09 Aug 2019

CIS Farmer Focus: James Pirie & Sons Ltd, Argyll

Long standing CIS customer and Holstein Trustee, Sandy Pirie, has been milk recording for over 50 years.  With his wife Joan and son John they milk 200 cows with 160 followers on their 320 acre farm in Argyll which is also home to 20 Texel ewes. 

The pedigree Holstein herd, prefix Killearn, are grazed from early April to late October and fed semi TMR through the winter twice a day with their Keenan feeder. They analyse the silage to formulate the required ration and add in a blend/meal to meet the nutritional requirements of the herd.

In addition to TMR the herd receive feed in the Dairy Master 12:24 parlour.  They milk twice a day and milk record on a monthly basis.  Milk is sold to a local creamery that makes cheese and it is important that the family provide a high quality product as a premium is paid for fat and protein.

Commenting on the CIS milk recording, Sandy says, “For as long as I remember we have milk recorded the herd and many years ago my mother was a milk recorder.  The website data, which we access through YourHerd or MobileHerd, is excellent with reports available to help monitor performance on a daily basis and adjust rations to meet requirements.  The data is also invaluable for our vet and for us to review and manage fat and protein levels.”

The Killearn herd are on the Holstein Complete Service which includes two Type Classification visits per year, access to cow mating tools and genomic testing.  Sandy has started to genomic test the herd through the Approved Registered Cattle (ARC) tag and test service.  The submitted tissue vial is kept in storage and carried with that animal throughout its life.

The insight from the genomic test enables the Sandy to make breeding decisions.  A black and white stock bull is used in the summer and AI sexed semen in the winter.  All replacements are home bred, therefore genomic testing has a real gain to help identify which heifers can be put in calf or sold to add value to their dairy business, with only the very best animals retained within the herd.

Recent investment in cubicles has made a huge difference to cow comfort and health.  The family have installed new Wilson Pasture Mats which have been used on dairy farms throughout Europe and the USA since 1994.  The Pasture Mat was the first mattress system created to mimic the characteristics of natural pasture.  The benefits being seen are increased resting times and improvements in cow health.

Away from the farm Sandy is a trustee of Holstein UK, currently on the Operations Committee, and prior to that spent five years on the NFU’s milk committee.  He is still involved with the NFU Scotland at a local and regional level.

Commenting on the future Sandy says “The industry is seeing the demise of the smaller family farms, which is not helped by the milk buyers.  For our farm we will continue to focus on improving the cows and milk quality.  We are also continuing to look for future opportunities to future proof our business for the next generations.”