All posts by jon360

Early Fly Control in Cattle

The relatively mild and extremely wet winter has potentially failed to kill off over-wintering fly populations – so much so that as the weather warms up there could be an explosion in insects that both irritate cattle and transmit diseases.

Climate change is also influencing the way entomologists and animal health experts think about fly control, and pre-empting the threat this year to your livestock can go some way to reducing potential insect-borne disease problems such as Summer Mastitis later in the summer.

Early insecticide treatment of cattle can help reduce insect populations. Applying a proven insecticide early in the season will both reduce the first wave of attack from biting insects and cut next generation numbers. If you can kill flies early or even stop them feeding on your livestock, you will reduce their ability to breed.

Seeing flies or midges on or around animals are usually the main triggers for applying insecticides, but significant insect populations can have built up by then. And left untreated, an insignificant early season insect population can become a huge one in just a few weeks. The main objective is to kill as many insects as possible when the first landing parties arrive on your livestock to feed.

As well as treating cattle early, it’s also important to keep on top of the insect problem as we move through the warmer months. A mixture of different fly and midge species threaten most farms with populations peaking at different times and waves of attackers hatch out to trouble herds all season long. However, regular applications of Butox Swish onto cattle will reduce the insect threat. And an early first dose will also help control any biting and sucking lice that have built up on animals over the winter housed period. You also get 8-10 weeks fly and lice protection from a single insecticide application. In addition, aim to reduce potential insect breeding sites and consider housing livestock at dawn and dusk if insects are particularly active.

Nematodirus warning April 2014

SCOPS and other bodies have issued warnings about possible Nematodirus issues in lambs and certainly there have been some lamb losses over the last week in South West Wales due to the disease.

The disease

Nematodirus in lambs is caused by the worm Nematodirus battus. The disease is known to compromise the growth of developing lambs which significantly impacts lamb performance and profitability. It can also lead to lamb mortality in extreme cases.

Nematodirus has a different life cycle to other parasitic worms, as its development to an infective larvae takes place within the egg. Infection can strike very quickly without any previous warning signs and may pass on from one lamb crop to the following year’s crop.

Farmers should not have a ‘wait and see’ attitude when it comes to Nematodirus. A large number of immature larvae can cause significant damage, and as they aren’t producing eggs, Faecal Egg Counts (FEC) may be unreliable. Farmers are advised to act on the basis of risk assessment and the predicted level of challenge from the disease in their area.

High risk factors for Nematodirus in lambs include:

  • A sudden cold snap, rapidly followed by a period of warmer weather like we have seen recently in Wales

  • Lambs grazing pastures which held lambs during the previous spring – Nematodirus eggs are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 2 years

  • Lambs between 6-12 weeks old which are likely to be consuming a large amount of grass – a lot of lambs in Wales would be at risk now

  • Groups of lambs where there is likely to be a challenge from Coccidiosis

  • Lambs that are under other stresses, e.g. reared as triplets, fostered, on young or older ewes etc.

Following predicted peak hatch dates, lambs around 6-12 weeks of age and on pastures used for lambs last year are expected to be at high risk of developing disease. The good news is that larvae do not usually survive on pasture for longer than 4-6 weeks, especially in sunny conditions. Therefore an early hatch means that pastures will become low risk again sooner, reducing the risk to late-lambing flocks. Lambs also build up immunity quickly, if exposed to low levels of infection.

Treatment

Treating Nematodirus is relatively straight forward. If farmers feel at risk of infection, or that they need to treat for Nematodirus, they are advised to use an effective anthelmintic, preferably a white (1-BZ) drench. Lambs may need to be treated more than once, depending on the spread of ages within a group and subsequent weather conditions. It’s crucial that lambs receive the correct dosage for their weight and that drench is administered correctly following SCOPS guidelines. If the problem persists, farmers are advised to contact their vet or animal health adviser.

Blend to your milk contract

Blended concentrates give farmers more flexibility to design rations that match forages and milk contracts for maximum performance, health and milk price, writes Karen Brewer.

Welsh milk producers are taking advantage of expert nutritional advice from farmer owned supply business CCF to design bespoke rations that can be regularly adjusted to balance forage variations, stage of lactation and milk buyer requirements.

British-Dairying-CCF-Blends-Jan14-1“We are seeing growing demand for designer blends as more farmers recognise the flexibility they give in what we can do for the individual,” says Richard Lewis, feed trading and blends manager at CCF’s expanding Glanrhyd manufacturing facility, near Cardigan in west Wales.

He explained that while any feedmill is restricted to a limited range of pelleted concentrates, blends can be formulated to whatever specification best suits a dairy herd’s individual situation and be adjusted as circumstances change.

