AFBI Precision Grassland Dairy Platform offers extensive research capability in the areas of grazing and indoor feeding systems with capacity to precisely monitor individual dietary intake, behaviour, health and welfare from birth through to adulthood. AFBI’s 330 cow dairy herd comprises approximately 230 Holstein-Friesian cows (within the top 1% of UK herds for £PLI), with the remainder of the cows being crossbred (predominantly 3-breed crossbreds). Cows calve from early September through to mid-April, meaning that there are freshly calved cows available for use in research programmes involving either winter feeding or grazing strategies. Female offspring from the herd are mostly reared for replacements, and for use in calf and heifer research programmes. There are approximately 220 dairy youngstock on the farm, with heifers reared to calve at 24 months of age.
Key research expertise, include novel nutrition, breeding and broader management strategies:
- Calf and heifer nutrition and management strategies
- Crossbreeding and alternative genotype
- Dairy cow nutrition, including concentrate supplementation strategies, novel nutritional approaches, including grazing systems incorporating precision technologies, forage production and utilisation
- Health and welfare – calves through to adulthood
- Environmental challenges, such as ammonia, greenhouse gases and phosphorus
- Milk quality and economics of milk production systems
Precision Dairy – 50-point fully automated rotary milking parlour equipped with a concentrate feeding system which allows up to four different concentrate types to be offered at any one time. All cows are weighed twice daily, following each milking.
- Individual intake monitoring to record intakes of individual cows from birth through to adulthood: 58 ‘controlled access feed boxes’ allowing intakes of up to 170 individual cows to be monitored at any one time and a further 26 ‘controlled access feed boxes’ in the youngstock house which can be used to record intakes and behaviour from weaning until heifers calve for the first time.
- Dairy cow concentrates can be offered either in-parlour, via out-of-parlour feeding systems, or in the form of a Total Mixed Ration. Total mixed ration and out-of-parlour feeding solutions are also available within the youngstock accommodation. During the calf stage, milk and concentrate feeding can be conducted via an individual pen system, computerised feeders or group feeders
- Individual animal precision in-field concentrate feeding system for grazing cattle of all ages to include monitoring of animal liveweight and intake
- Individual forage and concentrate intake monitoring from birth through to adulthood. Detailed monitoring of animal grazing and behaviour through pedometers and rumination halters
- On site feed mill for production of specialist diets
- Range of thermal imaging technologies, including a fully automated system that acquires highly standardized thermal images of dairy cows as they come off the milking parlour.
Better management of grasslands to ensure animals convert grass into milk in an efficient and sustainable manner. Profitable and sustainable farm systems with improved youngstock rearing regimes to enhance health, welfare and lifetime performance.
Supporting the Grand Challenges facing livestock food production:
Climate Smart Food Systems
Resource Efficiency & Precision Nutrition
Health & Welfare Management