World Wide Sires customers across the UK have been benefiting from the knowledge of Dr Scott Abbott and Kevin Bousquet from the Global Training Centre in Washington, US.
Richard Graham, WWS UK; Dr Scott Abbot and Kevin Bousquet, Global Training Centre; US, Alistair Marshall, Hardgrove Farm; Michael Halliwell, WWS UK; Wayne Conrad, Head of Global Dairy Solutions.
Hosts the length of the UK and Ireland opened their farms and businesses to the scrutiny of the Global Training team. Every aspect of animal husbandry was analysed from rearing calves to achieve well grown heifers for optimum breeding age, to dry and fresh cow management.
Michael Halliwell, UK Business Development Manager for World Wide Sires UK commented: “Our Global Training roadshow across the UK has been very successful, farmers and consultants have benefitted from the knowledge and research shared from the experts from our Global Training Centre. It also gave them a taste of what would be offered at the workshops in Washington, where we regularly run trips to help UK farmers find solutions for better business.”
Farmers and industry consultants in the South West of Scotland benefitted from the kindness of Alistair Marshall - Hargdrove Farm opening his doors, or as Mike Halliwell from WWS UK said: “Lifting his kilt” for everyone to see and discuss the management of his herd.
Dr Scott Abbott who consults globally as well as working in his DVM practice in Washington State told attendees his aim was to help farmers see beyond habit and tradition and discover what are the best management practices. He discussed the ideal environment for fresh cows, from cubicle space, comfort and feeding space to ration. He stressed that the main focus was on maximising the dry matter intake to 3% of body weight for the first 20 days post calving.
If ketosis has been an issue in the dairy, then a system for monitoring cows for ketosis in the first 10 days after calving is crucial and can aid in preventing milk loss of up to 800 litres that lactation principally because ketosis decreases rumination. Treating cows with subclinical ketosis with propylene glycol is a cheap way of preventing milk loss. Cows most prone to ketosis are cows with extended calving intervals and cows with a high body condition score at calving.
It was also highlighted that getting the balance between eating time, lying time and time out of the pen for milking, is important; allowing five hours for eating, 14 hours for lying and resting and no more than four and a half hours for milking in any 24hr period.
Access to water for close calving and lactating cows is imperative with milk having a large water content. 10cm linear access per animal is the rule of thumb guide. Restricting water access has a direct impact on milk production and particularly colostrum production in close-up cows.
Management at Hardgrove was impressive with great attention to detail, but Alistair admitted he was finding it very useful holding the workshop to get ideas for tweaks that could be made to the current system to make further improvements.
“The key,” said Dr Scott: “is to get nutrition right, it results in good reproduction and good health.”
Kevin Bousquet, Director of training at the Global Training Centre, Wa. discussed genetic involvement in current cow management. He highlighted that single-trait breeding for genetically increased production has had a negative effect on health and fertility because cows prioritise so much energy to milk production. “The tools are now there to select for a cow with inherent health and fertility, so producers must work with their genetic advisors to identify these animals. Less compromises now need to be made with the availability of reliable genomic indicators as many more bulls are available with the combination of the management traits desired”.
Kevin has been responsible for training reproduction technicians for 30 years and continues to oversee reproduction on many developing dairies around the world. He is passionate that the cow is perfectly designed to get pregnant “so long as we find the opportunities to breed a cow or fix a problem with an open cow”. Stating that “cow numbers on dairies make no difference to the ability of cows to get pregnant” he backed that statement with his philosophy that “no dairies anywhere in the world have cow problems, they only have people problems. Train the people and the cows can do what they are designed to do”.
“If you are producing replacements it is beneficial to rank cows on production, type and health and fertility records. Realising that the best cows in the herd are the ones that go unnoticed can help make breeding decisions. The fastest genetic improvement in a herd is made by not breeding the bottom end of the herd, keeping the best genetics and removing the worst.
“Measuring data is key to management, but it is important what is measured. One of the most important measurements is pregnancy rate, calculating the number of cows confirmed pregnant out of cows eligible for breeding,” explained Kevin.
Research has proven in every country that calving heifers between 22 and 24 months is the optimum age to achieve the best production.
“Production data has proven that total yield also increases by up to 1000 litres in the first lactation in dairies who protocol four litres of good quality colostrum fed to calves within four hours old,” explained Dr Scott. “Nature has perfectly designed these calves and within four hours is when they have the best absorption,” he added.
Weight gain of heifer calves was also discussed with the optimum weight gain 0.8kg per day to reach 80 to 100kg at 100 days, which is the target to raise well grown heifers to breed from 13 – 15 months. But as everyone in attendance agreed, if you’re not weighing calves, even a portion of what’s born monthly, then how will you know?
Commenting on the workshops Dr Scott said: “It is always a pleasure to work with farmers in the UK and Ireland, they are all very enthusiastic men and women who share the same passion for cows that I do. However, I always find it most beneficial when we host visitors at our Global Centre where they can see we are achieving what we are preaching, “seeing is believing”. We enjoy working with farmers to help them improve their business and become more efficient where possible.”