This mixed livestock farm also has heifer rearing, beef and arable enterprises plus around 300 breeding ewes.
The milking herd has a rolling average milk yield of 8,200 litres per cow on NMR, with milk quality averaging 4.1% butterfat and 3.3% protein. Cows calve all year round on a simple management system that produces milk efficiently from grass and cake in the summer. Big bales are offered in September and clamp silage fed during the winter along with homegrown barley, high DUP Amino Max protein and some form of moist distillers grains.
Herd health is good and the current culling rate is only around 20 per cent. The Dixon family has always bred for type and strength and look for bulls that are positive for milk quality.
The land at Whinney Hill is light, which helps keep cows outside for longer during the autumn but it does mean that it can be prone to drying out in hot summers, and cold east winds sometimes delay grass growth during the spring. Costings show the family is currently achieving more than 3,200 litres per cow from forage.
In 2014 there were a large number of spring calvers and during May the herd were averaging more than 30 litres per day. High yields and lush spring grass, with no buffer feeding, caused butterfats to fall. Following discussion with Carrs Billington nutritionists Mark Holliday and Ian Eland, the decision was made to try Carrs Billington’s new ButterMax dairy cake. In addition to protected fats and high digestible fibre ingredients, ButterMax contains Actisaf Sc 47 live yeast.
Acidosis can occur on spring grass and Actisaf helps by stabilising rumen pH, promoting better rumen and feed efficiency. It has also been proven to increase milk yield and quality and enhance fertility.
After introducing ButterMax, the butterfat percentage increased by 0.2%, milk yields remained good and Matthew felt that cow fertility improved during the summer. Later in the season, as grass quality fell, ButterMax was replaced by Buttergold, an 18% protein cake that also contains Actisaf.