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Rich pickings from the right nutrition

Known for their rich, creamy milk, Jerseys are also valued particularly for their ability to efficiently produce high quality milk from forage. But, due to their smaller size and physiology, these cows require a specialist approach to feeding and herd management to reach and maintain peak performance. 

Producers Barry and Jenny Daw know this from their own experience. They founded the Bluegrass herd of pedigree Jerseys in 1987. 

Today they are milking 120 cows, plus 130 replacements, at Amwell Place Farm, near Hertford. The herd averages 6,800 litre, at 5.50% fat and 3.85% protein, and milk is sold to Rivermead Dairy, which distributes milk around the country to specialist producers of cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

Claire, Barry and Jenny Daw with their pedigree Jerseys
Claire, Barry and Jenny Daw with their pedigree Jerseys

Top-quality milk

Milk vending machine

The Daws have prioritised breeding from the maternal family lines, with some of their cows descended directly from a herd that was started by Jenny’s parents in 1947. “Our aim is to breed cows with a good frame, strong and straight legs, and well-proportioned udders,” says Jenny. 

“This gives them longevity in the milking herd and allows them to produce top-quality milk, efficiently, within our system. Our cows average between five and six lactations, but our oldest cow is about to calve for the thirteenth time.”

In 2013, the couple’s daughter Claire came home to join the family business. A short time later she started to make ice-cream from the herd’s high constituent milk and ‘Dawlicious Dairy’ was born. 

Claire began by supplying a few local restaurants and shops and now sells directly to the public, from a small shed located at the farm entrance. To date, she has created more than 62 flavours of ice cream and has expanded the business to include two raw milk vending machines and fresh eggs, selling more than 1,000 litres of milk per week. “Selling from the farm is the best decision we ever made,” says Claire. 

“It has allowed us to build a strong relationship with the public and we’ve evolved into a bit of a community hub. Our customers from the city enjoy coming out here for some fresh air and seeing the animals, and they thank us for the work we do because they can see where the produce they’re buying comes from.”

Simple approach

Expanding the business, primarily through word of mouth, has seen Dawlicious Dairy continue to grow throughout lockdown. “Despite the lack of demand from the hospitality sector, we have never been busier and have had increased interest from the public.” 

The Daw family aim to keep their feeding and management systems as simple as they can, prioritising cow health and welfare. “We want to graze our herd as much as possible,” explains Barry. 

“Unfortunately, our land is not good for growing grass – by May we can be completely dry. But we believe the cows need to go out as much as possible, so we work around this through producing good quality forage and careful feeding.”

Cows are turned out anytime from mid-March, depending on the weather, and within a few weeks they are out day and night with access to a buffer feed throughout the summer. This comprises both grass and maize silage with moist feed and 1kg of a bespoke blend from ForFarmers, adjusted for the quality of grazing that’s available.

Bespoke ration: the herd’s diet is formulated to meet the specific nutritional requirements of the Daw’s Jersey herd

From August, the cows are fed a winter ration containing grass and maize silage, up to 3kg of ForFarmers blend, and brewers’ grains or fodder beet. 

“We work closely with ForFarmers’ nutritionist Alison Ewing and account manager Julian Mills to ensure that our cows are being fed exactly what they need throughout the year,” says Barry. “We make small tweaks to the diet as required. Their knowledge of Jerseys’ specific needs has been invaluable to us.” Alison adds that, when feeding Jerseys, is it vital to be realistic in terms of dry matter intake (DMI) expectations. “These will be relatively low compared to other breeds and, as such, the ration will need to be more nutrient dense,” she explains.

“The high milk butterfat concentration also means that they require higher levels of milk fat pre-cursors in their diet. So it is crucial to have a balanced ration with sufficient effective fibre to encourage fibre digestion.”

The Bluegrass herd has high dry matter intakes for the breed, with a forage DMI of up to 12 kg/head/day and a total DMI of 20kg/head/day. This fuels high performance and is indicative of their genetics and the exceptional care the cows receive. 

Access points

The farm also has a number of feed access points, with concentrate fed both through the parlour and via out-of-parlour feeders. This supports the Jersey breed’s natural instinct to eat more evenly throughout the day, in contrast to Holsteins, which tend to eat fewer but larger meals.

“We have stayed loyal to ForFarmers for so long because the quality of feed – and the support and advice that comes with it – is always good,” adds Barry. 

“The company also makes a blend that’s suited to our herd’s specific needs. And, most importantly, the cows respond well.” 

The Daw's future herd

For more information

To find out more about bespoke winter rations, blends or brewers grain please speak to your local ForFarmers account manager or send us an online enquiry here