The Holstein breed had served Ian and Will Nixon well over many years. At its peak in the early 2000s, their 350-head pedigree Clockhill herd had won the NMR production/inspection award for Shropshire and was yielding 9,500 litres.
But over the ensuing years they noticed things starting to slip, with veterinary bills edging upwards, production dropping below 8,000 litres, and most notably, they saw a gradual decline in their cows’ longevity. Culling was based on all the usual health and fertility issues, replacement rate edged up from 20% to 30% and eventually, they struggled to produce sufficient heifers to meet their replacement needs.
Farming at Upper Farm in the hamlet of Ridgewardine, near Market Drayton, the father and son team finally bit the bullet. In 2017, after trips to the USA and France to study the breeds, they switched to ProCROSS, bringing the three-way cross of the VikingHolstein, Montbéliarde and VikingRed on to their 600-acre farm.
“We wanted to see the Montbéliarde before we started, and we discovered it was a high production dairy cow with good milk solids and a robust frame,” says Will.
“The VikingReds are also nice cattle; smaller than the Holstein but they still give plenty of milk, fat and protein,” adds Ian.