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Different management systems require different cows yet the black & white can
provide the answer whatever the system. We’ve asked four UK breeders with
different requirements to explain a little about what they need from the breed
Do you think there is suffi cient
diversity in the black & white gene pool?
Alistair: Yes, with careful sire selection you can breed black and white cows to suit your system, allowing the
production of high quality milk and plenty of it. Milk recording and classifi cation of test daughters has led to more
accurate bull proofs enhancing selection. It is also possible to breed out type faults; however, this doesn’t happen
Nick: Yes, the Holstein is the biggest bovine gene pool in the world. I think nowadays the AI industry does look
for new families and outcross pedigrees, but we the breeder also need to get out of our comfort zone and not be
frightened of using something ‘different’ - there should be plenty of scope for diversity!
Richard: The inclusion of more management traits (SCC, fertility etc.) that can now be selected for defi nitely help the
breeds’ adaptability. However, inbreeding is something to be aware of, especially in light of the recent RSPCA claims.
William: Yes, there is plenty of choice of British Friesian sires with the ability to suit any type of animal and system,
bringing with it good health traits. The British Friesian also provides an interesting option for Holstein cattle without
losing pedigree status.
Have you always run the system
you have and, if not, why and
when did you opt for a change?
What do you think the
biggest pressures will be on
the dairy cow and, therefore,
the dairy farmer over the
Alistair: Our breeding and feeding/cropping has been the
same for many years – aimed at maximising output. About
next 10 years?
fi ve years ago, owing to my father’s impending retirement
Alistair: Consumers are taking a greater interest in
and diffi culties employing reliable herdsmen, we
researched robotic milking systems. The main attractions
the dairy products they buy and their perceptions
were the many benefi ts to cow health and welfare along
of the dairy industry are becoming increasingly
with improvements in udder health due to reduced
important. This is at a time when milk price is not
periods of pressure on the udder and each quarter being
sustainable. Without a higher milk price, there
milked out individually. As the robots use pedometers as will be insuffi cient money available to allow
their ID system, this has had the added benefi t of helping the necessary re-investment to ensure that both
to detect less obvious bulling activity. I was quite confi dent
cow welfare and consumer confi dence can be
that the Holstein cows that we had bred were suitable for
the robotic milking system.
Nick: Balancing public perception with the need to
Nick: We changed from a more traditional autumn
run ever more effi cient systems as the number of
calving, self feed silage and grazing based system to a
predominately housed, year round calving TMR system
dairy farmers reduces. Our already amazing cow,
about 12 years ago. The system changed when we were
regardless of system, will need to produce more
forced to invest in facilities and needed to dilute our
milk, more effi ciently and become easier to manage.
fi xed costs and increase return on our investments. It also
We will need to be responsible for keeping these
coincided with our milk buyer wanting level production creatures healthy and happy and be able to prove
for a premium market. this to an ever more discerning consumer.
Richard: As yields increased, we moved to a semi TMR
Richard: In our own area, it’s going to be TB. Within
system. As we are in an area of late springs and early
the wider dairy industry, I feel it will be the public’s
winters, this enables us to have greater fl exibility by being
perception and political directives that will exert
in control with a base diet.
William: Cows have always grazed for roughly eight
months of the year, weather permitting. Three years
William: Maintaining the health of the cow to keep
ago, building refurbishment began to move from self
costs low and the system simple will reduce pressure
feed silage and an abreast parlour to semi TMR and
of both the cow and the farmer, to hopefully keep
a herringbone parlour. These changes were made to
a profi table business providing there is a fair milk
increase cow comfort, increase yields and reduce labour. price!!!
e3-09 Breeders Forum.indd 3 27/05/2009 11:48:48
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