Hillhead of Covington, based in Lanarkshire, has been named as the first Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Strategic Dairy Farm in Scotland.Hillhead is the fifth dairy farm in the UK to join the strategic farm network and as such it will open its gates to other local farmers and demonstrate best practice, as well as making concerted efforts to improve efficiency through benchmarking key physical and financial performance data.
Host farmer William Baillie’s ultimate aim is to improve his business performance. Initial focus will be on two important areas – nutrition and genetics.
Mr Baillie said: “I’ve been benchmarking for over five years and I’ve always found it incredibly useful. Now as a strategic dairy farmer we’ll be benchmarking our performance against AHDB’s key performance indicators for all year round herds. Using the data we will be able to set targets and measure our progress to ensure we are among the best performing dairy farms.”
Mr Baillie bought Hillhead of Covington in 1996 and initially stated off with 50 cows. He now has 310 pedigree Holsteins and is aiming to grow the herd to 400 cows. Housed all year round the herd is milked three times a day and is fed a diet of mainly grass silage, whole crop and draff. For Mr Baillie the right diet is key to improving yields.
“High quality silage makes all the difference to milk yield – you get out what you put in,” he said. “We are currently reseeding a lot of the farm with a medium/late perennial grass to allow us to take five cuts of quality silage this season. We need to get good quality grass as we are growing less whole crop and draff is not easy to get hold of these days”, he added.
Having started a mating programme three years ago Mr Baillie is now considering whether the use of genomics would improve his breeding performance further.
Paul Flanagan, AHDB Strategy Director for both Dairy and Scotland believes the strategic dairy farm will offer Scottish dairy farmers the ideal opportunity to review their own practices.
Mr Flanagan said: “We hope that Mr Baillie’s openness with his figures will get other Scottish dairy farmers thinking about their own. For example, we want them to question their feed costs per litre of milk produced and age at first calving. If they aren’t in the “good performance” bracket then they should be asking themselves why and we can help them figure out how they can get there.”
The first open meeting at Hillhead of Covington will be held on Wednesday 29 August from 10.45am to 2.30pm. The event will include a farm tour and discussion of the farm’s current technical and financial performance.
Source: The Herald