Thursday, 16 July 2015

The good life with family and cows

Erik and Henrik Bligaard, Denmark, opened a new barn for 320 cows last year. The goal is welfare for both family and cows.

The Bligaard family estate contributes to the Danish cultural landscape with its new barns made in red bricks beautifully placed in the hilly countryside in the north west part of Jutland. When planning the building logistics, function and architecture was kept in mind and this should serve as inspiration for many. “We had even more projects planned”, Henrik (30) starts. “However none of them cold be ap-proved by the financing institutions, and our patience was tested. But the final project suddenly moved fast, and the building went completely as planned”, Henrik and Erik smile.

Top cow welfare
The new barn is made with maximum cow welfare in mind. Lots of light and space, large walking areas and of course sand in cubicles. Floor slots with scraper in the below channel, and the sand ends up in the manure tank with no problem. The slots are cleaned by two DeLaval robots and this is important as regards the hygiene. “We had many considerations about the milking system but we chose a separate center with a 2x20 DeLaval side-by-side milking barn. The current app. 300 cows are divided in two groups in each side of the barn. In addition we have a separate section with room for app. 20 first lacta-tion cows for the first 2-3 months after calving. At first this section was planned for the dry cows, but now with the open quota in EU, we can speed up production and at the same time give the first calvers a better start with 1 kg grain and 0.5 kg soya meal added to their TMR mix – and spare them the competition from the older cows.

High-yielding cows are milked three times
The high-yielding group of app. 150 cows is milked three times a day and the other group two times. “We typically move them from group one to group two about 26 weeks after calving, but we also take their production into consideration. Our very competent herd manager Brian is responsible for registra-tion, health and examinations. And then Brian also milks the cows and nurses the calves in the morning. His working day starts at 3.30 a.m. and ends at noon”, Henrik explains. The two other milking sessions are handled by two conscientious Romanian girls. They also clean cup drinkers, milking area, milking barn and other facilities.

Henrik mixes feed, nurses the heifers in the old free-stall barn from 1998, the dry cows in another estate and nurses the calves in the afternoon. Henrik’s father Erik (63) works in the fields and helps in the barn when necessary.

Reproduction under control - manually
The efficiency of 0.29 for the cows and 0.34 for the heifers show that the reproduction is among top 10% of the herds in Denmark – without any modern observation systems like Heatime. “The cows in general show clear heat, and the group division makes it possible to focus 100% on the cows to be inseminated. We want to emphasize our fine cooperation with our AI Technicians”, Henrik and Erik agree. “They are good in following-up and keep focus – even if the reproduction results are not optimal for a period of time”. Ordering Viking’s AI technician is made online – a solution that Henrik and Erik are very satisfied with.

“Every Tuesday the AI Technician from Viking examines all cows from 37 days after insemination. In this way we will find the cows that are not pregnant at an early stage”, Henrik stresses. Insemination starts at 60-65 days after calving, and if they do not show heat after 70 days, the AI Technician will examine them to find out if they cycle. This is well-planned with the vet visiting every second Wednesday.

Heifers for insemination are divided into groups so that the app. 20 heifers to observe will be in the same group. Insemination starts at the age of 12-13 months, and the average pregnancy age is 13.7 months giving a calving age of app. 23 months. All heat observation for the heifers is done manually with observation of blood, slime and jump. 

Combines use of X-Vik and beef breed
The breeding plan is made by the Viking breeding advisor and is basically beef breed semen for app. 40% of the cows and X-Vik for 70% of the heifers for first insemination. The mating plan is updated every second week so that the mating suggestions at all times are updated as regards insemination number. “The breeding advisor is amazing when it comes to following-up, advising on selection of bull and we often talk together”, Henrik explains. “I am very open to try something new – this is genomic test of the best animals and maybe also ET if we get a candidate with high index. 

When we reach our goal with the strategy of reduced young stock – and if the price of the test is also reduced – we will definitely consider genomic test of all heifer calves. In this way we can focus on the genetically best females, increase genetic progress and at the same time increase the chance of selling a bull to VikingGenetics”, Henrik says. VH Jamie (VH Jewel) with NTM +23 is bred by Bligaard – and the dam (VH Mugsy x V Excess) has adjusted very well in her new barn.

The goal is good time for the family
The most important for the Bligaard family is a good life with time to spend together on more than just farming. “Both my wife Jane and I like to get away from the herd once in a while and spend time togeth-er with our son Rasmus who is three years old. We rent a summer cottage, de-stress and enjoy the company”, Henrik says and smiles at Jane and Rasmus. “Our goal is 360 cows and then optimize, trim and nurse them in the most optimal way to produce 12,500 kg in good health and reproduction. That is both financial and life quality”, Henrik and Erik finish up.

* 300 Holstein cows
* 11,500 kg ECM
* 230 ha with maize, grass and grain
* Barn from 2014
* 2 x 20 DeLaval side-by-side milking barn
* Reproduction efficiency: Cows 0.29 - Heifers 0.34 
* X-Vik for 70% of the heifers 
* Beef breed semen for 40% of the cows

Jane, Henrik, Erik and Rasmus in front of the new barn, milking centre and calf barn.

The farm.

There is plenty of light and space in the new barn with room for 320 cows.

The dam of VH Jamie (VH Jewel x VH Mugsy x V Exces) feels well in the new barn with sand in the cubicles.


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