Marcus Hunt and his son Sam at Buckwell Lodge in North Kilworth are no strangers to finding natural solutions which fit in with their cows and farm environment.
An Arla organic herd, they have 100 dairy cows across 340 acres. They also have a number of beef cows (45 this year) which are reared up to finishing on farm.
Cows are milked three times a day, on average, through two A5 Lely robots.
“We breed a three-way cross of Fleckvieh, Norwegian Red and Normand.” says Marcus. “They are good, strong, robust cows which give a reasonable amount of milk. They give me a decent beef calf, are easy care and work well with the robots.”
“We multi-suckle the calves – four cows calve, three go in the robot and one stays behind to feed the calves in the field. Groups of four cows and 16 calves stay in each group all summer long,” says Marcus. “We never have any trouble with the calves being underweight. They calve at 23-24 months.”
To provide flexibility, the milking cows have the choice to be inside or outside, depending on weather conditions. Marcus explains in hot weather they would all be back in by 10am. “Because they don’t go out all the time we can keep them out longer,” he says. The door to the shed was shut on 19th December 2022 with a robot.
The cows have access to fresh grass multiple times per day through ABC paddock grazing. The water trough is in the middle of the field and there are triangular paddocks around it.
“We have 70 one acre paddocks for grazing with the robots. A selection gate sends the cows to one of three paddocks every eight hours for fresh grass. We’re on a 21 to 30 day rotation and find in the summer the grass becomes a driver for the cows, as they know if they are milked they will get fresh grass.”
The cows have been turned-out since mid-February this year but due to the recent wet spell they have been in again over the past few weeks. In the robot they are fed cake and they eat silage and straw in the trough.
More natural teat care
“We have always farmed in an organic way, even before we became organic,” says Marcus. “When I noticed a more natural teat dip on the market I was keen to give it a go.
“The iodine-based teat dips used to leave the teats dry and cracked,” admits Marcus.
“Soon after using EnviroCare Teat the teats looked pinker and healthy. It gives an even spray through our robots and provides good coverage. We don’t get any teat orifice cracks and the skin condition is really good.”
EnviroCare Teat has been designed to prioritise teat health and work with the cow’s innate defence systems, rather than focus purely on antimicrobial killing activity, explains EnviroSystems biochemist Dr David Townsend.
It has achieved a 99.999% kill rate against staph aureus, E.coli and Strep uberis in external tests, passing the EN1656 approval process. [See box for further data]
“Many typical teat dips contain harsh chemicals, which whilst providing antimicrobial activity, kill cells indiscriminately and can cause skin damage. This can lead to breaks in the skin barrier and allow penetration of pathogenic bacteria causing deployment of the cow’s immune response and inflammation,” warns Dr Townsend.
“EnviroCare Teat doesn’t contain harsh chemicals such as iodine, chlorhexidine, formalin, or metal ion sulphates like copper and zinc which can dry and damage the skin, or pose environmental risks,” he adds.
As well as prioritising cow comfort during milking, Marcus and Sam are also passionate about cow comfort in the cubicle housing and encouraging longer lying down times.
The milking cows are in cubicles with rubber mats topped with EnviroBed.
Two and a half tote bags are needed per week to cover 180 cubicles. The bedding is also used to keep the heifers clean.
“We have an open shed and we’re in a windy spot,” says Marcus. “The sawdust and lime we used to use never stopped on the beds.
“We’re using far less bedding these days because the paper bedding stays put. We bed up twice a day using a Bobman sit-on dispenser which is brilliant – it sweeps the edge on top of the curb. We put plenty on the front and then brush it back.”
They also have three Lely discovery robot scrapers for the passageways and use a bacterial probiotic in the housing and water troughs to keep the water clean.
Slurry solids are separated using a separator. The liquid goes into the lagoon and this either goes into the slurry tanker with a dribble bar or is applied through an irrigator in the field.
“We want to make sure we’re using as little chemicals as possible that could end up having an impact on the soil,” says Marcus. “As well as being kinder on the skin, the more natural teat dip also ticks this box for us.”
- Arla organic herd
- Yielding between 6,500 and 7,000 litres a cow a year
- 4.4% butterfat and 3.4% protein
- Cell counts 170 and average of 10 mastitis cases per year
- Average number of lactations per cow: 5
- Rolling 12-month pregnancy rate: 20%
[In Box] Proof of activity
There are a number of pathogenic bacterial strains that can cause teat inflammation in dairy cows, with three of the main culprits being Staphylococcus aureus (Staph aureus), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Streptococcus uberis (Strep uberis).
One of the key requirements of any teat cleaner is to ensure that the concentrations of these pathogens are reduced to a minimal level. To be
certified as a disinfectant for use in veterinary conditions (EN1656), a minimal antibacterial activity and killing rate of 99.999% must be achieved against Staph aureus, E.coli and Strep uberis.
Via an external certified laboratory, EnviroSystems were able to prove EnviroCare Teat met these requirements against all three of these
pathogens, this data is available on request.
In order to determine how quickly the teat dip impacted bacterial growth,
the real-time antimicrobial activity was further investigated in conjunction with researchers at Lancaster University. Due to Staph aureus being classified as a dangerous human pathogen (related to the MRSA superbug) the E.coli and Strep uberis strains were tested.
The growth curve shows the exponential increase in bacteria numbers for untreated E.coli (red line) and Strep uberis (black line), measured by their cell density, over 3.5 hours, before reaching their maximum colony size.
When treated with EnviroCare Teat, the bacteria were unable to increase in numbers, with both the E.coli (blue) and Strep uberis (green) limited to their starting numbers, showing the teat dip’s ability to instantly inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.