Herd margins for their Jerseys more than match black and whites
say Lancashire specialist dairy farmers Ian and Sally Macalpine.
Ian and Sally Macalpine and their Jersey cows
The all-round performance of the 200-cow pedigree Ribblesdale
herd run on 165 all-grass acres at Laneside Farm, Waddington, near
Clitheroe, has earned the couple a place in the final of the 2007
NMR/RABDF Gold Cup competition for the third year.
Seeing first hand the capabilities of Jersey herds in Denmark
convinced Ian Macalpine that the small, efficient cows would not
only give the production off a limited acreage but the milk quality
would also offer the flexibility in terms of milk sales.
Determined not to continue to sell milk into a commodity market,
Ian Macalpine believes that UK producers would be better off if
they could sell into a branded market, something they may be able
to influence now that there is more of a shift in power to producers.
Five years since starting their Jersey herd, production has exceeded
the Macalpine’s expectations with NMR figures running at
a rolling average of 6,200kg a cow at 6% butterfat and 4% protein,
with a bulk tank average of 6.5% fat.
“I have done calculations to compare the two breeds and
no matter whether I base it on stocking rates, dry matter intakes,
margins or production of solids, black and whites would need to
be producing 12,000 to 13,000 litres of milk to compare,” says
Ian who employs two staff, herdsman Les Helliwell and apprentice
Sam Wearden as well as occasional part-time staff.
“Jerseys are very efficient at producing milk solids out
of dry matter. They can be up to 30% more efficient than a Holstein
cow. We can keep 200 Jersey milkers where we could only have 150
black and whites.”
Since the outset when a herd of Danish imported cows was purchased
in the UK, milk has been supplied to J and E Dickinson’s
Longley Farm Dairy at Holmfirth, Huddersfield where the price is
based on butterfat and protein content.
The Macalpines have worked with Mr Dickinson to produce milk to
his requirements and this in turn they acknowledge has helped them
to progress their herd.
To produce the quality milk requires getting the smaller cows’ rumens
to function properly on a smaller dry matter intake.
With independent feed consultant Graeme Surtees, who also runs
a buying group, Ian travelled to Denmark to make a further study
of Danish Jersey herds to help perfect his cows’ diet.
“We decided the diet needed to be more rumen-friendly. We
started including wet feeds such as brewers’ grains or pressed
pulp and we simplified the concentrate blend from around 15 ingredients
to four or five.
“During the 12 months to July 2006, the new diet increased
herd margins by 23% with no increase in cow numbers,” said
Now Longley Farm is looking for more protein Ian is aiming to
lift milk proteins higher by further improvements to the diet and
higher inclusion of starch.
The current energy dense total mixed ration is based on grass
silage, molasses, grain beet, concentrate and some fat and the
diet is flat rate fed all the year round to the milking herd to
maintain level production. No concentrate is fed in the parlour.
The farm’s heavy clay land is not ideal for summer grazing
and there is no guarantee that they will be able to make the best
use of it. Springs can be late while autumns often provide a big
flush of grass.
As a result, the system was set up to suit the farm as well as
the cows. Newly calved cows are housed year-round – this
equates to a third of the herd at any one time – with only
40 acres paddock grazed during the daytime from early June.
Two to three cuts of silage are made each year with 160 acres
taken as first cut in mid May, a further 100 acres in early July
for second cut and if a third cut, if possible, late August off
80 acres, rotating the crops which have a 24-hour wilt between
four silage clamps.
“The foundations females for the Ribblesdale herd could
not have been better,” says Ian. Since then, replacements
have been bred by Danish and American sires.
“We have selected American bulls, which tend to be bigger,
to try to improve yields while being careful not to lose on butterfat
and protein. They have put more capacity in the cows but we don’t
want to go down the route of chasing size and angularity,” said
Ian, who sees the herd’s optimum production at around a 6,500
All herd replacements are home bred and while the intention is
to build herd numbers up to a maximum of 220. Surplus stock will
be available for private sale filling a void in the market for
quality Jersey heifers that are often required in batches as well
as for an emerging export market, creating a bonus for the herd
on top of milk sales.
Heifers leave the farm at six months old and are reared on contract
during which time they are served, returning a month before calving
at 24 months old.
As well as breeding for production, the Macalpines are also looking
at type with a view to showing. The herd has been successful in
the Lakes Jersey Club annual herds’ competition as well as
the county’s NMR herd competition when in 2006 it was placed
second in the county championship for the highest placed herd milked
two times a day for all breeds.
Ian has found that the calving ease of the Jersey leads to better
fertility and the Ribblesdale calving index is currently running
at between 365 and 370 days. He believes in serving cows early
from 50 days onwards which results in a few shorter lactations.
Cell counts are running at 165,000/ml however this could be attributable
to the overall age of the herd, 30% of which is over fifth lactation.
Herd health is monitored on monthly routine veterinary visits and
good hygiene practice in the parlour, including pre-dipping is
reflected in Bactoscan counts in the teens. Milk is tested after
each collection which helps pick up any potential problems quickly.
While constraints imposed by the farm’s acreage prevent
any major conservation projects, the farm is in the Entry Level
Stewardship scheme and the Macalpines comply with the requirements
of a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.
The NMR/RABDF Gold Cup is open to all milk recorded herds meeting
the competition criteria of more than 70 cows/heifers in the milking
herd, an annual somatic cell count average for the recording year
ending 30 September 2006 of 200,000/ml or less, or less than 400,000/ml
for organic herds, and a minimum PIN value specific to the breed – £5
for Holstein and £6 for Jerseys for example.
Finalists in the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup 2007 are being judged by Lyndon
Edwards, dairy farmer and RABDF Chairman Lyndon Edwards, dairy
farmer and NMR board member Trevor Lloyd and Dr Malcolm Crabtree
of Leckford Estates.
Time Lucky as Lancashire Jersey Herd Strikes Gold
THE SIX NMR/RABDF GOLD CUP FINALISTS ARE:
- Ian and Sally Macalpine, Lancashire
- Peter Jack, Blandford Forum, Dorset
- William Ley, Holsworthy, Devon
- Tim Gue, Steyning, West Sussex
- Nick Cobb, Dorchester, Dorset
- Mark Heywood, Haresfield, Gloucestershire
Six Outstanding Dairy Farms Vie for Gold Cup 2007
Dairy Farm Wins NMR / RABDF Gold Cup 2006
Breed Beef and Pork in Demand