Farming in Northern Ireland: proactive work with dairy farmers to improve herd health and longevity

“A proactive approach is needed now – not a reactive one. Farmers want healthier cows that are more efficient.”“A proactive approach is needed now – not a reactive one. Farmers want healthier cows that are more efficient.”
“A proactive approach is needed now – not a reactive one. Farmers want healthier cows that are more efficient.”
The appointment of Paul Marrs to the position of Animal Health and Longevity Manager with AHV (UK and Ireland) comes at a crucial time when the Government are focusing heavily on the sustainability and efficiency of farms.

Having previously held the position of Sales Manager for Northern Ireland and Scotland within the business, this newly created position represents a significant milestone in the evolution of AHV and the work they are doing on herds in their entirety.

Paul explained: “A proactive approach is needed now – not a reactive one. Farmers want healthier cows, that are more efficient, that are supported throughout their lactation and dry period, to be as productive as they genetically can be, and we want these cows to stay within these herds for as long as possible. Improve lifetime production and longevity – it’s that simple.”

He added: “At AHV we are committed to working with dairy farmers to achieve this.”

Driving this has been the development of the AHV Herd Health Plans. The principles involved have a key focus on meeting the needs of the herd and supporting the cows throughout their entire lifecycle.

Paul continues: “The AHV Herd Health Plan is a service that is making a real difference on dairy farms.”

The AHV Herd Health Plan at a glance

“It will be very much a case of working closely with the farmer and his existing team of staff and consultants, nutritionists, vet etc.

“This will include looking at the overall general health traits of the herd. Production, fertility, reasons for animal intervention and reason for culling will be monitored and analysed so the correct protocols & programs can be put in place. In addition, the progress achieved through this implementation will be recorded and benchmarked.”

Paul said: “AHV will also provide all farm staff with the training and support they need to implement the protocols as effectively as possible, ensuring solutions are used correctly.”

The need for this approach

According to Paul, the benefits to be gained by taking this approach to management are numerous and significant.

He explained: “Prioritising herd health and having a proactive approach optimises cow performance. More milk in the tank, fertility, and longevity within a milking group, will be boosted as a result.

This approach will also have a positive impact on the overall sustainability of the dairy farm business.

As the push to net carbon zero continues to gather momentum, the need for dairy farmers to maximise the efficiency of their businesses grows ever stronger. The lack of longevity within a milking group provides a very stark example of the issue, which the AHV Herd Health Protocol actively addresses.”

Paul continued: “The dairy industry is losing too many young cows. And the reasons for this are all too obvious: poor udder health, infertility, metabolic issues, lameness and animals with compromised immune systems.”

The latest international figures confirm that dairy cows currently achieve an average of 3.16 lactations in their lifetimes. It takes approximately 2½ lactations for a heifer to pay for her rearing and maintenance costs up to that point.

So, it is only those cows milking efficiently into their third, fourth and fifth lactations that are generating profit for their owners.

Going forward

Paul added: “The potential to improve the lifetime performance and efficiency of almost all dairy cows is immense, and the AHV Herd Health Plan Programs have been designed to make this a reality.”

“This is why we at AHV are committed to working with herd owners on a bespoke basis, delivering a Herd Health Plan that meets their specific set of circumstances, and helps dairy farmers achieve their goals.”

For more information on the AHV Herd Health Plan, contact the office on 028 855 49600, email [email protected] or go to