Three-year project to monitor dairy farms in the UK

The announcement of Auchenheath, in Lanarkshire, as a monitor farm was welcomed by DairyCo extension officer Sophie Kinnear

The Ballantyne Family of Auchenheath
The Ballantyne Family of Auchenheath

The second of two new dairy monitor farms has been announced this week by DairyCo in a bid to educate UK farmers on new developments in the industry.

The announcement of Auchenheath, in Lanarkshire, as a monitor farm was welcomed by DairyCo extension officer Sophie Kinnear.

She said: “Auchenheath is a traditional Lanarkshire dairy farm and is therefore representative of numerous UK dairy farming systems. The business typically faces the everyday challenges associated with milk production on hundreds of units across Scotland and northern England.

“This family business offers an opportunity for all milk producers to take on board the numerous challenges encountered on a traditional dairy unit, and monitor how the Auchenheath business develops over the next three years.

“Auchenheath monitor farm provides an opportunity to share practical farm experiences, cost consideration and analysis as well as, technical expertise and the benefits of business development. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the official launch day and subsequently establishing a community group of local farmers.”

The three-year project, funded by DairyCo and the Scottish Government, is the third series of DairyCo monitor farms. Auchenheath is a 149-ha unit (360 acres) plus 40ha rented (100 acres) on land rising from 170 ft to 570 ft above sea level.

The Ballantyne family started milk production in 1965, when the farm was bought by Archie Ballantyne’s parents. Subsequently, the adjoining land at Cannonholm Farm was purchased in 1971. Today, the business is run by Archie, wife Marion and their son Gavin.

The 100-cow traditional black and white X Holstein-type herd is milked through a 6/12 herringbone parlour on a twice-a-day basis. The herd is block-calved in September and is grazed throughout the summer months and is averaging between 6,500 and 7,000 litres of milk sold per cow, on an annual-basis.

Auchenheath maintains high herd health status as a priority, and has operated a closed herd policy since 1965. The current calving interval is running at 378 days, clinical mastitis cases are rare, somatic cell count (SCC) invariably runs at 80 and 100 and calf mortality is 2%.

Herd replacement rate is 10 to 15% and the family is targeting a first calving age of 24 months as a major goal over the next three years according to Gavin.

He said: “We are looking at various ways to move the business forward, cut costs and increase profitability. Block calving offers advantages as well as challenges, and we aim to increase herd numbers and target age at first calving as a priority.”

The business aims to increase herd numbers over the next three years to the 130-cow level and, with the aid of a RDP grant, an expansion programme is planned. The family is investing in additional cubicle housing and a new slurry tower. The one million-gallon tower will provide 1.4 million-gallon capacity in total, which is enough to carry the herd through the winter.

The Ballantynes aim to replace their existing milking parlour and introduce a robotic milking system in 2015. It is hoped the robots will help increase yields by up to 1,000 litres per cow, provide increased management data and provide less stress on high-yielding animals as well as, providing better quality of life for the family.

Gavin Ballantyne was delighted with the announcement of Auchenheath being chosen as one of two new DairyCo Monitor Farms.

“As a family, we are pleased that Auchenheath has been selected to host one of the two new monitor farm projects and we look forward to the next three years, and the subsequent development of our family business,” he said.

“We aim to benefit from the project through DairyCo involvement, numerous expert speakers and provided industry expertise, as well as, being the host facility for the Community Group of local dairy farmers. We therefore welcome dairy producer input through the exchange of farmer ideas, opinions and advice.”

 

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