Feeding a sustainable dairy compound is helping one Cornish dairy farmer to meet the climate change challenge
West Penquite Farm is at first glance a traditional grass-based dairy farm in the foothills of Bodmin Moor.
But Colin Dymond is at the cutting edge of climate-friendly farming as one of a small number of West Country farmers trialling one of the industry’s first climateconscious dairy feeds.
The Massey Harpers Feed Group’s new Planet range of dairy compounds is one of the first products containing no soya or palm oil products, representing a major step towards the target of achieving net zero dairy farming.
Mr Dymond was unsure how his cows would respond when he volunteered to trial the Planet dairy compound.
Six months on and he is completely reassured they have successfully made the switch to the new sustainable feed and herd performance has continued on a steady upwards trajectory.
Many milk processors are Feeding a sustainable dairy compound is helping one Cornish dairy farmer to meet the climate change challenge.
At the cutting edge of climate-conscious farming looking to their farmer suppliers to improve their carbon footprint through producing more milk from sustainable inputs.
As their retailer customers are promoting their sustainability credentials, they are examining their own supply chains to ensure they are following suit.
Ingredients which are imported from across the globe or which have been linked to adverse environmental impacts, such as de-forestation or soil degradation, are especially under the spotlight.
Harpers Feeds has taken the initiative with its soya and palm oil free dairy range.
Mr Dymond supplies Arla and conscious of the cooperative’s aspiration to reach net zero by 2040, he opted to trial the product.
He says: “As an Arla representative, I am aware of the efforts the cooperative is making to address its carbon footprint.
Arla members are all now completing detailed climate checks for their farms and the amount of purchased feed containing soya is one of the most important factors influencing the final result.
“Reducing the amount of imported protein in my cow’s diet is clearly good for the environment and means as an industry we are less reliant on volatile global markets.
So I was keen to feed the Planet compound to do my bit but I was a little nervous that the change in diet might affect milk yield or quality.
“I need not have worried as the cows adjusted to the Planet feed very easily and we saw a consistent milk yield, while butterfats and proteins held up well.
I could not detect any outward changes in our cows and fertility has remained excellent.
“I noticed a very subtle change early on with the dung when we first used the feed as it contained less fibre, but as the summer went on, it returned to normal.
I have been really pleased with how the cows have performed on it,” Mr Dymond says.
The herd is all-year-round calving and a day after calving the cows will be fed 7kg of the Planet feed.
This will be increased gradually over a threeweek period up to a maximum of 10kg, through out-of-parlour feeders.
“We keep the cows on 10kg per day for 100 days in-milk and then feed to yield thereafter.
If they are still giving over 40kg of milk then they will be kept on 10kg a day.
After 270 days inmilk for the last month of the lactation, we stop feeding the compound to help dry cows off.
“We did find some fresh calvers were not peaking as quickly when we switched to the Planet feed, but any shortfall in milk yield at the start of the lactation was soon caught up later on.
We found persistency was improved,” Mr Dymond adds.
The Holstein Friesian herd at West Penquite Farm grazes across a 40-hectare (100-acre) grazing platform for more than half the year.
The platform is split into 17 separate paddocks and the cows rotationally graze, spending 24 hours in each paddock.
Grass silage is made from the outlying land extending to a further 154ha (380 acres), including a rented farm next door.
Grass silage is made available throughout summer and forms the mainstay of the winter ration, to which some home-grown crimped barley is added through the mixer wagon.
The cows have round-the clock access to the feeding yard which contains the out-of parlour feeders.
The concentrate feed is provided as two feeds at 4am and 4pm and this means the milking herd is in the right place ready for milking.
The youngstock at West Penquite are currently fed a conventional Harpers 18% calf rearing feed, but Mr Dymond would have no qualms about switching the youngstock to a no soya rearer feed if and when one becomes available.
Looking to the future, Mr Dymond believes the dairy industry will need to source more of the protein fed to cows from home-grown feedstuffs.
“I have seen how feeding a no soya and palm oil product has had no adverse effect on milk yield or quality, but does have a positive impact on this farm’s carbon footprint.
“We will see how it feeds over winter but I am confident the cows will continue to milk well on it and it can only be a good thing that we are feeding them UK-sourced ingredients now.”
Steve Jones has been providing nutritional advice to Colin Dymond for 17 years and he is very pleased with how the cows are performing on the Planet 17% feed.
He says: “When we switched the cows to the Planet feed, we left everything else in the ration unchanged.
Planet Dairy has a well-balanced starch and sugar ratio and contains 10% beans, together with other ingredients such as rapeseed meal, sunflower, sugar beet and a molasses coating, which produces a very high quality nut.
“It also contains Novatan which converts excess rumen degradable nitrogen into bypass protein.
This means the cows are not producing as much urea from the excess nitrogen in the rumen and in turn this reduces the energy wastage.
“We have succeeded in using almost entirely UK sourced products for the Planet range and this means the ‘food miles’ are kept to a minimum.
Overall, this will enable our customers to meet the aspirations of achieving a reduction in their carbon footprint as purchased feed accounts for a significant proportion of overall farm greenhouse gas emissions.”
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