Case Study – High Yielding Danish Dairies

What’s the “Secret”?

Kindly sponsored by Trouw Nutrition GB, Calvex and Holm & Laue, the Wynnstay Technical Team recently undertook a short visit to Denmark to a number of leading dairy and calf units. 

There are about 3,800 dairy farmers in Denmark with an average herd size of 150 cows. The milk quota is 1,142 tonnes. Danish dairy farmers are among the largest and most modern in Europe. More than half of the cows live in new loose-housing systems. Export of dairy products accounts for more than 20 per cent of the total Danish agricultural export. The total number of cattle in 2011 was approximately 1.5 million. Of these 565,000 were dairy cows and 99,000 were suckler cows. The yearly number of beef cattle slaughtered is around 550,000.

The first farm we visited was Fan. Breunese, Green Eye APS, Bolhedevej 14, 6800 Varde. This was a 400 cow, mainly Holstein x Friesian unit producing 10,500kgs of milk on 2 x milking. Dutch bulls are used. Buildings were extremely light and ventilation good – no real difference to a number of UK units.

Grass and maize silage are grown and both are high dry matter. Silage clamps are rarely filled over the height of the walls and face management was excellent.

Colostrum management is a major priority on the farm and is seen as one of the major factors in the overall herd performance. A ‘Coloquick’ colostrum management machine is used and calves are then fed with a ‘Milk Taxi’. The herd has a 2% calf mortality rate.

The 2nd herd we visited was Hostrup Ostergard, Karupvej 21, 7540 Haderup – a 300Ha dairy again growing maize and grass, the herd numbers 280 cows milked with 4 Lely robots. The herd is currently selling 37 litres/cow/day with an annual yield of 11,400 litres.

A number of years ago milk yield was disappointing and after much investigation stray voltage, effecting dry matter intakes via the metal feed troughs was identified as the problem. Ironically, the electricity excess was coming from a nearby windfarm!

Colostrum management is a key focus as on the first farm. A Milk Taxi Pasteuriser is used to feed milk, with a phone app being used to measure and monitor the strength of the milk being fed.

We then visited the calf unit belonging to Calvex DK. The unit is used to measure calf performance with different housing and management systems.

A combination of H & L igloos and hutches are used with strategic roofing and penning used to create one of the perfect housing systems for calves from birth onwards.

A series of H & L 100 computerised feeders are used to feed the calves with an easy to use program to manage and monitor calves at any time which can be situated in the calf building or remotely at the manager’s house.

Bente & Ole Vestergaarde at Oster Haerup is a family run farm which regularly opens it’s doors to the public. The herd houses 200 cows averaging 11,300 litres at 4.14% fat and 3.55% protein and is on target to sell 12,000 litres this year. Milk is sold, like the majority of Danish dairy farmers, to Arla.

Milking cows and milking heifers are housed in separate groups.Feed troughs are as smooth and clean as your own dinner plate. The TMR is fed automatically with a robot which runs on a rail above the narrow double-sided, yoked feed trough.

Like many of the farms we visited, due to herd expansion in recent years, calf housing has come under pressure. Most of the farms had one or two of these mobile calf buildings which appeared to work extremely well. The weather when we visited was extremely cold and calves looked in good health.

Gunner Forum, Prastevej 18, 8832 Skals has 450 cows milked with 7 x Lely robots. The herd is currently averaging 40 litres/cow/day with the rolling herd yield at 12,750kgs at 3.7% fat and 3.46% protein.

A maximum of 8kg of cake is fed in the robots with a 40% DM TMR fed outside the robots. A premix is made up of: Soda wheat; Rape; Soya; Sodium Bicarbonate; Bergafat F-100 and bespoke minerals and mixed with high D-Value, high DM grass and maize silage.

Colostrum management is a top priority and again, the Coloquick system is used on this farm. All heifer calves receive 4 litres of identifiable and traceable ‘green’ colostrum within 1 hour of birth. The coloquick bag holds 4 litres, unlike other makes which hold less.

Spotlessly clean stainless steel buckets are used for milk feeding, water and starter concentrate across all the farms we visited……attention to detail!

Finally, the main driver for the top performance is a hard working, dedicated team of professional stockmen and women.

The last farm we visited was Per Andersson, Siggardvej 33, 7800 Skive. 300 cows averaging 13,000 litres. Close up cows are sand bedded. 3 feet of trough space per cow. 100sq feet of lying area per cow.

Calves – 90% of calves get 4 litres of colostrum within 1 hour of birth. Calves are then fed 3 feeds per day of 4 litres of milk each. Daily liveweight gains of 900-1200g are being achieved. No calves lost to diarrhoea, 2% mortality.

The dairy herd is fed a 40% dry matter TMR of maize silage, 1st cut grass silage, cereals, soya, rape, 150gms of minerals, 7 litres water. Dry matter intakes of over 28kgs are achieved. Plenty of fresh air

In summary, what are the common denominators seen on our visit to some of the successful, high yielding herds in Denmark? 

1. Focus on colostrum management using Coloquick system and accurate, consistent calf feeding practices using modern feeding equipment – “only get one chance to get well grown, productive, long lasting heifers”

2. High quality, high dry matter forages + consistent diets

3. Focus on cow health
a. Clean walkways
b. Comfortable bedding (sand, mattresses)
c. Regular footbathing
d. Excellent ventilation
e. Optimum lighting

4. Team approach – A passion for cows and youngstock, regular meetings with owner/herd manager, staff, vet and nutritionist

5. Simple, usable monitoring systems

6. Making full use of modern technology

Written by Steve Brown – Ruminant Feeds Product Manager
Follow @sirbilly55
For more information

Leave a Reply