Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dairy Farm Milking Benefits of New Herd Housing; A Commitment to Dairying within the Herd and in the Local Area Has Helped Take Cumbrian Farmers David and Louise Hodgson and Their Team into the Final Round of This Year's NMR/RABDF Gold Cup. KAREN WRIGHT Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dairy Farm Milking Benefits of New Herd Housing; A Commitment to Dairying within the Herd and in the Local Area Has Helped Take Cumbrian Farmers David and Louise Hodgson and Their Team into the Final Round of This Year's NMR/RABDF Gold Cup. KAREN WRIGHT Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: KAREN WRIGHT

FINE-TUNING to constantly improve the herd is at the heart of David and Louise Hodgson's management of their Holstein herd.

The couple, who run the Wormanby Holstein herd at Wormanby Farm at Burgh-by-Sands in Cumbria with David's parents Harry and Margaret, have recently invested in new housing and are planning further changes to boost the herd's health and production.

The herd was first registered pedigree in 1985 and David's interest in genetics has encouraged investment in renowned cow families. Selecting for longevity means that as well as milk sales from their 145 milkers, the Hodgsons have up to 40 newly calved heifers for sale annually along with breeding bulls, amounting to a third of the business's gross income.

David said: "Despite the recent 2p per litre drop in milk prices, cow values have held up, but should we feel it would be better to milk more cows then we have the flexibility to retain the heifers and increase herd numbers."

For the qualifying Gold Cup year ending September 2011, the herd averaged 10,761kg of milk at 3.76% fat and 3.12% protein on twice a day milking.

At Wormanby, the 122 hectares could run a 200-cow herd, but Harry and David currently manage the cattle themselves with some relief help. One of the threats to the industry they believe is in the quality of available labour and this is one of the reasons why they have invested in a building which reduces labour input.

But they see good opportunities and having spent heavily on buildings and genetics are optimistic about the future, believing the importance of food security and demand for quality home-grown produce which is traceable will make milk production sustainable. The new cubicle house for 105 cows completed last year has improved management of the herd by facilitating year-round housing of the majority of the milking herd. It adjoins existing straw yards and has been designed to give maximum airflow with a ventilation curtain down one side, with boarded gables and an open ridge. Deep soft sand is used for bedding.

"We are reaping the benefits of the new housing all the time," said David. "We have seen an increase in yield of up to 500kg a cow and we have only had six cases of mastitis within the 12 months since we started using the building."

The housing has been designed so it can be easily extended if herd numbers increase. And although the farm is not in an Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, it has underground storage for 830,000 gallons of slurry, at least a year's capacity, if needed.

Larger and older cows continue to be housed in the straw yard and have access to a loafing paddock.

David said: "Other advantages of sand bedding compared with alternatives are that the cows do not have any blemishes and are staying clean. We are making a massive saving on bedding. The daily cost of straw bedding is the same as the cost of sand for the week. And we only need to bed the cubicles once a week and clean dung on a daily basis which saves time.

"We have invested in the genetics of these cows and we want to look after them as well as we can. We believe that if you are breeding the right type of cows and you feed them correctly, the milk will follow. …

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