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Peak District milk producer benefits from using EnviroBed with new housing system

Peak District milk producer Mike Herridge who has used EnviroBed for the past 7 years has just made a significant investment in a herd expansion at Bent Farm, Tissington, near Ashbourne.

The tenanted farm, which has land running to 800ft, has been run by the Herridge family for almost 50 years. While the area has seen a gradual winding-up of dairy farming, the Herridge family has remained committed to milk production and added additional land whenever it became available.

“We’ve never stopped ploughing everything we’ve ever earned back into producing milk. From the early days when we were milking 80 cows we’ve steadily increased but made the biggest jump in numbers in 2013 when we put on an extra 60 cows in readiness for the new rotary parlour,” says Mike Herridge who is currently milking 300 cows and rears all the herd’s replacements.

New housing system

A new cubicle shed has been built to cope with the herd’s expansion.

The new cubicle accommodation measures 220ft x 60ft with an 11ft wide feed passage serving an outside feed barrier. A new straw-yard dry cow building has also been erected.

“We’ve created three areas within the new housing system for freshly calved cows, those close at calving and the far-offs. Alongside that we have the existing slatted-floored cubicle shed that holds 130 head of our high yielding cows.

“We’ve used Envirobed in the cubicles for almost seven years. We top-up the cubicles with Envirobed every day. It keeps the cows very dry and clean but the big advantage is it’s resistance to any disease build-up if any muck gets on the beds.

“When cows are giving 30 litres of milk a day there is always going to be some milk on the beds but we know the Envirobed won’t let any bugs get hold. Cell counts are 140,000.”

The farm had no handling system for the milking herd and it meant the actual job of milking the cows was taking 10 hours a day.

“On vet visit day on Monday we were spending an hour and a half sorting cows out because we had no handling facility – and just getting cows out of the cubicle shed to AI them was taking up too many man hours.

“We knew we needed a new handling system and our dry cow accommodation was inadequate. As well as housing the dry cows and the calving pens we wanted somewhere to keep our cows for two or three weeks post-calving to let then settle and be more able to cope with moving into the main herd.”

The rotary parlour has reduced the daily milking time to just four hours with two men. The herd is currently being milked twice-a-day but the intention- once staffing has been re-organised – is to move to three times-a day.

Building the new parlour and dry cow house began in October 2013. The first cows stepped off the platform of the new rotary parlour in June. But despite cutting the milking time by over 50% and the massive improvement in efficiency for handling cows, the big investment has had to cope with a fall in the milk price that even the “worst case scenario” business plan hadn’t bargained for.

High input system

“We run a high input system. Over the last couple of years we’ve been running at an average daily yield of 22-27 litres but we felt we had the ability to get more milk from these cows. So we’ve pushed them a bit more and made use of the crimped wheat as an economical way of doing that.

“That’s the only change we’ve made to the diet, in fact the cost of purchased feed over the last year has decreased,” says Mike.

The herd is currently averaging 9500 litres at 3.9% fat and 3.3% protein. It’s no longer run on a traditional grazing system. For the last five years all freshly calved cows are housed; it’s only when cows are confirmed to be back in-calf that they are turned out to grass.

“And as soon as cows are dried-off they remain inside so we have total control of their diet. The grazing period for our cows is between confirmation of being in-calf and up to them being dried-off.”

The herd is fed a TMR but out-of-parlour feeders provide extra nutritional support. The trough mix comprises grass silage, maize silage, crimped wheat, soya, rape, protein mix and molasses.

“The TMR is giving us 26-28 litres and the highest yielding cows are getting up to a maximum of 9kg through the out of parlour feeders. We don’t feed any cake in the parlour.

To find out more about EnviroBed phone 01772 860085.