Lydney Park open day 2013

Published 11 October 13

Running two herds, one on twice a day milking (TAD) and one on once a day milking (OAD), side by side but completely separately at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire this season, was a big talking point at yesterday’s LIC Open Day at the farm.

The day hosted by farm manager Gavin Green, herd manager Keith Davis and the team at Lydney Park, was a chance to look at the progress the two herds have made and discuss the next steps as all cows will move to OAD milking next season.

Farmers discussed reseeding policy, tracks, breeding policy and looked at both TAD and OAD herds.

“Each of the herds has a separate grazing platform and separate management. What has really made both these herds work at Lydney is the commitment of the team here, and their attention to every detail of the grazing systems,” said Gavin at the start of the day.   

Background

In 2006 the herd of 400 Holstein cows was fully housed with an average yield of 9,500 litres. The herd calved year round but although the staff were committed, the farm was not able to turn an acceptable profit.

In 2007 Gavin and Keith started to look at grass-based systems, calculated the budgets, put in 250 acres of grass and began to install tracks and water troughs. In the same year the breeding policy changed and all Holsteins were breed to New Zealand Frisians. At that point the farm was on a liquid milk contract so solids were not that important. By 2008 all cows were being put to Jersey crosses.

For the past five years the cows have been run as one herd split between autumn and spring block calving. 2013 is the first year all cows have been spring calving.

Once a day and twice a day milking

When cow numbers reached nearly 700 and they were being milked twice a day through a 32 point rotary parlour, the decision was made to split into a 460-strong TAD milking herd and 230-strong OAD milking herd.

From next season onwards all cows will be on OAD milking. The aim is to have a herd each side of a railway track that runs through the middle of the farm.  Grass is measured on a weekly basis and the team discusses allocation for the forthcoming week. Now everything goes to Jersey or Jersey cross semen from LIC and estimated empty rates for this year are 18% for the TAD herd and 10% for the OAD cows.

Lydney Park is now on a cheese contract and paid on constituents, which suits the production system perfectly.  While some have reservations about mastitis with OAD systems, cell counts have not been an issue.

The make-up of the two herds

When the herd was split into TAD and OAD heifers, anything without NZ genetics from third lactation upwards was put into the TAD. Heifers were also put in this group as they tend to have a harder time in an OAD system.  Next year when both herds are OAD, heifers will be split equally between the herds.

TAD herd

TAD herd is now on its last round and grazing covers of about 2,800kg of DM/h. Grass quality is still excellent  (12.5 ME last week).With the good weather and grazing buffer, feeding will be delayed and the plan is to keep cows out until early December.

The cows get 1kg of cake consisting of a cheap wheat feed, and the rest of the diet is grass (15kg) – “We’re paying them to come to the parlour,” said Gavin.

Average milk yield per cow in 2013 is 5,450 litres at 4.5% fat and 3.4% protein.  Cows will be dried off in early December and at the moment, the average yield is 16l/cow.

The first year of grazing was hard with the Holstein cows, and the team was happy to get to residuals of 1,800-1,900kg of DM/h. But by the second year the cows seemed to know what they were doing and were much better grazers. “They have the propensity to lose condition whereas the Jersey crosses take more care of themselves.”

OAD herd

OAD herd is also on its last round and are grazing down hard.

Allocation of grass can be difficult because they don’t come up to the milking parlour twice a day. “You need to be more flexible in your decisions about allocation. If cows have not eaten down correctly, Keith the herd manager will allocate differently next milking. If necessary, fences are moved in the evening.”

Cows are given 0.5kg of cake and 14.5kg of grass a day. Average milk yield per cow in 2013 is 3,800 litres, with constituents of 4.8% fat and 3.7% protein.

Why take both herds to OAD milking?

  • Making more money on the OAD system within a cheese contract
  • On today’s milk price (based on constituents, cell count payments etc) the OAD litre is worth 38ppl and the TAD 26ppl
  • No investment in a new parlour
  • OAD system helps drive more costs out of the system
  • OAD herd delivers 85% of the income of the TAD has but with lower costs.