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    Harper dairy event - September 2, 2009

    Posted 29 July 2009

    The new dairy unit

    Dairy farmers have the opportunity to see the latest innovations in action at the official opening of the new £2.3 million dairy unit at Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire on Wednesday September 2.

    As well as viewing the dairy unit, visitors will be also able to discover how the university college is employing state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to improve cow welfare and herd health, as well as boost efficiency and productivity from its recently expanded herd.

    Guided tours of the new facility and technical seminars (see below) will run throughout the day. Visitors will also be able to find out more about the technology installed in the new dairy from suppliers who will also be exhibiting at the event.

    Farm Manager Scott Kirby said the decision to invest £2.3 million in an entirely new ‘green field’ facility came after a thorough review of the dairy business. “We were previously milking 150 cows in outdated buildings. Like others in the industry, we came to the conclusion we needed to expand and modernise to improve profitability or, and this was a serious consideration, to leave the sector entirely,” he said.

    “The farm has to operate under completely commercial conditions and produce a surplus from what it does. But in the end we are essentially here to assist with the University’s teaching and research, which is why we decided to increase the herd to 400 cows and invest in the new facilities. This also reflects the current consolidation going on in the industry and will provide students, farmers and researchers with a unique insight into modern dairying techniques.”

    The farm aims for an annual yield of 9,500 litres/cow and runs a year-round calving pattern to match the needs of the buyer for liquid milk, which receives a premium. Latest technology heat detectors, with leg-mounted transponders improve management.

    The new dairy features the very latest thinking in all aspects of dairy farming. The unique building design and layout features wide, open spaces to create a light and airy environment that offers maximum ventilation. The layout has two, completely separate, ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ areas for better cow health and biosecurity.

    Spacious cow cubicles are designed to accommodate the large, modern dairy cow and are lined with latex foam for comfort and bedded with lime to improve hygiene. Automatic slurry scrapers clean the passages every four- to five hours and a clever flushing system tips the drinking troughs, which are then refilled with fresh water.

    The 40-point internal rotary parlour is one of just a few in operation in the UK, which is designed to provide staff with the best view of the cows. This is also equipped with a new cluster system with backflush and in-line dipping. Segregation gates can be used to separate cows before and after milking for optimum management particularly when, for example, conducting trials.

    Indeed, there is an entirely separate trial area where cows can be removed from the main herd to be fed individually, with their consumption logged by transponders on collars. Ultrasound neck microphones, which measure rumination rates, are also used.

    The entire unit has also been designed with great emphasis on environmental sustainability. Here again the dairy unit employs the latest technology to keep clean and dirty water apart as well as separate slurry. It saves energy with heat exchanges to pre-heat the hot water as well as special ‘ramping’ pumps that vary match power supply to the varying demands during milking. The University is also investigating installing an anaerobic digester to process the slurry and produce energy.

    Visitors to the event will be able to see all this technology at work on the Open Day, and learn about the latest research and advice from a range of expert speakers who will be holding seminars through the day.

    Date: September 2, 2009
    Location: Harper Adams University College Newport Shropshire TF10 8NB
    Tickets: Free by pre registration on the website, email: or by calling 0845 4900 142 or £5 on the gate without a ticket.

    1. Dairy Unit Tour
    Guided tours of the new dairy facility will provide visitors with an insight into the aims of the new unit particularly how the innovative layout and design focuses on creating an environment that promotes cow health, welfare, commercial efficiency and flexibility for teaching and research.
    Tours will run at 10am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm

    2. Cow behaviour – inside or out, the cow’s choice
    It is generally assumed that pasture provides cattle with better welfare compared to indoor housing systems, but as milk yield increases, high- yielding dairy cows are not be able to fulfil their nutritional demands from pasture alone. Harper Adams researchers will present results from studies conducted to determine whether high-yielding dairy cattle have a preference for pasture or indoor housing and what factors influenced their preference.
    Presentations will take place at 10.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm.

    3. Nutritional Research – Dairy cow winter feeding studies at Harper Adams University College.
    Results from recent winter feeding studies on the effects of level and form of minerals on dairy cow health and performance and alternative forages, such as high tannin forage peas and whole crop cereals, will be presented. Forthcoming studies on nutritional means to reduce the methane output from dairy cows will also be discussed.
    Presentations are at 10.30am, and 1.30pm.

    4. Out-wintering systems based on forage brassicas (stubble turnips) for replacement dairy heifers
    For the last two winters in-calf dairy heifers have been commercially out-wintered and strip grazed on stubble turnip and forage rape based systems at Harper Adam. The Harper Adams out-wintering system is based on extensive stocking within a low cost system to provide soil protection.  In 2008 a trial was carried out to evaluate the performance of in-calf dairy heifers either housed or out-wintered on stubble turnips with the target to achieve a DLWG of 0.7 to 0.8kg required for calving heifers at approximately 2 years old.
    Presentations on this trial are at 11am and 1.30pm.

    5. Fabdec Heatime Vocal ® cow monitor
    A trial to evaluate the use of a cow monitor that detects rumination and activity has been taking place at Harper Adams dairy unit. The data collected will be analysed to illustrate the capability of the monitor to detect oestrus and any variation in individual cow activity / rumination that may be due to ill-health.
    This presentation will run at 11.30 am and 2pm.

    6. Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
    The Environment Agency is proud to be sponsoring the Harper Adams Dairy Open Day and will be on hand to help with nutrient planning and NVZ regulations. Three NVZ presentations will run on the day, and the team will be able to take farmers through the relevant paperwork providing they can give them:  acreage of farm, livestock numbers, type of crop, information about existing slurry storage (dimensions and capacity), dirty yard area measurements, and a farm map. The first 50 enquirers will receive a free rain gauge to work out rainfall on their farms. 
    NVZ presentations are at 10am, 11.30am and 14.30pm.
    Advice will be available all day at the Environment Agency stand.

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