25 May 2022

Farmer Focus: Steve Bailey, Audlem, Cheshire

The President of the Ayrshire Cattle Society Steve Bailey has been using CIS services for over 3 years. His pedigree herd, Beeline Ayrshires, are on the Ayrshire Complete Pedigree Package.

The Bailey family have farmed in Audlem, right on the Cheshire, Shropshire border in the very south of the county since 1973 when they moved from the Staffordshire moorlands. Steve and Rach bought the farm from Steve’s parents in 1997 and their son, Rob is now a partner in the business.
The farm was originally 160 acres when Steve joined the business, and over the years, land has been added with the family now farming over 500 acres with 316 owned and the rest on either short-term rentals or maize is grown on contract. Crops grown are grass, maize, and whole crop wheat. Lucerne has been tried in the past but was found to hate a long wet British winter.
Originally a black and white flying herd crossed with a beef bull with a small herd of Simmental and Charolais kept alongside, the farm policy had to change with the risk from TB rising as it crept up the country. So, a switch to breeding heifers for the herd had to begin after trying several different breeds, it was plain to see the Ayrshire and blended Ayrshire was the way to go for them.

In 2009 the Beeline pedigree herd was established. The herd numbers keep on growing and are now up to 350 in the milking herd, which are out to grass as much as the weather allows, and on two tonnes of purchased feed produce 8000 litres which is sold to the Co-op through Mullers. All the cows are bred using DIY AI with only sexed semen and either Aberdeen Angus or British Blue used. The breeding policy is to produce a long-lasting high type, productive cow that can compete with any breed in either the show or sale ring.

CIS Area Manager Amanda Wilkes supports the farm by providing the Ayrshire Complete Pedigree Package which includes milk recording services, female pedigree registrations and type classification visits for a single fee spread over a 12- month period.

Commenting on the service, Steve says, “We were attracted to CIS because of the Ayrshire Pedigree Complete package, it is simple to use and works well”.

The Bailey family register their Ayrshires to record the pedigrees, a large proportion of which go back many generations and they see that it increases the animal’s value. By being on the Pedigree Complete package they classify more often which they find beneficial. “It’s always interesting to see how many Vg heifers we have. It proves that we are doing it right. Classifying is interesting as it is an opportunity to stand back and look at each cow individually from a different angle than in the parlour”, Steve adds.

With the package, they also milk record monthly which identifies which animals in the herd are giving the most milk along with its quality. By monitoring the cell counts from the milk records they are able to reduce the herd’s antibiotic usage.

To promote the herd, the family do a small amount of showing and they have won the interbreed championship at the Royal Cheshire show twice, also taken champions at Shropshire, Yorkshire, and the Borderway Dairy Expo. The future policy is to allow cow numbers to increase to 400 but reduce the young stock numbers to below 300. This will have a positive effect on the carbon footprint of the farm, something all milk buyers are looking at producers achieving. Solar panels or wind turbines are also on the agenda, but it will depend on the payback time. It is also a wish to make more use of the slurry produced through better analysis and the timing of application.