“We regularly see trends in requirements determined by the season, for instance, last year almost everyone was struggling with forage quality and were looking to increase energy. But increasingly we are tailor making blends to match different milk buyers as every milk contract pays on a different set of criteria.

“We can also take advantage of changes in commodity markets such as the recent fall in world prices for grain maize that has put by-pass starch back on the menu for UK livestock,” says Richard. “This reduction in global prices, due to an increase in the world maize harvest and changes in USA biofuel requirements, has allowed us to source French maize shipped into nearby Pembroke ports and also Avonmouth.”

He explained maize was now available at a similar price to wheat, but more can be fed without causing digestion problems for the cow as a proportion of  maize starch by-passes the rumen. “For most producers this winter it is about turning the tap on and feeding for maximum milk and with cow condition scores low on many farms, getting plenty of energy into the diet is a key requirement. But it is important to be sure you are feeding actual maize and not a lower cost derivative.

“Some farms though are still tight on silage stocks after emptying their clamps last year and are also looking for a blend that will extend forage, while others are focussing on milk solids to gain maximum returns from their buyer.”

British-Dairying-CCF-Blends-Jan14-2CCF began blending in a former grain store at Glanrhyd around nine years ago, investing £¾m in 2011 to meet increasing demand. Up to a further £1m is earmarked for investment during 2014 to increase production to over 30,000t, improve transport efficiency and provide an outlet for local grain producers.

“Although we have also grown sales of our Centenary range of branded formulations, tailor made blends already account for 50% of output as more farmers tap into our nutritional expertise and our ethos, as a farmer owned business, to do the best for our members.

“In addition to ticking the boxes as far as nutrition and feeding the animals are concerned, CCF is committed to open declaration. We provide a full list of ingredients by percentage on all custom blend orders and we don’t use exotic names, so customers always know exactly what they are buying.

For instance, a common practise is to change the names of lower grade materials such as oatfeed, which is often somewhat misleadingly called breakfast bran, our promise is that we will always call a product it’s actual name. We also state the actual protein content of feeds rather than using the permitted 10% tolerance that allows a 17% protein feed to be legally sold as 18%,the tolerance is there to take account of natural variations not for commercial advantage” says Richard.

Producers have the option to order blends on spot pricing or agree fixed price contracts as nutritionist and technical feed manager Phil Evans explains. “We are happy to look at fixing prices forward at any time depending on farmers’ wishes. Once a contract price is agreed, any reformulation of the blend is made using the original contracted raw material prices. This enables famers to meet the changing needs of their cows, but still take advantage of fixed prices.”

One of Phil Evan’s clients, Daniel James, farms in partnership with his parents Stephen and Joyce, at Gellyolau, Clynderwen, Pembrokeshire. The home farm comprises 290 acres of  grassland plus 30 acres of woodland and a further 290 acres are rented nearby.

Cow numbers have been steadily increased since Daniel returned home with a degree from Harper Adams and the commercial Holstein Friesian herd currently stands at 310 plus followers, well on the way to his target of 400. “We are looking to expand in a smooth flow rather than one big step. We bought a nearby herd of 55 cows last year, 35 in-calf heifers to come in alongside home reared replacements this year and another 20 to calve next year,” said Daniel.

Although  forage maize has been tried in the past, the cold, heavy clay ground and five-foot annual rainfall makes the farm more suited to growing grass, with night and day grazing from mid-March to the end of October. Silage is taken in three cuts at six to seven week intervals from mid-May, although this year’s slow spring moved first cut back to 29 May.

Calving is all year round, with fresh calvers kept in for the first 150 days of lactation. Cows are fed up to 5kg/day of concentrates in the 10-year-old, rapid exit, 30:30 milking parlour plus a trough-fed TMR, designed deliver maintenance plus 29 litres, comprising 32kg grass silage, 4kg processed bread-waste, 5kg blend and 0.5kg straw.

“Yields currently average just over 7,000 litres per cow with 3,600 litres from forage and our aim is to increase to 8,000 litres, producing 4,000 from forage,” says Daniel. “Phil calls on a regular basis and maintains contact between visits to discuss how the cows are doing. Last year, following a short period on a liquid contract, we moved back to a cheese contract with First Milk. Our milk price is dependent on butterfat and protein content and Phil has helped design a diet to keep solids high and focus on animal health, the critical key to profit.”

Phil explains: “I have taken what the farm produces and balanced with compound and blended feeds to meet the milk contract and maintain herd health. The 37%DM first cut silage is high in energy, protein and sugar but low in fibre, it keeps the cows milking but they are very loose on it, so the blend has to be low in sugar high in digestible fibre and not over-supply protein. As there is processed bread is in the diet, ground maize is used as an alternative starch based energy source, to lessen the risk of acidosis.”

