Progressive dairy farmer, Michael Metcalf, of Kirkby Thore, near
Penrith, has turned up the ‘heat’ on farm recently
through taking a new approach to both his breeding and nutrition
Michael and John Metcalf with centre, ARN's Ian Brown
Three months on and his investment in a new breeding management
package and a holistic nutritional programme has led to big business
wins - achieving better fertility detection and bulling activity,
improved milk quality and substantial time and cost savings.
Michael and his son, John, of Crossfell House Farm, adopted
the new ai-24 breeding management package from Semex initially
on a trial basis for six months with a money-back guarantee.
The system allows producers to take more complete and effective
control of their breeding activities, giving them access to greater
efficiencies and cost-savings.
For a herd of 300, the cost works out at approximately £8.05
per cow over a three-year period. Already the Metcalfs are seeing
positive results, with fertility detection accuracy rates increasing
to an impressive 92%.
“Whenever I made the decision to increase my herd from
150 to 350, I was concerned that my breeding costs could also
start to soar,” explained Michael. “Previously we
had been checking the cows by sight, but as this was only 40%
to 60% accurate we were presenting a lot of animals to the vet.
“It was also very time-consuming, and we desperately needed
to free up more time to spend on other management tasks.”
The new fertility detection system, which comprises a collar,
ID station and control unit, detects even cows that are on silent
The result is that active periods aren’t being missed,
and only animals that have genuine problems are being presented
to the vet.
Michael added: “Before, we weren’t successfully
detecting heat in up to 40% of the herd, and this was leading
to vet costs of £11 per cow on a fortnightly basis.
“With our fertility detection accuracy rates now over
90%, we are presenting less than 10% of our animals for pregnancy
detection – leading to cost-savings of over £600
a month. We are also expecting considerable savings in our semen
costs due to more successful AI.”
Michael and John Metcalf with Semex's Michael Dennison
Dennison of Semex said: “We’re seeing a huge amount
of interest in Semex ai-24 because it’s really delivering
what farmers need – reliability, control, time and cost-savings,
and increased bio-security.
“Heatime is also very straightforward to use and its accuracy
means that you don’t have to put animals through the stress
of unnecessary testing. The potential benefits have certainly
spread by word-of-mouth – in fact, Michael has been welcoming
as many as four visitors a week from as far away as Aberdeen
The herd’s better bulling activity reflects its level
of fertility which has been significantly improved in the last
three months, since the Metcalfs introduced a holistic approach
to their winter feeding strategy.
Yield in early-mid lactation animals has also improved from
23l/cow/day to 31.9l/cow per day and rising, butterfat from 3.69%
to 4.36% and protein from 3.09% to 3.31%.
Together with independent nutritionist, Ian Brown of Advanced
Ruminant Nutrition they have formulated a diet that maximises
profitability per cow by taking a holistic approach. “Apart
from targeting yield - volume plus components, this diet is also
focused on improving fertility, minimizing lameness and subsequent
longevity,” Michael said.
“Before Ian became involved we had followed a computerised
feed programme generated by our feed supplier. However, frustration
was setting in because we believed that we were putting a lot
of effort in to the herd and our cows were no where nearing their
This winter’s diet was formulated from scratch using the
existing ingredients on farm to supply M+28 litres based on home
grown forages: grass silage, WCW and rolled wheat; plus purchased
wheat distillers, Hi-Pro soya, molasses and protected oilseed
rape. The only addition was Energiser Rp10, a palm based saturated
“The diet’s total crude protein content, including
parlour compound, has been reduced from 19.9% to 17.9%,” Ian
said. “Within that, the proportion of DUP has increased,
while the proportion of ERDP reduced. Starch content has been
raised to help drive milk volumes while rumen pH has been protected
by using a unique rumen buffer made to our specification. The
parlour concentrate has also been reformulated from 21%CP to
“Michael was previously feeding a diet containing excess
protein that could have been producing spikes of ammonia in the
rumen and consequently in the blood. Ammonia is toxic to sperm
and egg, and it also interferes with magnesium absorption and
Michael says this year’s winter diet is now working out
at an extra 48p per cow per day, however the extra volume and
quality milk income has lifted by 225p per cow per day, This
leaves an extra 177p per cow per day margin, approx £53.00
per cow per month.
“That’s a good investment in my view! We’re
achieving a 4.5:1 return on the extra investment in improved
yield alone. Added to that is the improved fertility. The diet
is specifically formulated to encourage bulling activity and
maximise the chance of successful embryo implantation and it’s
Semex AI-24 Heatime Could Transform Bovine Fertility Management
Over 300 Cows in Just 60 minutes
Dairy Conference 2008 – The Big Picture