Russel Parris moved from the use of natural service bulls to a DIY AI programme. It has reduced calving interval from over 400 to 385 days, it gives control and certainty and it has increased production from 7,400 to 8,000 litres per cow.
The Parris family run a herd of 330 Holstein cows in Somerset, UK and like many dairy businesses; the family have embarked upon a now familiar path of seeking to simplify herd management to control costs. Cows calve all year round with all offspring reared - either for replacements or sale as 20-month old stores.
Semen from VikingHolstein sires is playing a major role in a breed programme designed to improve fertility and calving index; strengthen hoof health and feet & leg structure and continue to provide steady gains in production. The Rakuuna sons, Raket and Real, were used to make the extreme Holsteins in the herd more compact. Following that, D Ole, VH Strong and now VH Sparky have all been selected to add body capacity so that large volumes of forage can be consumed, as well as improving the production and locomotion traits.
Sexed semen is used on heifers in the winter months, when both diet and heat detection can be managed with greater accuracy.
Highs and Lows all graze
The importance of hoof health, along with feet & legs, cannot be stressed sufficiently since the farm has also been turned over to all grass. Both high and low yield groups are expected to graze on the flint soils, sometimes walking almost two km a day, including across some steep valleys. That said, the farm is able to grow good crops of grass throughout the season.