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GOLD CUP OPEN DAY: G


eoff Spence and his father Tom held an Open Day at the end of June to celebrate their Miresdale herd’s 2009 success in winning the RABDF/NMR Gold Cup. Around 600 people travelled to the 200-acre Lowfi elds Farm at Brompton near Northallerton in North Yorkshire where they were able to inspect the facilities and listen to the Spence’s advisor’s outlining how the Spence’s have earned their success.


The herd comprises 370 head, of which 80-90% are pedigree Holstein, achieving an annual average on twice a day milking of 10,250 kg of milk at 4.0% fat and 3.2% protein, with an average SCC of 130,000-150,000 cells/ml, a calving interval of 388 days and a replacement rate of 15%. The herd calves all year round and milk is sold through Arla on an Asda contract. This is a far cry from the late 1950s when Tom moved to Lowfi elds Farm with 29 Friesian cows milked in a byre. The latest parlour, installed in 2003, is a 32:32 DeLaval herringbone which makes working with a large herd easier for herdsmen Mark Fawcett, Chris Spence, Ian Shuttleworth and Joe Harker. A feature of the day were the comments made by speakers about the teamwork involved at Lowfi elds Farm, where training, motivation and communication between staff and consultants is key to the business. The herd has reached its current level with the help of extensive herd health planning and a TMR ration that meets the cows’ requirements. Dry Matter intake is a key driver to performance and is optimised by practising all the following:


ABOVE


Geoff Spence and his


father Tom proudly


show off the RABDF/NMR Gold Cup.


RIGHT


Mechanical brushes are popular with the cows at the feed barrier.


 a generous feed barrier allowance  feed is pushed up on a regular basis throughout the day  Vistacell (yeast) is used to stimulate DM intake


 feeding the chop length to optimise rumen function and feed ingredients are processed in a tub mixer, which produces a consistent homogenous mix


 fresh water in clean troughs is always available  attention to detail with dry cow feeding


 single dry cow ration with a high straw inclusion at 4kg/head/day


 heifers are reared on a straw-based diet to maximise growth rate, enabling 24 month calving


With the focus on producing long life, disease free cows, rearing and using homebred bulls has been critical to the herd’s development and there are currently over 140 milkers by Miresdale sires in the herd. Geoff also uses the Alta Preg service on 70% of the herd and by breeding cows that are not extreme and suit the system, has developed a profi table market for surplus stock, selling bulls, milkers and replacements privately to over 100 herds in the past decade, with some customers of 26 years standing. Farm advisors who addressed visitors at the Open Day were Mark Glover of Kebir House Vets, Paul Dennison of Strutt & Parker, Steve Allen and Dr Michael Marsden of KW Alternative Feeds, Drew Wilson of Alta and Hannah Pearce of NMR.


Simon Gee 30 THE JOURNAL AUGUST 2010


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