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Stackyard News Jan 08

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Milk Yields Dip While Quality Improves

For the first time in more than a decade average milk yields have dropped, according to data on 60% of British dairy cows published in the latest NMR Annual Production Report for the year ending September 2007.


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However data shows that protein percentage has improved in all the major dairy breeds while, in many, fat percentage has dropped. An exception to this is the Holstein and Guernsey breeds where both fat and protein percentage have increased.

Average somatic cell count (SCC) and calving index continued to rise across all breeds.

“The fall in milk yield may be the effect of poor forage fed during the 2006/07 winter,” says NMR national field manager Jonathan Davies. “This was followed by a wet June and July in many parts of the country, which again had an adverse effect on yields. Cell counts and fertility on many units remain an issue and many producers, working with their vets and advisers, are taking a more proactive approach to this now. Hopefully we will see trends reverse in the next few years.”

Led by the Holstein breed, which accounts for 91.7% of all recorded lactations, average milk yield has dropped by 6kg to 8,264kg. Meanwhile, both fat and protein have increased by 0.01% and 0.02% to 3.88% and 3.21% respectively. Fat percentage is now at its highest level since 2000/01 and protein levels are at a three-year high.

Average SCC in the Holstein has broken the 200,000cells/ml barrier, having added 3,000 to its average during the year, and calving index has gone up by four days to 424 days.

Of the other major dairy breeds with more than 1% of recorded lactations, the Jersey, Ayrshire and Guernsey breeds saw yield increases.

Milk fat dropped to 5.26% from 5.32% in the Jerseys and by 0.03% to 4% in the Ayrshires, while for the Guernsey it increased by 0.02 to 4.62%. Protein increased by 0.02 in the Jersey and Guernsey to 3.81% and 3.53%, respectively, and in the Ayrshire by 0.01 to 3.3%. Jersey and Ayrshire cell counts both increased and now average 186,000/ml, whereas the Guernsey fell by 8,000 to 178,000/ml. Calving intervals for all these three breeds have remained the same or increased and are all above 400 days.

Taking account of all breeds with more than 2,000 recorded NMR lactations, the Brown Swiss averaged the lowest cell count at 164,000/ml followed by the Shorthorn at 173,000/ml. The Island Jersey is the only one of these breeds to have an average calving index of less than 400 days at 399 days, closely followed by the Shorthorn at 401 days and the British Friesian at 403 days.

There has been a significant increase in the number of Shorthorns and Island Jerseys recorded with NMR, as well as a rise in Brown Swiss and Montbelliarde recorded cows, both of which included crossbreds.

County tables for herds and individual cows will be published by NMR in February and will be available to customers through the Internet, using their own PIN, or in a printed format.

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