First AHDB Dairy research conference a full house

Published 3 March 16

Reducing protein content in dairy rations, the latest on selective dry cow therapy and new opportunities to improve profitability through genetics and better integration of data were just a few of the topics covered in a wide-ranging two-day R&D conference held by AHDB Dairy in Kegworth, Derbyshire, on 1 and 2 March.

The event, which attracted almost 300 dairy farmers and industry specialists, saw more than 40 different scientific briefings showcase the fruits of AHDB Dairy’s five-year research partnerships, which involve 10 leading research organisations. Other sessions touched on wider issues such as the role of dairy in sustainable human diets, and how research and best practice in dairy research was being shared across Europe.

Ray Keatinge, head of research with AHDB Dairy, said, “The £1 million total annual investment in the research partnerships – one in health, welfare and nutrition, and one in soils, forage and grassland – were designed to address significant profitability and sustainability challenges for the industry.

“The culmination is a wealth of information on physical or cost benefits of different activities,” he said. “And it’s been great to see these findings presented by an A-list of UK dairy research scientists and to hear discussions between researchers and farmers on the practical application of research findings.”

Attendees welcomed the opportunities to see such a broad range of subjects covered over the two days. Fergus Crowch, herd manager at 800-cow West Galdenoch Dairy near Stranraer, said a lot had been packed into the event.

“The session on breeding and data was very good, and I was particularly interested in the LEAN management principles to eliminate waste,” he said. “Other areas – like cow comfort – could be expanded on in further conferences with longer sessions and maybe separate sessions on feeding comfort, walking comfort and so on.”  

Roger Hildreth, milking 110 cows at Curlew Fields Farm near York and monitor farmer for AHDB Dairy’s new Calf to Calving project, said he found the take-home messages strong and clear.

“Hearing the latest work on the relationship between bedding types and mastitis, and how and when to cut dry cow therapy use was really timely for me, as was finding out the characteristics of the top 5% farmers by net margin. Every farmer will take away different learnings from the event, but I’m confident we all have something to go home and work on over coming weeks and months,” he added.