Switching from a fully housed to grazing
The system operated at Lydney Park Farm has famously changed tack, switching from a fully housed, intensive set-up to one based almost entirely on grazing. While this has led to a decline in production from around 10,000 litres to well under half this amount, the enterprise profits have significantly more than doubled.
That this has been achieved with once-a-day milking and annual production of just 3,750 litres per cow may seem surprising, but improved grassland utilisation, reduced costs of production and breeding the right cow for the system have each contributed significantly to this success.
Farm manager, Keith Davis, who is the driving force behind the changes and the continued success of the herd, says getting the right kind of cow has been a process of trial and error. “We started with a herd of Holsteins and immediately bred to a mixture of Friesian and Jersey genetics, quickly realising we wanted a cow that was three quarters Jersey and one quarter Friesian,” he says.
Following the prevailing trend at that time amongst grazing-based producers, he initially opted to select his service sires on New Zealand’s Breeding Worth (BW) and Ireland’s Economic Breeding Index (EBI).
“Coming from a Holstein base we had a lot of milk volume but poor fertility and low fat and protein percentages, so these were things we wanted to correct,” he says.
He also describes the milk contract he had at the time, which imposed an extra haulage charge for volume because of the farm’s location outside his buyer’s milk field.