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RIGHT One of two new sheds being erected on the main farm to house young- stock.


LEFT Gregor Colquhoun


proudly shows his award as the 2009 Scottish Dairy Farmer of the Year.


at Dendoldrum Farm. Johnes is one area of concern and a rigorous programme is now in place. All animals are snatch calved and a new shed encompassing calving facilities will feature a pen for the calf adjacent to the calving pen where the mother will have the stimulus of the newborn calf without the physical contact. The cows are milk sampled every quarter with any reactors blood tested, while cows are also routinely blood tested at drying off. No colostrum is fed from reactor cows and any replacements from known positives are bred to beef semen. Gregor says it is often the case that positive cases have had some underlying health issues previously but his stringent measures have seen a dramatic fall in the number of positives. Until 2007 the herd was closed but was still affected, so Johnes is something he attributes to the local rabbit population.


The all round year calving herd which produces 3.5 million litres annually supplies Wiseman Dairies on a dedicated Tesco contract. Averaging 10,500 litres, with cell counts of 108 and a 394 day Calving Interval, the herd has to meet the demands of the milk buyer, which includes the fact that bull calves can not be exported nor can they be killed at birth.


This latter restriction sees Bervie rear all the bull calves as barley beef, using the home produced cereals. Currently 400 youngstock are spread over six farms away from the milking herd, but two new sheds on the opposite side of the road to the main unit at Dendoldrum Farm will soon house 400 head, with the barley beef business being the only animals to remain on a different site. When finished, the bulls go to ABP at Perth, as do the cull cows.


One benefit of being pedigree to the Colquhoun’s is the ability to avoid inbreeding and the herd has also been classified for the last three years. Bervie use Altamate as a further control against inbreeding, with emphasis in sire selection put on health traits although it is considered these traits are also heavily influenced by management. Milking speed and rear teat placement are also fundamentals due to the robots and the aim is to breed an average sized, low maintenance, robust, long lasting cow. Gregor cites Outside as the best sire to have achieved this in his herd over recent years. Meanwhile his current sires are Baxter, Jayzz, Ross, Suede, Die Hard, Bolton, Jeeves, Gerrard and Design while he is using sexed Mr Sam and Focus on the heifers. While not advocating cross breeding, Gregor worries that Holsteins today seem to be getting softer and feels that more diversity is needed within the breed to combat this as cows continually come under more pressure. The shed housing the 300 milkers features curtained sides as well as matted walkways in the feed passage which enable the herd to perform and look well despite constant housing, although he admits that the previous housing, pre expansion, would not have suited cows housed all year round. As mentioned, the next generation of Bervie cows will soon have new accommodation. This will feature automatic calf feeders, which Bervie has had for many years, and also 220 cubicles, helping to train the youngstock for the cubicles in the cow shed and also reduce straw use. Although it’s a big arable area and straw is grown on the farm, it is still an expensive input. Straw is swapped for Bervie dung locally which helps the NVZ status of the farm, while the milking herd is housed on


20 THE JOURNAL AUGUST 2010


mattressed cubicles that are bedded with kiln dried sawdust, which has dried disinfectant dispersed on it and BioSuper is also put down twice a week to control transmission of bugs. Part grant funded by the Scotland Rural Development Programme, the new facility will also increase slurry storage on the farm. Looking to the future, Gregor doesn’t differ from any other dairy farmer, striving to make life simpler and make more money. Looking for less hassle, he feels as an industry we need to promote the health and longevity of our herds and businesses to the likes of Tesco. Currently he can visualise every cow in the herd and he has no aspirations to milk 500 -1000 cows when this would become impossible.


Instead he hopes to generate a thirteenth milk cheque from surplus stock sales. Calving at two-years-old, using virtually all dairy semen and just AI is now generating this surplus, aided by the tight 394 day Calving Interval. When the herd expanded three years ago, Aubrey Greenhalgh helped to source cattle which were lasting types and looked trouble free, but the herd is now closed again due to disease concerns and is in a position to sell excess stock. Success at Bervie is derived from dedicated staff, high levels of stockmanship and attention to detail and an open minded outlook geared at improving all aspects of the business. Gregor says the cows adapted better to the robots than the humans, but adaptation seems to be key at Bervie.


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