This study will determine current practice and performance with regard to low input out-wintering heifer replacement systems and evaluate the suitability of out-wintering systems for rearing heifers as replacements for high input intensive dairy herds and transfer the findings to dairy farmers
This project will initially gather information from farmers currently managing heifers on out-wintering systems to establish current and best practice and identify areas for further research that meets their needs. This will be followed by careful monitoring of a selected number of these farms in a participatory research project. This will quantitatively measure aspects such as animal weight and body condition score, crop use and nutritive value, effect on soil conditions and subsequent animal performance and health. Finally, two controlled studies will be conducted at Harper Adams University and SRUC to determine the effect of different out-wintering systems compared with housing on subsequent performance during their first lactation in high input systems. Many high input dairy systems are looking for less expensive methods to rear heifers allowing herd size to increase and minimising capital expenditure, but the effects of out-wintering high genetic merit animals under this system is unclear. The findings will be exchanged with farmers through interaction with AHDB-KT staff, demonstration days on the study and research farms, reports and press releases.
This study will investigate out-wintering of replacement heifer for low and high input dairy systems