Family Farm Dyson (Holly Green Farm): zero mortality rates in dairy calves
A family dairy farm with a zero mortality target for replacement heifers and a low carbon footprint has become a EuroDairy pilot farm sharing best practice across the EU. Neil and Jane Dyson own Holly Green Farm in Buckinghamshire, a farm which has been in Jane’s family for 100 years. Their attention to detail drives high performance from their 500 Holstein cows, averaging 9,000 litres/year and 700kg fat and protein.
The couple build their high bio-security Heifer rearing unit four years ago, and have achieved 0% mortality over most of those years. This has been possible by putting in place a strict management and biosecurity protocol for staff to follow and a vaccination programme devised by their vet. Designated staff can only access the unit in clean clothes and boots. Livestock trailers from elsewhere are not allowed on the farm.
Attention to detail and regular weighing during the rearing period pay dividends as the heifers calve at 23-24 months within their seasonal calving system. The use of sexed semen is being trialled and compared against non-sex semen to ensure high rate of success is maintained.
Their two-year graduate training programme for new members of the team helps to support staff development and aims to encourage young people to join the industry. It includes study time to investigate an area of interest that could be implemented to benefit the farm as well as an overseas study tour opportunity.
The farm is driven by financial KPIs and they actively plan and review budgets. Benchmarking has enabled them to focus on key areas of cost control, allowing profitability to be maintained even with fluctuating milk prices.
The farm is within the top 10% of Arla farms for low carbon footprint, thanks to their biomass boiler burning woodchips, solar panels and exclusion of soya from rations. The farm is now 50% self-sufficient for power consumption.
They also benefit by separating their slurry, and entering into an agreement with a neighbouring farm to exchange muck for straw. As well as ensuring NVZ compliance, straw costs now comprise only baling and carting charges.
As European Dairy Farmers members, with Neil as the President, they already have access to a large network to discuss and share ideas and best practice, but being part of EuroDairy gives them access and insight into dairy producers who excel in at least one particular area.