AF Changemaker: Focus on herd health with Twose Farm Ltd

I’m Richard Twose, owner of Twose Farm Ltd.  We’re an AHDB strategic dairy farm with a sheep flock too and we’re in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

What has been the main driver for change?

Having been on a low milk price for a long time, we entered into a Tesco contract which not only gave us better milk price returns but also prioritised improved cow health and welfare.

It’s really just catch up stuff that should have been done progressively over the years.  We’ve had five or six years of very tight finances so we weren’t able to implement some of these changes when we first wanted to.  It’s so important to keep on top of animal health and cow welfare improvements and that hasn’t been possible until now.

Describe the main steps you are taking?

We’ve made a lot of changes recently.  We’ve put a new silage pit in to comply with the water regulations.  We’ve also built two new livestock sheds.  One is for the sheep and the other is a sort of an insurance policy in case we get shut down with TB in the cows.

We’ve also put a shed up for another 80 cows to improve the fertility and welfare of our transition cows when being put in calf. We’ve also installed 6 cow brushes and tables for the calves, to help their wellbeing.

We now put infrared lamps on instead of using jackets for the calves.  The lamps are cleaner as the jackets need washing at 90 degrees Celsius to kill cryptosporidium parvum bacteria.  The performance of the calves is definitely a lot better since we’ve changed from jackets to lamps.

We’ve used Huskvac for the first time in a generation to prevent lungworm in our cattle.

We’ve installed new more welfare-friendly, super-comfort cubicles with mats and raised head rails for comfort and welfare.

We’ve improved our Johne’s percentage from around 7% ten years ago to less than half a % now which is a huge improvement.  That has been through good stockmanship and cow management.

We’ve also planted 1,000 trees on farm.

What are the results of the changes you have made?

We are more in control of the business now and where we want to be.  The cows are very happy in their new cubicles so they don’t want to get up! And they are undoubtedly healthier. 

We have reduced our cell counts by nearly 100 over the last 12 months and how have we done that?

By improving dry cow management really. Downside is we’ve probably got twice the overdraft that we had before we started all this!

We still have some ongoing challenges such as fertility; getting cows in calf and maintaining good calving intervals.

How has AF helped you?

AF helps us to keep control of our costs and it helps us to monitor our costs as well.  And I like the confidence it gives me that I’m getting a good price.

We use AF for fuel, medicine, bedding, telecoms and energy.  My brother and I like to have a good rapport with an individual that we have confidence in.

What’s next?

We did say that we will have 12 months of consolidation next.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ve just done a scanning course and we want to use technology to concentrate on improving cow fertility.  Our heifer conception rates are good, but we want to improve it in the cows.  Better calving rates would allow us to be more selective about the heifers that we keep and in the long-term improve cow performance and efficiency.

I haven’t even really mentioned our sheep flock.  So what are we going to do with them?  I think our goal should be to enter and win the Royal Welsh with our ram this year!