The couple, who run 140 British Friesian cows on their 250-acre farm near Penrith in Cumbria, started to notice a considerable number of cud balls in the cubicle house and were concerned that acidosis could be a problem.
“Our cows graze all summer and when we brought them in and started feeding more silage we saw the problems straight away,” explained Chris. “Intakes were lower than expected and we saw the cud balls, so we knew something wasn’t right.”
The cows are fed using a simple system of grass silage down a barrier with a protein meal on top, added using an auger bucket on the front-end loader. Compound feed is fed to yield through the parlour, although the herd is split into highs and lows, and the low group don’t get cake during milking, as the outside ration is formulated to provide maintenance plus 20 litres.
“When we saw the cud balls we spoke to our rep, Adam, at Lloyds Feeds, and he suggested we add Actisaf live yeast to the compound feed, as it is effective at reducing acidosis,” said Chris. “The cud balls just stopped within a day or two – it was unbelievable!”
The herd is run for longevity and milk quality rather than yield, which is why the family moved back towards Friesian genetics around 7 years ago. “We have seen fertility improve and got better milk quality and better beef calves as a result,” Chris said. “We now use sexed semen on our heifers, 61 per cent of which held to first service this year, and have also tried it on first, second and third calvers, about 70 per cent of which held to first service. I think this is because we have fit, healthy cows, and I am sure that the Actisaf has also helped this winter.”
In fact, Chris is so impressed with the yeast that he intends to carry on using it during the forthcoming summer. “I’m told Actisaf can reduce the risk of sub-acute rumen acidosis at grazing, so it’ll be staying in our ration for the coming months,” he concluded.