Not known as an area for dairy production, the Mapledurham Estate is situated just outside of Reading, on the banks of the River Thames.
A 12th century family house and farming estate in the heart of the village, Mapledurham is reputed to have been the inspiration for EH Shepard’s illustrations of Toad Hall for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
The estate extends to 1,500 acres with another estate owned within half an hour’s drive and is home to an arable operation with both sites able to benefit from each other.
At the heart of the associated dairy operation is farm manager Carl Charnley, who has now been at Mapledurham for two and a half years.
Supplying M&S, the 400-head herd is yielding 10,500 to 11,000kg per day, on a twice daily milking system. As stipulated by the retailer, cows are grazed for 110 days of the year, which Carl highlights can be difficult due to the dry summers in this part of the country.
He says: “It can get very hot and dry here. Because of this, we monitor for heat stress in both the paddocks and the buildings, and in extreme conditions, let the cows out to graze by night.”
Carl likes to keep a consistent routine, using products and protocols which save aggravation and give him peace of mind. Management of the transition period is a great example of his approach, where he makes use of ForFarmers’ TRANSLAC Advance nut to minimise any problems at this crucial time.
Animals in the final three weeks of the transition period, receive 2.5kg per head of TRANSLAC Advance, top dressed on the dry cow mix, each end of the day. This TMR consists of 12kg of whole crop, 1kg baled silage, 4.5kg wheat straw and 2 litres water and is fed once a day.
Mapledurham has made use of TRANSLAC Advance for five years and now makes use of three tonnes of the product every month. Being a calcium fixing product, he says it gives him peace of mind that cows will not go down with milk fever.
Carl says: “We don’t get any trouble with milk fever and we don’t get DAs. The key is to have two different mixes for the high yielders and lower yielders. We also body condition score every month. If you don’t have fat cows, you probably don’t get DAs.
“It’s not the cheapest feed, but it does the job and helps with the continuity of management. If the cow is older, maybe, she’s had eight or ten calves or twins, she will need more care. Equally, you don’t want fresh cows to stay on a feed like TRANSLAC.”
He says: “If you have inexperienced staff around transition cows and a cow is down, it can cause problems. TRANSLAC Advance does the job and we don’t have to worry about these issues.”
Following a calving, cows receive a 25 litres fresh drink and propylene glycol. Carl routinely carries out postnatal checks. He takes the animal’s temperature checks for any metritis.
Colostrum is harvested and tested. If it is good quality, it will be pasteurised and frozen. Calves get two shots of colostrum in their first 12 hours and the cow will go into the hospital pen where its milk will be tested for antibiotics before joining fresh group where cows stay for 30 to 50 days before joining the highs.
The farm is home to 350 youngstock. The top 40 per cent of the herd is bred to black and white semen. Angus straws are used on the heifers while Longhorn is put on the cows. Dairy heifers are sold on at a year old or retained for breeding. Beef calves and bull calves leave the farm before 42 days of age. Carl points out the use of sexed semen means few dairy bull calves are sold.
The herd enjoys good fertility, with conception to first service rate sitting at 60 per cent across the board, with maiden heifers at 75 per cent and 51 per cent for the cows. This success is partly due to the three members of staff on the farm who can AI.
Calves are fed milk replacer twice per day until weaning at eight to nine weeks. Calves are in jackets from 1 November to March and are kept in hutches in groups of five.
Carl says: “I try not to complicate stuff. Cows and calves like routine and if this is followed, everyone knows what is going on.”
TRANSLAC Advance is a specialist transition cow feed, formulated to improve cow performance, cow health and calf performance.
Richard Greasley, Technical Manager at ForFarmers, says: “The nut provides a simple and complete solution for closeup transition cows containing basic and complex nutrients for optimum cow performance pre and post calving.”
The product contains key transition nutrients as well as complex minerals which capture and bind free calcium and cations to reduce milk fever risk.
Richard says: “TRANSLAC Advance nuts should be mixed with forage to produce a complete transition cow ration. The product can be used in a mixed forage system, complementing maize, grass or wholecrop.”