South West - Dorset - Peter Hunt

Published 3 August 17

Area: Dorset

Farm Address: Blackmarsh Farm, Sherborne, Dorset

Herd numbers: 240 cows (200 in milk).

Herd yields: 10,400 litres at 3.9% fat and 3.2% protein.

Breeding: Holstein Friesian. The team are moving towards using sexed semen on 25% of the herd and having a more selective breeding policy. Dairy semen will be used 2-3 times and then Aberdeen Angus straws. The team are currently achieving 36% conception rate to sexed semen on first and second calved heifers (February 2017).

Replacement rate (%): 30% (due to a higher voluntary culling rate in 2016 and 70-80 heifers coming into the herd. This replacement rate will go back to 22%).

Calving interval (days): About 398 days.

Calving pattern: All year round.

Average age at first calving current (months): 24 months.

Average age at first calving target (months): 23 month.

Average heifer yield: 9,300 litres (some individuals predicted to achieve 11,000 litres) .

Calf housing set up: Calves are kept in hutches in groups of 2-3 for the first three weeks and provided with concentrate and straw and access to some of the dairy TMR. They will then move into a larger building in pens with a maximum of eight calves in each pen.

Calf feeding system: Calves are tubed with 2-3 litres of either their dam’s colostrum or frozen colostrum, within 1-2 hours of birth. The calf is removed from its mother within 24 hours and receives two litres of colostrum twice a day for the first two days. They then move onto two litres of calf milk replacer fed twice daily to deliver a total of 750g of milk solids per calf per day. On cold days this is increased to 900g. Depending on the individual calf, they will then be moved to once a day feeding at six weeks and milk volume will be reduced over a week before weaning.

Main person responsible for calf management: Phil Heal, assistant herdsman.

Weaning target (weeks/weight/feed intake): Generally wean at 8 weeks of age when they are eating 2kg of concentrate (as well as some of the dairy TMR) and they have doubled birth weight.

Any other information of interest: New cubicles have been installed in the transition pens which has reduced the number of calving pens. As a result, the farm team are changing management in the calving yards to make it easier to clean and disinfect. This will also be done more regularly to reduce the risk of crypto spread at this time. The plan is to install a washing machine on farm so calf jackets can be washed at 60C to ensure crypto bugs are destroyed. Peter is also looking into planning for a new calf house to improve calf rearing.