Ticking the boxes in a rain-fed dairy system – Dairy News Australia

December 4th, 2020 12:18 am

Significant bonuses from Fleckvieh calves and cull cows have been important cash flow tools in a rain-fed Victorian dairy herd this year.

This has come on top of the Fleckvieh attributes of longevity, fertility, robustness and temperament for Richard Humphris of Beech Forest.

Dr Humphris left consulting work as a veterinarian 20 years ago to go full-time dairying.

He milks 200 cows off 110ha set in a 2000mm rainfall zone comprising clay loam soils.

Richard has 69ha of lower rainfall country for growing out the rising one-year-old and two-year-old heifers.

Originally we had a fair proportion of stud Holstein-Friesians in the herd but when we moved (from South Australia) to this high rainfall climate, it was a fair challenge for standard Jersey and Friesian cows, Dr Humphris said.

We ran into problems with fertility and mastitis so we moved to a Jersey/Friesian cross using New Zealand sires.

With the low milk prices, I thought I needed to do something different and saw an advertisement for dual-purpose Fleckviehs about eight years ago.

It was ideal a dual-purpose cow producing milk with the value-added beef component.

Dr Humphris initially used Fleckvieh semen over selected cows and has graded up to the point where matings are 100 per cent Fleckvieh.

Most of the milking herd is now three-quarter-bred Fleckvieh.

Dr Humphris was visited on-farm in 2015 by Dr Thomas Grup of Bayern-Genetik, Germany, and South African researcher Dr Carel Muller.

Dr Muller encouraged him to do simple comparative trials of the Fleckvieh crosses against other crossbreeds through herd testing on longevity and lifetime production.

We get much greater longevity from the Fleckviehs due to better fertility, less mastitis and a better recovery if mastitis does occur, Dr Humphris said.

The Saputo suppliers have transitioned to once-a-day milking to reduce stress on the family and herd, and leave extra time for essential farm maintenance and pasture production.

The move also meant they could use the existing 20-a-side swing-over dairy, avoiding extra capital costs.

In the first year of once-a-day milking, the herd produced 75,000kg of milk solids and had jumped to 99,000kg by the third season.

The herd averages 3932 litres, 4.9 per cent butterfat, 3.8 per cent protein and 348kg of milk solids across 287 days.

Last herd test, the highest daily lactation was Flekmaid at (once-a-day milking, second lactation) 31.8 litres, 4.5 per cent butterfat, 3.2 per cent protein and 2.45kg of milk solids.

Rurex daughter Joygirl showed what Fleckvieh crossbreds are capable of under Australian conditions by producing 6209litres, five per cent butterfat, 3.8 per cent protein, and 569kg of milk solids across the 305 day lactation (once a day).

Components over the spring months in the herd are four per cent protein and 4.7 per cent butterfat, increasing to 4.2 per cent protein and five per cent butterfat over the summer.

The most important thing is their temperament, they are beautiful cattle to work with and they have the other option of beef income, Dr Humphris said.

Due to the once-a-day milking and the environment, we find we do need excellent udders with a particular emphasis on udder depth and suspensory ligament.

If a Fleckvieh has to leave the herd it will mainly be due to a low-slung udder.

We are getting some really good uddered cows coming through now and that has helped our udder health.

If they do get mastitis, I have observed Fleckviehs have a better ability to recover they are sturdy, robust cows in this harsh Victorian climate where it can snow in the winter.

Where another cow may produce more on an individual daily basis, these cows have the ability to go on for a lot longer than our traditional Australian genetics in terms of fertility, lack of mastitis and survivability.

We have very few problems with lameness compared with our earlier years with other breeds but once a day milking does contribute to this reduced lameness.

Dr Humphris said the Fleckvieh added frame to the smaller crossbred females.

Fleckvieh fertility and once-a-day milking results in high conception rates with 80 per cent on the first service in the August-calving herd.

The couple joins 100 per cent of the herd to Fleckvieh sires, and they have daughters of Round Up, Rijeka, Waldoer, Reumut, Mahango, Waldbrand and Walfried.

We mop up with Fleckvieh beef bulls the calves have been one of the most exciting complements to the whole exercise, Dr Humphris said.

This year I did not sell one calf for slaughter at five days of age they all went for pasture finishing to adult animals in the local area.

I either sold them at one week of age or at eight weeks of age as a reared calf.

This gives a significant cash flow at the beginning of lactation through the sale of those calves for continuing beef production.

This results in the equivalent of 50kg of milk solids start on any other cow in terms of profitability.

Dr Humphris said the value of cull cows was a bonus on top.

I recently sold Jersey/Friesian cross cows for $850 compared to $1200 for the Fleckvieh crosses, he said.

During his career as a vet, Dr Humphris has experienced a range of calving difficulties in cattle.

At the beginning I was rather cautious about what I would have to face up to with the Fleckviehs calving, he said.

But they dont require assistance unless there is a malpresentation.

We dont select sires on calving ease but rather for production, udders and milk quality.

Our heifers are calved at two years of age we are not convinced this is the best but it suits our system.

The milkers are rotationally grazed across perennial rye-grass pastures and fed a mixed grain ration of 2.5kg in the bail.

Dr Humphris and his wife Christine have travelled to Bavaria, in Germany, to experience the Fleckvieh breed in its native environment and inspect sires.

We aim to select the highest TMI bulls with a big focus on udder, shape and function, he said.

It was enlightening going over there, talking to the breeders and seeing 100 per cent Fleckvieh herds.

Offering dual-purpose flexibility, they are a breed well worthwhile considering as we face these different economic and climatic challenges.

We love our Fleckviehs. They have strength, vitality and production of milk and meat, and live for the moment.

The Fleckviehs have a wonderful temperament they live life to the full full of grass, full of milk and full of meat. They cycle full-on and conceive full-on.

For more information on Bayern Genetik, phone George Cassar on 0265507661.

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Ticking the boxes in a rain-fed dairy system - Dairy News Australia

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