Crossbreeding provides trouble-free cows and improved herd performance

John Barber


Herd Type

Holstein, Norwegian Red

Herd Size


John Barber farms 400 cows on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border at Oakley Park Farm on a 10-year farm business tenancy. Owned by Friend Farms Ltd, the 560 acres farm has switched the dairy system to a strict 12 week autumn block calving system.

John’s foundation cows came from the original herd and were big Holsteins. Relative to their size, the cows were low production and high maintenance. The natural choice for John was to crossbreed using Norwegian Red and trouble-free, less extreme Holsteins with high Health and Management traits.

This has paid dividends with yields now at 7,600 litres, 4.2% Fat and 3.5% Protein all from 1.7 tonnes of concentrates and 4,000 litres from forage. Overall fertility, – herd health, and quality of life has made this a wise decision for all concerned.

The decision was made to operate an autumn calving system as the farm was dry and the contract heavily incentivises autumn production. John likes better control of the production and also fertility during the winter period, rather than being at the mercy of variable grazing conditions in a dry spring. The cows are grazed as a block from March using a paddock system.
Replacement heifers calve at 24-months and are housed for four weeks before calving to get them used to cubicles and concrete. Calving generally starts on the first of September.

All of the 110 replacement heifers are synchronised and served on the same day using the Genus ABS artificial insemination service and John expects a 90% in-calf rate at six weeks. This included using some Sexcel® and RedX semen. Cows are bred using natural heats over a 12-week period again using the Genus ABS A.I. Service. Angus is used on a high proportion of the herd for easy calving and calf vigour with calves sold in batches to Buitelaar. Some British Blue has been used last season and calves will be born soon.

Sire selection is made with Genus ABS Key Account Manager, David Gough. John’s main criteria are Fertility, Longevity and increasing Milk Components. He chooses bulls using the ACI formula and likes that he can compare different breeds on the same index. He also likes the extra emphasis placed on Health and Fitness and added milk value.

For this service season John and David will be running the “Herd Ranking Tool” to combine the herds genetic information with the farm performance data to further accelerate profitability.

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