Cows are beginning to be fed second cut silage which has just been analysed at a similar DM, lower energy and protein, but more fibre. Phil is formulating a new blend to meet the changing circumstances and this will be available as soon as sufficient second cut is being fed to warrant the change. Phil will then liaise with Daniel on how the cows respond and see if any further changes are necessary.

CCF’s designer blend approach is certainly working at Gellyolau with winter milk solids running between 4.3 and 4.5% butterfat and around 3.5% protein. Says Daniel: “We are not ticking all the boxes on our cheese contract but are still getting 34.5p per litre and there is a £3,000 a month difference from what we would be paid on a liquid contract.”

A Co-operative approach to farming

A Co-operative approach to farming  By Debbie James

Will-Prichard-takes-a-co-operative-approach-to-farmingA recurrent theme runs through Will Prichard’s approach to running his large dairy farming business in Pembrokeshire.

Milk from the 1,250-cow enterprise is sold to First Milk while animal feed, fertiliser and grass seed are sourced from CCF.

As the enterprise has grown and flourished, Will and his parents, Alan and Mary, have been committed to the co-operative approach to doing business.

The acquisition of more land, both owned and rented, has facilitated expansion. They now run their business from four holdings within a 15-mile radius of the home farm at Escalwen, Letterston.

There have been forays into diversification, they established a yogurt drink business they have since sold, but it is within agriculture that their expertise and passion is evident. “We have learned that to have the biggest chance of success it is important to concentrate on what you know. We are a third generation farming business so we have acquired a good bit of knowledge over the years.’’

All four herds are block calving. Two calve in the spring and two in the autumn, each established to suit the land-base of each farm. There are a range of breeds, including pedigree Swn-y-Mor Friesians and Shorthorns. “We have acquired some breeds by default as we have lost cows to TB but our ultimate aim is to breed a cow that in times of high feed prices can survive on mostly forage and get herself back in calf in the tight block we require. Conversely, when feed prices are favourable, that cow must be able to produce a little bit more milk,’’ Will explained.

The range of genetics extends from grass-fed cows yielding 4,500 litres to pedigree cows producing 12,000 litres.

Will had been a genetics skeptic but when he installed a new software system to manage the herds he recognised the gains to be made through breeding.

The Prichards are among a handful of farmers in the UK to be given the opportunity to use Dairy Comp 305, a program written by US company, Valley Agricultural Software. Written by vets, it is the biggest selling software program for large dairy herds in the USA.

Will and his parents had been using the same software for 10 years but as their business grew so they outgrew that system; it was time-consuming to collect the data from all four farms and input it into a centralised system. The new system allows the managers at each unit to input the data. It is then collated centrally in real-time. “I can access the system remotely so it means that wherever I am I can keep tabs on how many births we’ve had, how many deaths and the causes of those, and lots of other information. The program stores 350 items on each cow,’’ said Will.

He uses it to track the progress of each heifer calf based on the level of colostrum she received at birth. “Each calf has a blood sample taken at two days old and a Brix reading tells us what level of passive transfer of immunity that calf has. We track each animal throughout her life, comparing figures such as growth rates and milk production against the reading from that first blood test.’’

The software also allows Will to identify the breed of cow best suited to his system. “We are making management decisions based on real data rather than perceptions or salesman’s talk,’’ he said.

“We can work out which animals have performed the best. Even after using the system for just six months we can see a pattern emerging of the breeds that are scoring well on fertility. We can pick out the cows that are the most profitable.’’

Another dimension to the business is Wagyu beef. Wagyu genetics are used on the dairy herd and the beef is sold as a premium product. Will and his business partners in Natural Wagyu Beef, now plan to take it to another level by establishing a producer group to finish up to a thousand cattle a year.

Will believes that as suckler cow numbers decrease, there will be a greater focus on beef from the dairy herd.

While the Prichards have grown their business, a constant has been the family’s long association with CCF.

Will has been a director of the co-operative for 10 years but he says that first and foremost he is a customer.

He has monthly meetings with CCF sales manager David Evans, to match diet to livestock requirements at that point in time. A mixture of blends, straights and concentrates are fed.
The blends are produced in Pembrokeshire, at CCF’s blending plant at Glanrhyd. Will says blends allow flexibility in his system. “They are very useful on the shoulders of the seasons, for instance in the spring when we are making the transition from silage to grass. During the grazing period we take weekly grass samples and adjust the diet weekly. Herd nutrition has really benefitted from the skill of the staff at CCF.’’
The diet of lactating animals is based on the Centenary range of feeds while a thousand head of youngstock thrive on CCF’s Fastgrow.

The Prichards reseed 10% of their land annually and have had great success with CCF’s range of Centenary grass seed, including Cut and Graze 4-5 years. They also source fertiliser from the co-operative.

