Pictured: Alan Hurst, Lakeland Agri (right) pictured with Jim Smyth and his children, Sinead, Peter and Cormac
A recent visit to Jim Smyth’s farm in Jerrettspass Co. Down highlights his experience of the Transition Management System. Jim is currently milking 180 cows, which are split into a high/fresh cow group, and a stale/low cow group. The low cows are at grass full time, weather permitting, while the high group are at grass during the day and remain housed at night on a diet of 30kg of grass silage and 5.5kg of a tailored Lakeland Agri Dairy Blend Ration. Both groups are then supplemented with the high specification Lakeland Agri Supercream 16 dairy nut in the parlour.
Jim’s TMS Experience
As part of his quest to drive the business on further, Jim signed up to partake in phase 1 of the Lakeland Transition Management System (TMS). The TMS programme provides farmers with all the information and data to make the key decisions during the dry period, whereby an independent assessor walks the cows once per month to assess a number of key criteria in the fresh cows and the close-up dry cow group. Through the TMS programme, it was found that true ketosis, some instances of milk fever and retained cleanings were some of the biggest problems that Jim’s herd was facing.
Through an integrated approach, utilising the TMS scores, detailed forage mineral analysis, and technical advice from Alan Hurst, Technical & Product Manager with Lakeland Agri, and Technical Sales Representative, Michael McGeeney, Jim’s TMS score and thus transition success, has significantly improved over the past 12-18 months.
Body Condition Score and Milk Production
“We now aim to dry off all cows at BCS 3.0 to 3.25 to minimise problems around and post calving. Due to the diets we have set up now, with the cows being dried off in such good BCS, we only need a maintenance diet for the far-out dry cow group. The close-up group (21 days) receive a slightly different diet containing a full complement of minerals and vitamins and a level of concentrate (based on forage quality and protein supply) to minimise transition issues.
“Cows have never milked as well as they are doing this year as milk production has improved from 8,950 litres/cow last year, to a predicted yield of 9,800 litres/cow this year, with milk constituents holding relatively steady in that time.”
Reduction in transition problems
“We are now having a much lower level of transition problems such as retained cleanings and milk fevers. This has had a substantial knock on effect on the fertility of my herd, particularly their calving interval. This currently stands at 387 days but would have been as high as 440 days in the past.
“I also find it very useful walking through the dry and early lactation cows with the assessor once a month as it helps me to focus on those particular groups of stock, which is where over 80% of the problems with cows occur throughout the lactation. The TMS data is particularly useful in the freshly calved group once you are milk recording as it will highlight cows that are at risk of ketosis and acidosis.”
Jim has also seen first-hand the financial benefits of being on the TMS programme and what the Lakeland Agri Technical team can do with the correct advice on product selection for both the dry and milking cows. At its lowest score on the TMS programme, transition was costing Jim 5 p/litre. However, since his utilisation of the TMS data, and the strategies that the Lakeland Agri technical team have put in place, his transition costs have decreased to 1.5 p/litre which is a phenomenal response.
“TMS is a really great system with a huge amount of information and is very useful especially when you combine it with the technical expertise that the Lakeland Agri team have for interpreting the information and making the required changes to the various diets as you move through the season. It’s a must for anyone looking to improve the efficiency of their business.”