Dairy Farm Is Investing in the Future; Kennetsideheads Holsteins Have Increased Cow Numbers and Recently Installed a 60-Point Rotary Parlour. BRUCE JOBSON Reports in the Second of a Series on Dairy Farming on the Borders

Article excerpt

Byline: BRUCE JOBSON

OVER the past 30 years Kennetsideheads Holsteins, near Kelso, has been synonymous with high-yielding cows, highquality genetics and profitable milk production.

Jimmy Mitchell and his son Sandy have continued to expand the herd and have recently invested more than PS1m pounds on a state-ofthe-art animal-welfare-friendly facility.

The Kennetsides herd numbers more than 600 head and is milked thrice daily through a GEA 60-point rotary parlour. Prior to the latest stage of development, the then 400-cow herd was milked through a 36-point rotary parlour. The decision to expand was partly based on increasing cow throughput and animal welfare, as well as the opportunity to modernise the unit, explained Sandy.

He said: "The previous rotary parlour was 10 years old and we wanted to expand cow numbers and modernise the unit. The new 60-point parlour is operated by a team of two men, who are externally situated, and one man assisting with cow movement, compared to two men sited internally on the 36-point rotary.

"The parlour and buildings are specifically designed as a stress-free environment for our staff and animals, and we are achieving a throughput of 240-plus cows per hour. The whole operation, for each milking procedure, takes approximately three to three and a half hours and that includes washing the milking plant and hosing down the facility."

The fully-automated rotary parlour incorporates pre and post-milking spraying, a cluster back flush system and includes an automatic milk recording system. The Mitchells have also installed a new Mueller 28,000-litre bulk tank and milk is lifted on a daily basis in order to supply a Tesco liquid milk contract.

The herd is calved all-year round and this helps maintain even production throughout the year and a level supply for Tesco.

Jimmy, a former NFU Scotland milk committee chairman, guided the herd's early development and was awarded the prestigious RABDF Gold Cup in 1989 and 1993. Today, the family partnership farms more than 1,600 acres of owned and rented land on three separate units. Kennetsideheads maintains the main dairy herd and neighbouring Mersington Farm operates a unit of 200 cows.

The Mitchell family have continued to invest in the future of dairying farming with a new milking parlour, costing in the region of PS350,000, a new milk tank at a cost of PS50,000 as well as, a new water cooling system, cubicle housing facility and slurry store, taking the total recent investment above PS1m.

The Holstein herd is averaging impressive yields of 10,100kgs milk at 3.7% fat and 3.2% protein and has a 405-day calving interval. The herd breeding programme incorporates the AltaPreg system and the service provides numerous management benefits. All new calved animals are foot-scored and the herd is also body-condition scored with specific management targets such as fertility, include within the programme.

Due to the constant Tesco milk supply contract, 50% of the herd is required to be in-calf throughout the year. Other management targets include 75% of animals being served within the first 70 days of lactation and the herd is running at 40% of animals being pregnant within the first 100 days of lactation. With 800 milking animals under management control, the system helps to save time, money and resources, according to Sandy.

"We have worked closely with Billy Campbell and Drew Wilson from Alta for many years. …