“We have a close relationship with the sales team, we don’t look upon them as our suppliers but as our purchasing team, an extension of our business,’’ said Will.

“We work well in advance, we talk about what the demands of the business will be over the next year. They advise us on timings and quality, it’s the whole package. The more integrated they become within our business the more likely they are to understand the needs of our business.’’

Will admits that price isn’t what draws him to trade with co-operatives. He is attracted by a structure that gives farmers control over their inputs. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that CCF will always be the cheapest but it keeps the whole trade in Wales honest. They set the prices locally and others have to match or beat that,’’ he said.

“A PLC operates to get the best return for its shareholders but a co-operative’s ethos is to make certain members are provided with competitive prices and a good level of service.’’

It was while working in New Zealand as a student that Will first recognised the benefits of co-operatives. “In New Zealand the people who want to make the most difference in the farming industry become involved in co-ops not politics, they feel there are bigger wins to be made,’’ he reflected.

Will’s own influence on agriculture beyond grass roots level comes from his Sunday morning show on a local radio station, Radio Pembrokeshire. Despite the demands of his business he enjoys stepping back once a week to present the farming show. As a confident communicator, he also finds time in his busy week to train YFC public speaking teams and he is much in demand as an after-dinner speaker.

As Will looks to the future, his ambition is to consolidate and strengthen the family business. There was a major period of change as the business evolved from a traditional family farm to one that employs up to 13 staff. “We have got to a good point in the business and it is now time for a period of consolidation,’’ said Will.

March 2014 – Winter Fair sheep feed winner

Winner of CCF’s Centenary animal feed competition at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Builth Wells, is sheep farmer Adam Rees. He correctly identified that CCF openly declares all raw material percentages on its feed tickets, does not hide behind legal tolerances in its declarations and returns any profit to its farmer members rather than non-farming shareholders.

Winter-Fair-sheep-feed-winnerAdam Rees (left) is pictured receiving his prize of 3-tonnes of Centenary sheep feed from CCF sales representative Will Hughes (right) together with Eirian Martin, CCF Rhayader Centre Manager and Huw Rees, centre representative.

February 2014 – Elite ewes can now be fed to dairy cow standards

FARMER owned supply business CCF, with centres at Knighton, Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Machynlleth, Rhayader, Llanbedr, Llanuwchllyn, Trawsfynydd and Gaerwen Uchaf, has developed Elite Ewe 18, a new feed that aims to bring sheep nutrition to the same standards as dairy cows, feeding for milk production to help ewes perform and lambs gain good early growth.

“Productive sheep need high performance feeds if they are to keep healthy themselves and give twin lambs the best start in life. Especially in wet weather conditions that have reduced nutrient levels in fresh grass,” says CCF sheep specialist Jonathan Saer

Elite Ewe 18 is a specialist feed for high performance flocks, with lambing percentages over 160%, and is complementary to all types of forage; grass, hay and silage. “It is specifically designed to help body condition and milk production in twin bearing ewes over the pre- and post-lambing period, when intake levels are reduced,” explains Jonathan.

Manufactured as a 6mm nut, ideal for indoor lambing flocks feeding in troughs, CCF Elite Ewe 18 contains high levels of energy from cereals & Megalac, plus addition by-pass energy from maize. High quality protein is provided from soya, to help increase milk production and lamb growth, while sugar beet pulp & wheatfeed provide slower release digestible fibre to help avoid digestive upsets.

Elite Ewe 18 further supports the new mother’s nutritional needs with vitamin and mineral supplements, including 150 units of Vitamen E. The feed analyses at 6% Oil, 18% Protein, 9% Fibre and 28% Starch and Sugar, with a metabolisable energy content 13Mj/kg. (MER 13). CCF Elite Ewe 18 is not recommended for feeding to lambs or rams.

Advising farmers on the best way to manage feeding of indoor lambing flocks, CCF’s Jonathan Saer offers the following top tips:

  • Group and feed ewes according to their expected lambing – single, twins and triplets
  • Ensure clean, fresh water is always available
  • Feed a maximum of 0.5kg of concentrate feed per ewe per day, split between two feeds
  • Feed at regular times each day
  • Make sure there is at least 45cm of trough space per ewe so all can  feed equally
  • Separate younger ewes to ensure they get their share
  • Clean troughs before putting in fresh food
  • Ensure forage is available before and after concentrate feeding

CCF (Clynderwen and Cardiganshire Farmers), operates nationally from 19 sites across Wales and Boarders. A registered co-operative, wholly owned by its farmer members, CCF provides the latest science based technical advice on all aspects of livestock and arable production, and a range of quality feeds, fertilisers and farm inputs.