09 May 2019

Farmer Focus: M R Morris-Eyton, Beckside Farm, Cumbria

The Morris-Eyton family have been farming at Beckside Farm for over 300 years and currently have a herd of 250 Pedigree Holsteins. Situated in the Whicham valley on the South Western Lake District Beckside Farm is the base for the expanding and diverse portfolio of enterprises.  In addition to the dairy herd, the family have a construction, hydropower and sheep business.

The homebred pedigree Holstein herd, whose prefix is Beckside, are milked twice a day with an average yield of 10,106kg and fed TMR with nuts in the parlour.  Calving is all year round with breeding decisions made by son Patrick in consultation with his father Robert who oversees the farm management.  Over the years selective breeding has produced high type, high yielding cattle with all replacements home bred using AI and embryo transfer.

All the heifer replacements are genomically tested at a young age to allow Robert and Patrick to identify the genetic potential of the animals allowing them to be more selective when choosing sires for artificial insemination. This results in better quality, healthier cows for the herd.

CIS has been providing services to Beckside Farm for nearly 20 years helping Robert, Patrick and the two herdsmen make informed decisions on herd performance and health.  The herd are on the Holstein Pedigree Complete Package which includes milk recording, genomic testing, type classification and importantly health testing.

Commenting on the CIS services, Patrick says, “We test the herd consecutively for Johne’s as we are very aware from our vet that after a long incubation period with no clinical/subclinical signs, Johne’s antibody levels can begin to creep up but can also wax and wane quite drastically. This is why repeated testing is so important in understanding the health status of our herd. Testing using milk samples is an easy way of monitoring our herd and we are quickly made aware of all results through the MobileHerd app so we are able to act promptly and manage any issues that arise.”

Patrick also uses the 21-day fertility report to analyse the herd fertility which he finds very useful to monitor the herd and it helps pinpoint any fertility issues immediately.   The Pedigree Complete Package also includes two classification visits per year to assist Patrick breed trouble free, long living, high production cows. In April 2019 a new scoring system was introduced moving to five composite areas and seeing the removal of dairy strength and body conformation.  The three new areas are dairy capacity, rump and dairy character.  The addition of three new composite areas enables the classifiers to help correct faults that were being seen in the breed which included high pins, short teats, high tail heads and legs becoming too straight.  The Beckside herd currently have 11 EX and 50 VG following their recent classification visit by Holstein UK.

The future is exciting for Robert and Patrick, after much discussion they made the decision to expand their dairy enterprise to accommodate more cattle. The current parlour is taking too long to milk and the cubicle sheds are dated.  Investment in a new greenfield site will enhance the business at Beckside and secure its long-term viability.

As part of the planning process, Robert and Patrick visited some of the best dairy facilities in the country to seek advice on all aspects related to the expansion.  They will be building a new state of the art rotary parlour and cow housing facilities.

“A rotary parlour was chosen for speed and efficiency and the aim with the new cubicle shed is to offer better cow comfort, with better ventilation and wider passageways, therefore, improve overall cow welfare.  We also have plans to make adjustments to the current calf rearing area.   We broke the ground in March for our expansion and aim to milking in the new facilities in September,” concludes Patrick who is also chairman of the South Lakes Arla District.

For further information on Beckside Farm, visit: www.beckside.co.uk