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Bouncing back better with VikingRed & ProCROSS

After losing their dairy herd to bTB, the Kelso family had to start over and replace their herd. With the help of VikingGenetics, they are now back up and running.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) incidents in Northern Ireland are at their highest levels in over 20 years. Around 22,000 herds are tested for the disease every year; in 2022, 17,840 cattle tested positive and had to be slaughtered – including the Kelso family’s herd.

Losing their herd of over 130 milking cows to bTB in 2022 was devasting for Mervyn and James Kelso from Portglenone, County Antrim.

 “I’ve been milking cows here for over 30 years, building up a productive herd with excellent genetics. We lost over 130 cows and more youngstock due to bTB and then were not allowed to bring in more cows for 120 days,” tells farm owner Mervyn Kelso.

The Kelso’s also had problems sourcing enough replacement stock locally to get them up and running again. With milk prices at record highs, farmers held on to the stock, and any in stock went at crazy prices.

“The big problem was at that time, milk was over 50p per litre, and no one was selling stock. Any cows that were for sale were overpriced, so we had to look elsewhere,” he adds.

VikingRed ProCROSS UK Northern Ireland Kelso

Finding the solution

VikingGenetics was well known to James, thanks to the company’s social media presence. Through their farm stories, he had noticed some very healthy and productive VikingRed and ProCROSS cows on farms in Denmark.

With the need to replace their herd, James and Mervyn carried out a lot of research on the cows. They later contacted Chris Stone, crossbreeding expert for VikingGenetics and Best of Breed Livestock, to get help replacing the animals to get back up and running as soon as possible.

VikingReds are naturally healthy cows with the highest production of milk and solids for red cows, which makes them a popular breed for crossbreeding.

VikingRed ProCROSS UK Northern Ireland Kelso

Introducing ProCROSS

The Kelsos had also read about the ProCROSS concept and how it could benefit their new herd.

ProCROSS is a three-breed rotational crossbreeding system where  VikingHolstein, VikingRed, and Montbéliarde bulls are used.

“Backed up with the information on the VikingRed and ProCROSS cows, we visited some local farms and some in England that use the breeds to see how they were getting on,” says James.

The Kelsos ventured on a buying trip to Denmark, where they bought 80 in-calf heifers and cows, some VikingRed and some ProCROSS.

“We were able to choose exactly the type of animal that we wanted to suit our farm,” says James. “All the stock were pregnancy checked, health checked, and ten days after that trip, the stock was delivered to our farm,” he adds, highlighting the speedy delivery.

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VikingRed ProCROSS UK Northern Ireland Kelso

An effective change

With the fresh stock starting to calf within six weeks, the Kelsos were again producing milk on their farm by the end of September.

Operating an autumn calving system, the family are now milking 110 cows averaging 28 litres per day at 3.44% protein and 4.44% butterfat.

The Kelsos use VikingRed sexed semen on the Red cows and either Holstein or VikingRed on the ProCROSS animals. When choosing bulls, they look for good milk yields and solids, fertility, robustness, and medium stature.

Mervyn is the farm’s chief calf rearer; both he and James are delighted with the offspring to date.

“These breeds are very easy calving, and we only had to assist two out of 80 calvings,” says Mervyn. “The calves are very lively and up sucking their mothers before you know it,” he adds.

“We had been told by other farmers that they go to bed at night and forget about calvings. I thought that was too good to be true, but we have found it the reality,” he says with a smile.

VikingRed ProCROSS UK Northern Ireland Kelso

Bouncing back from bTB with ProCROSS

After losing their herd to bTB, two Northern Ireland dairy farmers have quickly recovered and returned to production with VikingRed and ProCROSS cows.

The VikingRed effect

James believes the VikingRed being smaller cows in stature makes them easier to manage and more feed efficient. The Kelsos’ cows are milking well, with good milk solids, excellent health, and the bonus of feed efficiency.

“In terms of production, our VikingReds are outperforming the Holsteins per kilogramme of liveweight in terms of efficiency. With them being smaller animals, they naturally would eat less and use it more efficiently,” says James.

“From our own experience, working with Chris Stone and VikingGenetics has been a very rewarding and beneficial project so far. All the cattle purchased have done well for us, and we are very pleased with the outcome,” ends Mervyn.

Learn more about VikingRed
VikingRed ProCROSS UK Northern Ireland Kelso

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