Veenhuizer Damion Winnie EX-92-NL (max score)
Reserve 2 yr old Champion HHH Show 2009
Grand Champion & Jnr 2 Yr old Champion International Show Libramont (Belgium) 2009
Grand Champion & Int Champion National HHH Show 2011
Winnie's production figures:
1st = 10335 kg @ 4.15% Fat 3.64% Protein
2nd = 12621 kg @ 4.03% Fat 3.46% Protein
Norbreck Genetics has semen available from her son Veenhuizer Gold One (sire: Braedale Goldwyn)
SUCCESS FOR CUMBRIAN DAIRY FARMER
Four years ago, Cumbria farmer Duncan Maughan sold his dairy herd and switched to suckler cows and finishing beef cattle. Today, dairy cows are back on the 105ha (260 acres) at Gateshaw Mill, Cumrew in east Cumbria and Mr Maughan admits he's got a new lease of life.
To the increasing numbers of dairy farmers who feel disenchanted with milk production, 38-year-old Mr Maughan's revitalised enthusiasm and commitment are a welcome tonic in an industry plagued by an on-going exodus and lack of opportunities for new entrants.
"I feel totally committed to the cows now I've restarted the herd again. Beef cattle never gave me the same buzz and even though we were only out of milk for a few years, the farm wasn't looking as well as it should have done. It was missing the level of management you've got to put in if you are growing grass to produce milk."
Finding a milk buyer
But even though capital investment was needed to cover the cost of the cows and a replacement parlour, having decided to go back into milk, Mr Maughan's priority was to find a buyer.
"We could have gone elsewhere but decided to stay with First Milk – and it's been one of the best decisions we've made. It's a company that's definitely on track and looks set to have a really good future based on the way it's re-investing in its dairies and developing new markets."
When Mr Maughan first sold his cows in 2007 he was being paid 17ppl; his current contract with First Milk is paying 26.3ppl.
SOURCING STOCK AND EQUIPMENT
The herd, which is run at 560ft above sea level, has been created in total with imported Holstein heifers from Holland. All 100 head were bought unseen as in-calf heifers through importers Phil Halhead and Richard Lawson costing £1,400 a head.
"Coming in again from scratch at least gives you the chance to look at different breeds or types of dairy cow and we considered Danish Reds, Jersey and Holsteins. But we opted for imported Holsteins on the basis of the quality of the cattle and their health status. All were from Johne's free herds," says Mr Maughan.
Although the farm's 210-cow cubicle accommodation was still in place, the parlour had been sold. A second-hand Fullwood 24.24 was installed with flow metres and auto ID costing £13,500 – including the bulk tank. This is definitely a business that's returning to milk production with a fresh approach - some of which has undoubtedly been stimulated by the four-year break.
"Keeping control of costs has never been more important and we want to produce as much milk as possible from home-grown grass and forage. Looking at every detail of costs of production is going to be critical but it's not just about pence a litre, it's about milk production an acre.
"I think there's a lot of potential to get more out of what we can grow at home and that's what we'll be doing. We've always taken soil samples, monitored pH levels and analysed home-grown forages and this level of management is going to have to become more critical if dairy farmers want to produce milk as economically as possible."
This year the farm is growing 80ha (200 acres) of grass and 24ha (60 acres) of cereals. Barley and under-sown wheat will be used as wholecrop forage.
Nutritional advice is being provided by Barry Bell, of Carrs Billington Agriculture, who is currently rationing the herd on a TMR diet but is keen to introduce out-of-parlour feeders to meet the needs of higher yielders. "It's still early days but even though this is a herd of first-calf heifers we're seeing all the signs of their potential," says Mr Bell.
Faced with an imported herd brought on to the farm in one group and all to calve-down at the same time, Mr Bell was well-aware of the need for careful management and the introduction of a feed regime that would support these newly calved heifers rather than "ask too much" of them.
The previous herd at Gateshaw Mill was fed a TMR diet with an additional flat-rate of 1kg a head given twice a day in the parlour. While the TMR regime will be continued, out-of-parlour feeders will be introduced shortly.
"They will ensure we can target individual cows more effectively instead of feeding a flat-rate in the parlour on top of the base diet on offer in the troughs," says Mr Bell. The current TMR mix comprises grass silage, wholecrop, protein meal plus minerals and Megalac.
By mid-August, the herd was being buffer-fed with the TMR mix before afternoon milking and kept inside overnight. "We've been trying very hard to reduce the stress of these heifers and to do all we can to enable them to settle rather than to push them at this stage," says Mr Maughan.
While some may consider a feed regime that includes a TMR mix, in-parlour feeding and out-of-parlour feeding to be complicating the system, both Mr Bell and Mr Maughan believe relying totally on TMR will not suit the system they're aiming for.
The plan is to move the herd to all-year-round calving and the TMR won't put the feed where it's most needed, adds Mr Bell. "Even if we opted for a tight calving pattern there would still be individuals that would risk laying-down too much condition. Meeting the specific needs of individual cows is something we'll be aiming for.
"Being realistic we won't be expecting a herd average much above 6,000 litres from this first lactation but as these imported cattle settle to the system we'll be constantly monitoring the diet to match production and cow health," says Mr Bell.
Although Mr Maughan had an 8,000-litre average as his initial target, producing milk profitably - rather than chasing yield and losing sight of costs of production – is Mr Bell's management mantra.
"Profitable and healthy cows will be the driving force of this business. Mr Maughan faces more challenges now than he did when he was milking before, in terms of really getting to grips with detail of management and nutrition, but the break has given him a new focus on how he wants to manage the herd.
"Targets for the first year are not too demanding as we need these animals to acclimatise to both their environment and diet and settle down as a herd. There aren't many milk producers who have sold-up and then decided to come back, but confidence is returning to dairy farming and that could be the trigger to tempt more producers to re-think their decision to leave," says Mr Bell.
Mr Maughan says no-one would come back into milk without being fully aware of the issues facing the dairy sector. "Obviously I'd like a better milk price and a much broader-based dialogue developing between producers and the trade.
"A lot of producers have been driven out of milk because of the price they've been paid. Milk is an important commodity and I think, like many other foods, we may not be that far away from a situation of shortages rather than oversupply."