A chance meeting at AgriScot in Edinburgh last year has enabled Woodhead Farm in Dumfriesshire to increase week 4 milk yield by 10 litres per cow.
Callum Jamieson approached Premier Nutrition to find out more about their transition management system, TMS, to see if it could help him tackle issues he was experiencing with his dry cows on his family farm. His 700-cow Holstein herd were suffering LDAs, ketosis, retained foetal membranes and acidosis but his targeted prevention measures were still unable to get his peak milk yield above an average of 32 litres per cow.
“Premier Nutrition’s Transition Manager, Mark Hall, came out to the farm after the show and we chatted about what they could offer”, said Callum. “We liked the sound of TMS and Mark wanted to adopt a simpler system, so we agreed to work together and he reassured me TMS could show me the results.”
An initial TMS assessment of the farm revealed a number of improvement areas, but the priority was cow comfort and dry cow space. The close-up dry cow facilities at Woodhead Farm are appropriate for 8 cows but feeding a calcium binder as a prevention dictated needing one close-up ration and one far-off ration. With every cow needing at least three weeks on the product, dry cows had to be moved across to the close-up pen even though there was no room. Consequently, intakes were very poor and health issues were widespread.
In addition, there was a huge jump in nutrient levels from the dry cow ration, which contained almost no starch or sugar, to the fresh cow ration which was incredibly high in rapidly fermentable starch. “Big changes between dry and fresh rations can have a considerable effect on rumen function and going from low starch to high starch very rapidly will only lead to problems for fresh cows”, explains Mark.
“The first thing I did was discuss everything with Callum”, Mark continued. “We went through cow comfort and the importance of dry cow rations, fresh cow rations, fresh cow comfort, silage analysis and mineral analysis to identify which areas needed changing or improving. The most obvious bottleneck was his dry cow space, so I suggested switching cows to one ration throughout the dry period.”
The result was implementing a calving policy where cows are moved from the cubicles into the straw yard one week pre-calving, which massively reduces the stress on stocking density in the close-up pen. To achieve this, Premier Nutrition recommended taking cows off the calcium binder (zeolite) and instead formulated a partial DCAD mineral plus calcium diet, not only to keep homeostatic mechanisms working, but also to provide the cow with a full complement of calcium during the dry period – vital to ensure milk fevers, retained foetal membranes and other associated problems are minimised at worst and eradicated at best.
“The second thing we did was bring the nutrient levels in the dry and fresh cow rations a bit closer to each other to reduce the sudden shock to the animal of a high starch diet”, added Mark. “We added a small element of starch to the dry cow ration, whilst keeping the energy levels where they needed to be, and this significantly reduced acidosis levels in the fresh cows and greatly improved nutrient utilisation.”
The final ration tweaks were to significantly increase calcium levels in the fresh cow ration – from 0.3% of the dry matter to 1.2% and to correct the metabolic base ratio (MBR) to a more favourable level. The combined changes have greatly improved peak milk yields and, with a change in the milking cow diet to bring energy and protein levels closer to target levels and balancing amino acid levels to maximise liver function, the cows now stay at these peak yields for much longer periods of time than previously.
The monthly TMS assessments have proven how these changes have increased performance at Woodhead Farm. Callum’s first TMS report showed a score of low 40’s which, in just 7 months, has now risen to the mid 70’s with Woodhead Farm becoming the highest yielding herd on the TMS system.
“We are producing the ration a lot cheaper and it’s so much simpler with one ration – it’s saving us about one hour per day”, concluded Callum. “Having two units down the road from each other means transporting just one big mix rather than the four mixes we were doing previously, but the biggest bonus is all the changes have led to 10 litres extra peak milk yield with the herd now averaging 41 litres per cow! I’d definitely recommend using TMS; it really doesn’t mean huge financial investments, in fact the advice from Mark on the small management details it identifies can make the biggest differences in both performance and profitability.”
TMS is a free monthly analysis service operated by Premier Nutrition. For more information, visit the Premier Nutrition stand at UK Dairy Day – Stand H135, Hall 1 – or visit https://tms.premiernutrition.co.uk or call Mark Hall on 07711 191085.