Bred to boost efficiency
Pembrokeshire-based producer Ed Clements turned to crossbreds to boost farm efficiency by introducing Norwegian Red genetics to his Holstein cows.
Ed runs a 200-cow crossbred herd, with his parents Robert and Diane at Broomhill Farm, and has developed a dairy business with a type of cow that suits his system, his milk buyer and his lifestyle.
Goals for his ideal herd of cows match his own goals as a keen triathlete—top performance alongside endurance and efficiency.
Holstein genetics dominated this 128ha dairy unit until Ed returned from New Zealand in 2008 with some fresh ideas about ways to improve the herd and grass management.
"Not making the best out of what we had"
“I realised we were not making the best of what we had here at home. Our cows had got too big for our housing and were not especially well suited to our system.”
Breeding smaller cows, with better health traits and grazing ability, became the priority. “We were also mindful of our milk contract,” he explains. “We were supplying—and still do—the local cheese factory at Haverfordwest, and so milk components were important.
“This swayed us in favour of changing our breeding policy and we took the decision to cross all the cows to Jersey.”
Ed says that the first cross was “brilliant”— smaller cows, improved health and better grazers. The next question was ‘where now?’. “We wanted a versatile cow, a good forager and we wanted to maintain yields and milk solids.” A third cross would hopefully add these traits and, with its reputation for high health and fertility, they opted for Norwegian Red. Now 75% of youngstock and 35% of the milking herd are Norwegian crosses.
“We’ve never looked back,” says Ed. “The confirmation of these animals, their feed efficiency, size, health and fertility are ideal.
Producing 7,500 kg of milk
Milk is sold through First Milk on a Tesco cheese contract and this determines, to some extent, their management. But, says Ed, today’s cows at Broomhill Farm are definitely fit for purpose—producing 7,500kg of milk at 5% fat and 3.7% protein.
Grass silage and 2kg per cow per day of a blend are fed through winter, topped up in the parlour with a 17% protein concentrate to give a total concentrate use of 1.8 tonnes per cow.
Massive increase of fertility
He has seen a massive increase in fertility during the past eight years, with calving to conception now at 76 days and success to first service of 50%.
“Cases of lameness have fallen dramatically and there’s rarely an issue with calving. And, so far, not one Norwegian Red cross cow has left the herd.”
That, for Ed, says it all. He monitors cow perform- ance through NMR’s Herd Companion and ranks cows by production, fertility and health. So he knows where the strengths and weaknesses are. “This helps with our breeding plans too,” he says. “We look at each cow, review her milk records and knowledge of any problems and decide what the next cross should be—Holstein if we want a bit more milk, or Jersey if components could do with a boost.
“The Norwegian Red will maintain production but promote health, fertility and longevity,” he adds. “We want to keep the balance right.”
Ed Clements on Instagram
You can find Ed on his account at Instagram as @theironfarmer