Improving herd resilience cuts the need for antibiotics in Somerset herd

23 Jun 2017

For brothers Ed and John Frost, third generation dairy farmers from Melsbury Farm near Wells in Somerset, reductions in antibiotic use on their 140-cow dairy farm have been part of a bigger mission to improve the resilience of their business.

Currently at less than 8mg/kg across the whole herd, antibiotic use has fallen steadily from a decade ago when it was estimated at around double this.

Ed (pictured) says the starting point was a decision in 2009 to increase cow numbers and adopt a simpler management system.

“We started using Danish Red bulls on our black and whites with the aim of improving foot and udder health and fertility and keeping more heifers back as they calved; Normande or Montbelliarde were then used on the crosses when they came into the herd.

“We phased out maize, which stopped spoilage and disease challenge from starlings. Now the cows are fed a simple diet of 2 tonnes a year of concentrate fed through the parlour, grazed grass in the summer and silage in the winter, with ad lib hay always on offer.

“We’ve also shifted the calving pattern to predominantly winter-based, allowing ourselves time off in the autumn.”

Efforts to improve the soil have paid off too, he says. Following several years of monitoring trace minerals and treatment with gypsum, pregnancy rate has increased from 33% to >48% and 100 day in-calf rate from 45% to 58%.

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