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Large Herd Seminar Continues to Break Records

09 July 2012

“Many dairy farmers forego very significant profit opportunities in the false pursuit of reducing input costs,” Steve Eicker, an expert in farm financial performance and the use of data to monitor current dairy herd performance, told delegates attending the 2012 Large Herd Seminar in Gloucestershire in June 2012.

“By focusing on the cost of inputs, not the inputs’ marginal impact on milk revenue and therefore profit, many dairy farmers box themselves into a cycle of poor investment decisions, poor profitability and poor lifestyle,” Mr Eicker added.

“Too much of their attention is directed towards the cost of feed and they either limit delivery or use cheap, poor-quality feed in an effort to reduce their average feed cost per tonne, even though it is never financially wise to deliberately limit the energy intake of a milking dairy cow.

“Increasing milk production will almost always improve herd profitability, but being able to recognise and achieve it depends on being able to think in terms of ‘marginal’ costs of production rather than ‘average’ costs of production. Getting cows to eat more will almost always produce a profit because the cost of producing additional milk from an existing cow amounts only to the extra cost of feed which is required to achieve it.

"Using an average feed cost to calculate the profitability of this extra milk will significantly over-estimate the additional cost because it includes the cost of maintenance. The marginal feed cost must therefore be used, and because the value of the additional milk will far exceed the marginal cost of additional feed any extra production will make a significant positive difference to herd profitability.”

“Heifer rearing is all too often based on human ‘feeling’ rather than methodic data collection and record keeping,” emphasised Alex Bach from the Department of Ruminant Production at IRTA in Spain. He added: “Collecting data regularly while rearing heifers will enable more efficient management and result in optimum heifer development. Setting goals for performance and health will lead to a more efficient rearing system and deliver heifers which have an improved ability to produce milk, because the greater their bodyweight at calving the more milk cows will produce during the first lactation. A reasonable target while rearing heifers could be a first calving age of 22 to 24 months at a bodyweight of 650kg.”

Since its inception in 2006 the Large Herd Seminar has become a cornerstone of the dairy industry’s annual calendar and continues to go from strength to strength. This year almost 350 delegates heard from a range of eminent speakers, including world-renowned specialists in practical dairy herd management, research, nutrition and health. Delivering a fascinating mix of in-depth technical information, access to the latest research findings, together with practical on-farm experience from leading large-scale dairy farmers, the event provided delegates with benchmarks to take away and compare with their own herd’s performance.

The Large Herd Seminar is organised jointly by Lillico Attlee, one of the UK’s largest privately owned agricultural merchants, and the Evidence Based Veterinary Consultancy Limited (EBVC Ltd), an independent veterinary consultancy based in Penrith, Cumbria that provides a comprehensive service to the dairy industry.

“The Large Herd Seminar aims to influence positive change on farms for the benefit of the cows and, ultimately, farmers, by providing cutting-edge information which they can apply on their own farms,” explains Warwick Bastard of Lillico Attlee. “The event continues to break new records every year, which highlights the regard in which it is now held by dairy producers, veterinary surgeons, nutritionists, consultants, and companies which supply the dairy industry.”

“The two-day format is very popular because it provides delegates with convenient access to the latest research findings, management know-how and practical techniques from around the world. It is also an ideal opportunity for them to meet their industry colleagues in a sociable environment,” adds Richard Vecqueray, who founded EBVC Ltd with James Husband in 2005 to provide dairy farmers, practicing veterinary surgeons, the feed industry, the pharmaceutical industry, milk buyers and retailers with practical advice. Richard and James are both veterinary surgeons who had several years in clinical veterinary practice and specialised in providing preventative herd health advice for dairy cows before focusing solely on consultancy and training.

Due to the popularity of the venue which has been used for the last two years, the Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel at Wotton-under-Edge in South Gloucestershire, the Large Herd Seminar will return there for a third time on Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th June 2013.

July 2012

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