the farm, as it was 18 months ago; “Body condition score (BCS) was a problem, as was lameness. We were having issues with retained cleanings and milk fevers. The fresh cows were producing 38 litres on average at the time, with the overall herd producing 27.5 litres. The average days in milk was 215.”
Through Beaverlodge Farm's involvement in the TMS programme, the major issues effecting the herd were highlighted. Utilising this information and results of detailed forage mineral samples, the Lakeland Agri Technical team suggested a number of changes that could be made regarding the transition period. One of these was the inclusion of the Lakeland Agri Ultrabalance Dry Cow Mineral. The Lakeland Agri Ultrabalance Dry Cow Mineral is a partial DCAD mineral, containing over 50% protected copper, high levels of minerals and vitamins and an anionic salts component, designed to address the calcium balance in the animal and alleviate the risks of milk fevers and retained cleanings.
18 months on and the herd is in a vastly superior position. There is virtually no issues with retained cleanings or milk fevers. Variation around BCS has improved, as has lameness, and subsequently milk production.
Michael had the following to say on the herd currently;
“The difference in the cows is like night and day. Lameness and particularly culling, due to lameness has almost been eradicated. Body condition has improved massively. Current performance in the high/fresh cows is 44 litres on average, with the entire herd average at 31 litres. Fertility has improved with a lot more cows conceiving to first service and the overall herd empty rate, down by 7%. Average days in milk has decreased to 180 days currently, which shows we have really tightened up on the fertility in the system.”
“TMS has given us a focus on areas we knew were important but never gave the time. Cows are cleaning really well and coming to their peak milk quickly. Milk is up six litres/cow, which adds up to real benefits for us. Body condition is exceptional. Our transition cost has reduced from 2.8p/litre to just over 1p/litre, which is substantial for any farmer.”
“I can see the difference in getting the transition period right now. Our cows are producing a lot more milk, have less transition issues, and we see a big improvement in fertility, which I heavily put down to the Lakeland TMS programme, along with feeding the Lakeland Ultrabalance Dry Cow Mineral. I would highly recommend the TMS programme, the technical support and advanced product selection of Lakeland Agri to other farmers who wish to fully exploit the potential of their herd.”
As places are limited, any Lakeland Dairies milk supplier interested in submitting their name for phase 2 of the TMS programme, should contact one of the Lakeland Agri Technical Sales team or call our Customer Services Centre today.