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Farm focus: Pedigree Holsteins justifying their place amid arable acres

UK Dairy Day’s national Holstein Show inTelford will be a rather ‘local’ show for an increasingly successful Shropshire herd.


With generations of cow families such as Norah, Grey, Present, Duchess, Torch and Breeze, it is readily apparent the Newport-based Wyndford herd has its roots back in British Friesian days and notably, Terling and Lavenham.


Established as a pedigree herd in 1949, it went on to become something of a ‘name’ in the Friesian world.


But that was decades ago, and since the 1980s, as in most black and white herds, North American bloodlines have been blended in and developed. The focus for the Maddocks family now is to see the herd become a major player on the UK Holstein scene.


In fact, Wyndford Holsteins is actually well on target in terms of both physical performance and in the showring, having only entered the national Holstein show circuit in 2007.


Ironically, just a few years earlier, the herd could just as easily have been sold. But after the appointment of herd manager Ben Yates in 2005, who shares David Maddocks’ enthusiasm for ‘pedigree’, profitability improved and the decision was taken to retain the dairy herd and make significant investment in a new site.

Profitability is key

Whatever show successes the herd might achieve though, profitability is key, as the dairy herd is just one enterprise, albeit an important one, within Wilfred Maddocks’ more than 1,220-hectare (3,000-acre) farming operation.


The business includes potatoes and cereals and is managed by David’s son Richard.


And this substantial area is without the separate 800ha (2,000-acre) salad crop growing and packing operation run by David’s other son Philip.


In 2010, the new dairy complex was built at Chadwell Court, with straw yards and four outdoor forage clamps measuring 45 metres by 10m (147ft by 33ft) to store 5,000 tonnes.


The new unit features a 24:24 herringbone parlour and handling system and was built allowing the potential for further expansion beyond the current 235 in-milk and dry cows.


Mr Yates, who has sole control of breeding and management, says: “The herd had a sound pedigree base, but its potential was not being realised.


“However, while I run the herd, I also make sure Richard and David know exactly what is going on all the time – the good and the bad – and we sit down every four months to discuss progress and plans.


The milking area
The holsteins

Showring is the shop window

“The sale of pedigree stock is an increasingly important income stream, for example the calf Wyndford S Storm Rebecca which was sold to Spain for 4,500gns. But it has to be alongside a £1 million investment here and it has to be paid for so you cannot lose sight of commercial reality.


“The showring is the shop window, but the shop has to be making money, and as far as I am concerned, pedigree customers have to be able to buy the calibre of stock they see in the shop window.


“You have to be prepared to sell your best if you want the best prices, and do not expect someone to buy animals you would not be happy to retain and milk yourself.”


Picston Shottle is credited with having really propelled the Wyndford herd forward and with fostering enthusiasm among everyone involved. And his progeny also drew countless visitors to the farm.


Breed enthusiasts should be aware Wyndford Goldwyn Erle is the current flagship cow and she has so far grossed sales in excess of £30,000 including exports.


A potential successor to Erle is Wyndford Snow Atlee, a Velthuis Let It Snow daughter from Heavenly Golden Atlee, and while most Wyndford show successes have been with home-bred cows, the herd does make selective purchases such as Ashleigh Amanda from Northern Ireland, a proven valuable brood cow.

Challenges of sourcing quality staff

Sourcing quality staff for the dairy herd is not easy and an assistant herd manager’s position is still vacant, meaning Mr Yates and a keen and reliable student share most of the work and the milkings. However, Mr Yates is able to draft in help from the arable team when necessary and extensive use is made of ‘whiteboards’.


Mr Yates says: “These boards detail everything anyone needs to know if they are coming in to help us out and we keep them bang up-to-date.”


He is also able to keep an eye on what is, and has been fed, by means of the mixer wagon’s remote programming and monitoring technology.


“But it is the problem of staffing which is preventing us going to three times-a-day milking,” says Mr Yates, who feels the current 10,100kg average at 3.8 per cent fat and 3.18 per cent protein is a realistic level while keeping cows healthy and durable.


