10 Oct 2017

Farmer Focus: Dennis Smith, Pilehayes Farm, Exeter

At 17 instead of buying a car Dennis Smith bought his first pedigree heifers and since then he has built a prestigious herd that has been 5 times national finalist for the Holstein UK Premier Herd competition. He has also been awarded Master Breeder twice, in 2007 and 2017.

Dennis currently milks 70 pedigree Holsteins, the herd prefix is Oakroyal.  He is a loyal customer of CIS milk recording 6 weekly and health testing for BVD and Johnes.

The health of this prestigious herd is paramount and, supported by his daughter Noni who is CIS Area Manager for Devon, they have been BVD testing the herd through Tag & Test for several years.

“Several years ago we had two calves that came into the herd and tests showed PI, they were immediately culled and ever since we have been vaccinating against BVD and testing the herd using BVD eartags.  No BVD has been found amongst the herd, for me negative results are a positive and the best investment I can make” comments Dennis.

“Every penny of the investment I make in health testing the herd counts even during the tough years.  The tissue samples from the BVD eartags are sent in batches to the CIS laboratory for testing with results returned within 48hours of receipt to myself and the vet.  If results show any PI animals they will be culled immediately” add Dennis who also tests the whole herd for Johnes using the milk recording samples on the CIS Quarterly Johnes test scheme.

Born into the pedigree game, Dennis Smith is the son of a successful herd manager, Len Smith. He was given the Canadian Holstein Journal to read at the age of 13 by Tony Huxtable, Holsteins caught Dennis’ eye.  Wanting to further his knowledge at 19 Dennis worked in Canada for the renowned Master Breeder Rowntree herd. Before getting his own tenancy at 30, Dennis worked in AI for 10 years and has been farming ever since.

Dennis has an eye for good cattle and his flagship cow families are The Roxys, Christmases and Peaches; he has 18 Peaches milking.  The best cow on the farm is Oakroyal Stanleycup Christmas 44 VG89; a second calver that is the best of her generation. Her Shottle dam is EX92 (2) who was the best of her generation and her grand dam and third dam were too.

In recent years the best sires have been Talent and Windbrook. Dennis uses a few bulls, heavily and the most used is 150 straws of Heavenly Golden Dreams. He uses bulls to influence his herd and current AI sires are Mogul and Goldchip.