Millar family’s crossbreeding triumph

Crossbreeding cows with Norwegian Red genetics - John Millar

John Millar

Mortonholm Farm

Thornhill, Dumfriesshire

Milking herd – 350

460-acre family run farm

Mortonholm Farm, in Dumfriesshire, has been operated by the Millar family for the past four generations. The farm, which spreads across 460 acres, carries a 350-cow milking herd which has been expanding since 2017.

For the past 10 years, John Millar and his family have been working closely with their Reproductive Management Specialists to breed their herd. Using Reproductive Management Systems (RMS) has helped them to breed their animals at the most optimal times. This is thanks to the Specialists’ skills in heat detection.

John says the herd has had historically good fertility performance, which increased their confidence in using sexed genetics (Sexcel®). Using sexed genetics, rather than conventional, the Millar family have a much larger chance of breeding genetically superior female offspring.

To create the strongest genetic portfolio possible, the Millar family utilise the ‘Winning Game Plan’ approach. This sees their best performing animals served to sexed genetics (Sexcel®) and their lower-performing cattle to beef (NuEra™ Beef Genetics). Doing this creates a high-value beef cash calf crop rather than a dairy bull calf.

All Angus beef animals on the farm are sold to Scotbeef. The milking animals in the herd produce 29-30 litres of milk per day with 4.61% fat and 3.5% protein. All milk produced on this farm is sold to Arla.

When it comes to selecting the perfect sires to breed from, John sticks to using genomic bulls. Doing so gets him increased genetic gain, accuracy in trait prediction and a reduced generation interval. Moving forward with their breeding strategy, the family are considering incorporating polled genetics into their herd. Using polled genetics will prevent their calves from having to suffer the stress of dehorning.

Utilising a crossbreeding strategy

Success at Mortonholm Farm is down to their Hyvig crossbreeding strategy, says John. To begin their cross, they introduced Norwegian Red genetics over 15 years ago to aid with health benefits in the herd. Doing so has also reduced the size of their animals, making for a more efficient and high-productive herd, which they are really pleased with.

Crossbreeding cows with Norwegian Red genetics

Their breeding decisions have a focus on health, fat and protein, to encourage their cows to live longer, require less vet intervention, and to hit the requirements of their milk contract.

Success at the family farm is demonstrated in their results. Current fertility KPIs are a submission rate of 78%, conception rate of 50% and a pregnancy rate of 36%, with an impressive 66% of the herd pregnant by 100 days in milk.

All cows in the herd are grazed during the day and brought inside at night. They feed the herd a total mixed ration with no concentrates in the parlour. Their milk comes from forage, which they believe contributes to fertility and profit. Recently, the family added extra feed spaces to prevent any overstocking and believe doing so could stimulate great results.

Utilising the crossbreeding (Hyvig) approach, along with RMS and the Winning Game Plan, has seen the Millar family gain great success in their farm.

You too could make improvements to your herd by trying our genetics, products and services. For more information on what we have to offer, contact your local representative today by using the tool below, or visit our website.

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