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ABOVE LEFT Roebuck daughter Wilderley PR Ednamay VG has pro-


duced over 140 tonnes at almost 15 years old.


ABOVE RIGHT From left, Bill and Margaret Higgins still help out at Wilderley. Sons


Andrew and Bill now manage the herd.


RIGHT A new cubicle shed houses the bulk of the herd; in-calf heifers run alongside.


for youngstock over 11 months of age. Andrew declares that while the diets themselves are very technical, the mechanics of feeding, like most systems at Wilderley, are very simple. The milking ration this year includes 15 kg of grass silage, 21 kg of maize, Trafford Gold, bread/milled wheat waste sourced locally, soda wheat, soya, soya hulls, rapeseed meal, palm oil fat, minerals and yeast. This is a complex balance calculated in conjunction with nutritional vet from EBVC, Richard Veckerey, however the cows are only fed once a day to minimise labour. Despite this, there is absolutely no heating in the ration during the day and with heifers kept in buildings abutting those housing the cows, the system allows for a 100% clearance of feed as in-calf heifers are run through while cows are resting and sheds scraped out after morning milking.


Feed bunkers have not been cleaned out for three years but there is virtually no evidence of sitting rubbish and troughs are very clean. The Higgins’ attribute part of the reason for this to their use of ag bags, which were adopted due to the current lack of clamp space. Ag bags have worked well with consistent quality and very little waste. With no sheeting or buck-raking required, they have also


proved cost effective - Bill quotes a figure of £5/tonne to bag maize. A new clamp is currently under construction but you can guarantee that next year will see the same feed quality maintained, as clamp management is a priority. Much importance is placed on a dry first cut silage with enough made to ensure that the 15 kg required by each milker per day day is provided by this clamp. Bill places a lot of emphasis on the importance of top quality structural fibre and chop length is kept to the longer side, reducing the need for additional inputs of roughage. Dry cows benefit from late second cut haylage. Ryegrass leys in low indices fields are spread with muck in the autumn before a late cut to keep potassium levels low, helping to avoid the common pitfalls of high production dry cows such as milk fever, excessive oedema and liver problems. 4 kg of haylage are fed along with 13 kg of maize silage, 4 kg of straw, soya, rapeseed meal, dry cow mineral and yeast, again through a Keenan. Calves are fed their mother’s colostrum for four days before moving on to milk powder and a purpose built coarse calf ration, until weaning at six weeks when intake is recorded at 1 kg per day. A 20% protein dairy cake is then fed alongside good quality barley straw and heifers receive 3 kg a day until 11 months of age when TMR is provided, consisting of second cut grass silage, straw, rape meal, soya, soda grain and minerals. Heifers remain on this ration until they are shifted in to the dry cow group a full eight weeks before calving at two years of age to pre-empt social issues.


Cow welfare is Andrew’s number one priority, particularly given that all stock is housed all year round, enabling tight management. An equal amount of


THE JOURNAL AUGUST 2010 23


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