The calving interval is just under 400 days, including animals being flushed. On top of the 235 cows, there are some 230 replacements or sale heifers in the pipeline.


A nutritionist is employed and both he and the chosen veterinary practice are well briefed on every aspect of the herd management.


Mr Yates says: “There is no point paying them and not letting them see the full picture.”


The current lactating cow ration is 5kg wholecrop, 12kg grass silage, 18kg maize silage, 1kg contractor-chopped straw and 2kg of wheat processing by-product plus minerals. In addition to this, however, is a maximum 8kg of a ‘new’ silage tried for the first time last winter.


“We have always fed fresh fodder beet, but we had a particularly good crop and ended up with a surplus. So we chopped it through the forage wagon and ensiled it in a narrow 200-tonne clamp along with soya hulls which provide some protein and absorb a lot of the juice.


“This has been a brilliant product and it keeps well. I like fodder beet for cow health, but I doubt I will be feeding it fresh again.”


Vital routines

  • Monthly footbath and foot trimming (where required)
  • Straw yards cleaned out every four weeks to the day – 300-400 tonnes each time
  • Parlour routine: pre-milk foam, dry wipe, post-milk teat dip
  • Weekly vet consultation
  • Cows body-clipped and wormed in November

Most of the land which the business farms is extremely light and a muck-for-straw exchange is an important element of both the arable and dairy enterprises.


Irrigation is reserved for arable crops, and after turnout in April, the cows rarely have sufficient grazing grass beyond mid-July. It is then winter rations are introduced, although Mr Yates is keen the cows have access to the fields for exercise. They are currently averaging 32kg/day milk sold.


The diet is fed twice daily down a trough running the full length of the building – which is much less expensive than a central feed passage, says Mr Yates – with youngstock fed Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


The show team of up to eight cows is housed separately at one end of the main yard with a trough mounted on wheels which can be manoeuvred into position in line with the main trough when it is being filled.


Most grass silage is made from one-year leys which have been put down as break in an arable rotation. This tends to be on land away from the buildings with fields close to the farm reserved for grazing.


The Holstein cows

A contractor is employed and to maintain an efficient in-flow of crop to the clamp, an additional one trailer per mile is put on, over and above the ‘standard three’.


Replacement heifers go out to grass only when they have been confirmed pregnant. Mr Yates says: “Good grazing is just too valuable to put youngstock on.”


Heifers are judged fit to serve by eye, not weight, and the aim is to calve at two years or just over. It is an all-year calving herd with the emphasis on autumn.


Nevertheless, any which will not calve by two years eight months are sent in for beef. As heifers enter the herd they are body-clipped – as are the cows – and this has been found not only to keep them clean, but to avoid sweating, and Mr Yates says benefit can be seen in milk yields.


Cow foot health is good on the deep straw beds, sometimes topped with chopped rape straw. A monthly footbath is routine and to maintain a bactoscan of 15 and somatic cell count of about 185, regular mucking out and strict parlour routines are vital.

Some Wyndford herd successes

  • 2013 and 2014 Royal Welsh reserve champion (Wyndford Goldwyn Erle)
  • Agriscot reserve champion on two occasions (last year with Erle)
  • Erle reserve All Britain second-calver 2012 and third-calver 2013
  • 2009 and 2011 Premier Breeder Award
  • 2011 Holstein Show: all six Wyndford milkers in top three of their respective classes
  • Reserve red and white Dairy Expo 2012 (Wyndford Roseman Rebecca Red)

UK Dairy Day

When: Wednesday, September 17

Where: Telford International Convention Centre, Telford, Shropshire, TF3 4JH
Opening times: 9am to 5pm
Tickets: Available online until September 16 at £16 each, tickets on the day are £18 including car parking.
Car parking: Visitors in multi-storey car parks have to collect exit pass at UK Dairy Day entrance
Travel: Train station nearby, courtesy shuttle bus will operate
More information:
Full UK Dairy Day event details

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