PHILIP JONES IS USING AI & RMS TO ACHIEVE MAXIMUM OUTPUT, FROM A LOW COST, LOW INPUT SYSTEM.
Philip Jones, his wife Shan and two children manage a 400acre beef suckler herd at Lan Farm, Carmarthenshire, Wales. The 100 head Limousin X herd operates on a spring block-calving system and throughout winter are housed in rubber matted cubicles. The farm has held organic status for more than ten years.
Philip prides himself on his progressive approach and is a keen adopter of new technology. He also has a firm belief that knowledge should be shared, thus Lan is provided a demonstration farm for Farming Connect and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) Meat Promotion Wales. Philip’s dedication and industry leading approach was recognised by Farmers Weekly in 2013, when he was crowned ‘Beef Farmer of the Year.’ The judges praised Philip’s clear focus on profit and excellent performance figures.
Philip’s aim is to manage a simple, resilient and efficient suckler production system that can be managed by one person. Philip places a strong focus on achieving maximum output, from a low cost, low input system. Whilst he runs his herd with great enthusiasm, Philip is ruthlessly efficient and has a keen eye for profit.
The heifer and cow breeding strategy at Lan Farm is a key component in creating an efficient system. “I’ve always firmly believed that a heifer should be first calved at three years of age – this gives her enough time to develop, meaning that she can produce sufficient milk for her calf and adapt to life in the main herd. That said, I’m equally as motivated by the bottom line and I’m currently conducting a trial into the success of first-calving in two year old heifers,” said Philip.
Heifers currently calve in March and cows, between April and May. Philip is working hard to improve the alignment between heifer and cow calvings, aiming to separate them by just two weeks. “Ideally we’d like 65% of the animals to have calved by the end of April. Our calving period used to last much longer, (from spring through to summer) but I needed to take control of my workload. Plus there are many additional benefits to block calving, for example I can place my main focus on calving rather than getting distracted by other jobs. It also makes jobs such as de-budding easier as the process is completed for all animals at the same time,” commented Philip. In 2010 Philip had a calving index of 404 days. He has successfully reduced this to 377 days and his target of 365 days looks promising to be achieved this year.
When making breeding decisions, Philip specifically selects for maternal traits, with calving ease being of paramount importance. He also pays close attention to daughter (maternal) calving ease and milk production. In terms of bull appearance, Philip is particularly fond of the Black Limousin – the bulls that he selects must be homozygous black and polled (in 2015 Philip only had to dehorn 20 out of 80 animals).
In the past, Philip’s organic status impacted on his ability to produce a sufficient number of replacement heifers. “Due to being an organic farm, I found that my hands were tied when it came to buying in replacements and therefore it made sense for us to move to a closed herd. Unfortunately, it was hard at first and our cow numbers fell,” said Philip.
Five years ago Philip decided that he needed to take steps to help overcome the issue of managing replacement stock. He took the significant step of simultaneously introducing Genus ABS’ Artificial Insemination (AI) and Reproductive Management System (RMS) services. RMS helps to maximise pregnancies by taking a focused approach to heat detection, ensuring that the correct animals are sorted for AI and inseminations are then carried out at the most appropriate time, by highly trained technician.
As with all new processes that Philip introduces on farm, he was keen to get an understanding of the effectiveness of AI and RMS before launching the breeding programme in earnest. He conducted an experiment whereby AI was used on 50 of his cows. “Introducing AI was a significant learning curve. I approached it thinking that I needed 50 calves, so I simply ordered 50 straws! I’ve since learned that there is more to it,” commented Philip.
Philip’s sales representative John Phillips and AI Technician, Miles Land are integral to the success of the farms AI programme. “I’ve got a fantastic relationship with Miles – he’s very keen to do right by the farm and always provides me with the best possible guidance. Miles has really challenged my thinking when it comes to getting my animals in calf, but my prerequisites are that all animals must produce a good supply of milk and be black. Bailea Black Caviare is just one of Genus ABS bulls that I have used as he fulfils my breeding criteria of being homozygous black and polled. The introduction of RMS was a real game changer – my aim was to introduce a tighter calving period and RMS has delivered this and so much more,” said Philip.
The results of Philip’s RMS programme can be seen in the table below:
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