Applications are invited for this dairy crossbreeding study tour to SW England

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is offering dairy farmers the opportunity to travel to Somerset and Devon to learn about crossbreeding in moderate to high yielding dairy herds.

These herds are practicing a rotational crossbreeding programme system comprising the Viking/Norwegian Red, Montbeliarde/Flekvieh and Holstein breeds as a means of improving the profitability and sustainability of their dairy production system, as well as lowering their carbon footprint.

Crossbreeding is well known to bring about health and fertility benefits but is generally associated with lower input Jersey-based New Zealand style spring calving herds. However, well established research work in the USA over the last 20 years has sought the use of alternative breeds more adapted to higher yielding systems. This work demonstrated an improvement in fertility and health traits without overly compromising on performance. This leads to improved longevity – increasing the productive life of cows, reducing the culling rate and replacement cost, and ultimately improving the sustainability of the dairy production system.

The tour will include visits to five dairy farms over two days. It is proposed to fly into Bristol Airport the previous evening to allow for two full days of visits. The first day will be spent with Genus visiting three farms using their HyVig crossbreeding programme comprising Holstein, Norwegian Red and Flekvieh or Montbeliarde, with the farms including a robotic unit averaging some 10,500 litres with 3-way cross cows and two autumn calving herds averaging some 8,500 litres - one using a 3-way cross and the other a 2-way cross. The second day will be spent with Viking Genetics visiting two autumn-calving farms using the ProCross system of Holstein, Viking Red and Montbeliarde, again averaging 8,500 -9,000 litres. There will also be an evening workshop where discussion will be led by Andy Dodd of The Farm Consultancy Group, who was formerly Technical Manager at AHDB Dairy with responsibility for breeding, genetics and fertility.

Crossbred cows in an autumn calving dairy herd in Devon.Crossbred cows in an autumn calving dairy herd in Devon.
Crossbred cows in an autumn calving dairy herd in Devon.

This study tour is part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme which is being delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). The group will leave from Belfast International Airport on the evening of Tue 30 Aug and return on the evening of Thu 1 Sep 2022. The tour will be led by CAFRE Dairying Advisers.

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business that has had dairy cows in any one of the last two years (2021 or 2022), is over 18 years old on the application closing date and not in full-time education. Fifteen places are available on this first trip and these will be allocated with preference given to those who currently crossbreed, milk record and have not previously been on a FIVs trip. Should there be sufficient interest it is proposed that subsequent trips will take place through autumn 2022. To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return.

The Farm Innovation Visit Scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland and meals when in Great Britain. Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs, including farm relief and travel insurance.

Dairy farmers who are interested in participating in this study tour can find out more details and complete an online application at:

Applications can be completed online from Fri 1 Jul to Fri 15 Jul 2022 at 4.00 pm.

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