25th March 2010

Monitor Farmers Aim to Optimise Performance

The potential benefits to farm businesses of being involved in the monitor farm programme, were evident again this week, when close to one hundred farmers and industry representatives attended the initial meeting of the new southwest Scotland dairy monitor farm run by the Fleming family at Hillhead, Kirkpatrick-Fleming in Dumfriesshire.

Willie Fleming and his parents Robert and Margaret, moved to Hillhead from Lesmahagow in November 2002. At the previous farm their 100 cows were averaging 6,500 kgs. Now at Hillhead, with their milking herd almost doubled to 190, the average is just below 10,000 kgs. The milk is sold to Wisemans.

Currently all work is undertaken by the Flemings and their one staff member – Stewart Livingstone, who has been at Hillhead for four years.

Willie Fleming (30) plans to increase the milking herd to between 250 and 300 cows. The herd is pedigree Holstein, with all replacements home-bred and bull calves sold privately at two to four weeks old.

A limiting factor to the Fleming family’s expansion plans is availability of land. Hillhead is 250 acres, supplemented with an additional 180 acres of summer grazing.

His solution is to build a large 220 x 110 feet shed in which to house the cows, all year round. There will be an adjoining 220 x 40 feet 24/48 milking parlour, more than double the size of the current 20/20 parlour. A Scottish Rural Development Plan grant has been obtained to help finance this venture.

The building frame is up, and the roof was being constructed this week, as the farmers gathered inside the large and airy space to listen to Willie Fleming outline his plans. It is hoped that cows will be in by September or October.

Speaking before the meeting started, Willie Fleming explained his reasons for applying to be a Monitor Farmer. “I’m hoping that the community group of visiting farmers will help us analyse our own farm and business, and identify areas and opportunities to help us drive the business forward. One of the places I hope they’ll keep us right is with our new building.

“The building is designed with enhanced cow comfort in mind. We believe that if we can enhance cow welfare, we should be able to increase production along with the number of lactations our cows are currently averaging – around 2.8.

“We’re very aware of the need for good ventilation, so the shed will be open sided, with a high peaked chimney effect roof, with an ‘Anjet’ system in the peak, which will allow escape of heat, while letting in lots of natural light.”

If Willie Fleming was hoping for advice from other farmers at the meeting, based on experience, about the building under construction, he was not disappointed. Suggestions came thick and fast, covering a range of topics, including roof water collection, slurry removal and separation, cubicle bedding, concrete surface treatment, loafing areas and energy saving, with one farmer outlining how he had reduced electricity usage in the parlour by 35%.

The herd is vaccinated for BVD and Leptospirosis. Johnes is not an issue.

Heather Wildman, Extension Officer for Dairy Co, which is running the monitor farm, along with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), emphasised to the attending farmers the need for strict bioSecurity when visiting Hillhead Farm.

More information from Heather Wildman on:- 07876 706391

Email:- heather.wildman@dairyco.org.uk

For general information on other monitor farms, plus detailed reports of meetings – www.qmscotland.co.uk/monitorfarms


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