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19/10/20, 22:00

No issue interfering with the pregnancy whilst still in the fragile stage

Mark Davis

220 cows, Westcott Farm

Improving efficiency is on-going at Westcott Farm, near Tiverton where the Davis family farms a 220-cow pedigree Jersey herd. After running a black and white herd for 10 years alongside the Channel Island breed, they gradually moved over to Jerseys in their quest to improve all round performance. That drive continues with a current focus on improving Calving Index and stamping out Johne’s. Mark Davis discusses.

“We are very passionate about the breed and found you don’t have to have big cows for big yield,” he says. “We prefer Jerseys in terms of the whole package; they’re a more efficient cow if managed in a certain way - they like a controlled environment and we house throughout lactation. Our cows are maturing at 450kg to 500kg, they’re averaging 7,500 litres at 5.7% butterfat, 4.7% protein and four lactations, whilst one or two are peaking at 12,000 litres. Jerseys are interesting, inquisitive characters; they make for a happy place.

“Our breeding strategy is a balance between type, production and health traits, and that includes fertility - the herd has a Calving Index ranging between 385 and 390 days and whilst we’re fairly happy at that level, there is always room for improvement.

“Twelve months ago, we introduced PAG, the simple milk pregnancy test on the recommendation of our new herdsman and since then it has proved to be an indispensable tool in the armoury. In fact, it’s now the preferred test for pregnancy checking having proved to be 100% accurate. PAG can be introduced 28 days from service to all cows and heifers that fall in to that testing window at monthly milk recording and there’s no issue re interfering with the pregnancy whilst still in the fragile stage,” he explains.

The logistics are simple. PAG is routinely carried out at Westcott Farm at the time of CIS monthly recording. Cows and heifers eligible for the milk test are cross checked with the milk recorder and marked on the computer system to be tested when the milk recorded sample reaches the lab for analysis. Mark receives a text message from CIS when the results are ready for log in. Turnaround time is within three days.

“Previously, the vet used to visit on a fortnightly basis to pregnancy check. We’ve now been able to reduce those visits to monthly to check any cows tested PAG negative, those not showing signs of heat and also for any odd rechecks. Our vet is now able to focus on any real problem cows.”

Overall PAG is proving to be a very useful management tool and it is fitting in with the workload. There’s less handling and interference with the cows, consequently there’s less stress for both them and us, and what’s more, it has proved to be extremely accurate

Mark Davis
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