There was an excellent turnout at the Jersey Cattle Society’s inaugural NI Breeders’ Day, held at the Clandeboye Estate near Bangor.
Generously sponsored by United Feeds, the event attracted breeders and Jersey enthusiasts from throughout the Province, as well as society board members from across the UK.
Delegates were welcomed to the County Down venue by Clandeboye’s farm manager and society director Mark Logan; Jersey Cattle Society president Lena Lewis, and chairman John Whitby.
The itinerary for the one-day event included presentations from Gary Watson, producer services manager, Dale Farm; Holstein UK’s Lizzie Bonsall; Dr Keith Agnew, managing director Dale Farm Agri Division; and Ashley Fleming, area manager Cogent UK.
Dale Farm’s Gary Watson outlined the importance of reducing antibiotics in the dairy herd. “We need to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance. While there is a need for antibiotics, farmers must be proactive and refrain from over use.”
Gary highlighted the benefits of monthly milk recording which gives an accurate picture of each individual cow, and the Milk Sure Training course which is delivered by vets and recommended by the Red Tractor scheme. He also stressed the importance of herd health, as diseases such as Johnes, BVD, IBR and Lepto also have a negative impact on milk production. “Farmers should adopt a ‘whole farm approach’ involving herd health, cleanliness and genetics.”
“RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) is focused on reducing the use of intra mammary antibiotics in dry and lactating cows, and promoting the increased use of teat sealants at drying off.
“One of the key approaches is Selective Dry Cow Therapy – managing cows individually, rather than using a blanket approach across the herd. Farmers should consult vets and implement parameters suitable for their farm situation. Hygiene is also critical at drying off. “
Gary continued: “Milk recording is an essential tool, and selective dry cow therapy represents significant cost savings per cow. It is important to protect healthy bacteria in the udder, and by reducing antibiotic usage farmers can improve the effectiveness of necessary medical intervention.”
Holstein UK’s Lizzie Bonsall outlined the value of pedigree registration which provides authenticity and traceability for every animal in the herd book.
Lizzie discussed the Approved Registered Cattle scheme launched in September 2018. “This optional scheme is available to members of the Jersey Cattle Society. We can offer members a reduction in the cost of ear tags, coupled with BVD and DNA testing, as well as competitively priced genomic testing.”
Offering savings of up to 28%, the scheme supplies Caisley EID tags specially designed to eliminate cross contamination of tissue samples. Members can avail of free applicators, free replacement tags, and all tissue samples are archived and stored for future reference.
Cogent’s area manager Ashley Fleming told delegates how the company has evolved since it was established by the Late Duke of Westminster. Cogent was the first AI company to test UK-bred black and white bulls, and it also introduced sexed semen to the world market. In twelve months Cogent has witnessed a 43% growth in its Sexed Ultra 4M semen which is achieving phenomenal results.
“Cogent is currently the only stud progeny testing UK-bred Jersey bulls,” said Ashley, who compared a number of the popular Jersey sires available worldwide to the UK bulls marketed by Cogent. “There is a small pool of Jersey sires available, and the majority of them are negative for traits such as fertility.
“It is encouraging to see the UK-bred bulls coming through with some very favourable proofs, especially positive percentages for milk quality, udders and fertility index. Two of Cogent’s highest ranking UK sires are Grahams Goldtop and Grahams Gold P.”
Ashley continued: “Traditionally it takes four years to get a bull proof, but genomic testing is the future! Progress is phenomenal, and genomic tests can produce essential information in a matter of weeks. There is a wealth of information out there and I would urge breeders to use it.”
Rounding off the one-day event Dr Keith Agnew explained how nutrition in the Clandeboye Herd has been targeted to avoid excessively high peak yields, improve compositional quality, and maximise longevity.
The Jersey portion of the herd is currently producing a 305 day average of 6,564 litres at 5.12% butterfat and 4.01% protein.
Dr Agnew has carried out a number of research projects at Clandeboye over the years, with emphasis on feed analysis, low protein diets, increasing milk protein content, and dry cow diets.
“TMR is hostile to analysis. Chemical measurement of a ruminant diet and biological worth are not the same thing. Diets should be formulated so that the rumen will work in a more efficient way.
“Low protein diets will increase forage intake, increase milk yield and contribute to a flatter lactation curve, reduce calving interval, and lead to content cows with less change in body condition.” Dr Agnew explained that reducing protein also has environmental benefits, as the amount of ammonia produced by a cow is reduced.
Concluding Dr Agnew stressed the importance of dry cow management. “Body condition is king! Diets should include second cut silage with a D value of 67 or 68, mixed with straw, wholecrop or maize silage. Stemy grass is better, and chop length is crucial to avoid sorting.”
Jersey Society chairman John Whitby thanked the panel of speakers for their interesting and informative presentations. “I would also like to thank the Clandeboye Estate for the use of its facilities and the excellent hospitality. It’s encouraging to see such a strong turnout of members and Jersey enthusiasts, and I hope everyone enjoyed the day.”
Mr Whitby presented farm manager Mark Logan with a token of the Society’s appreciation.