Welsh Dairy Show preview
Chance move into Brown Swiss really pays dividends
Twelve years ago next month, the Williams family moved from a farm on the North Wales coastal strip to one not far from the sea in South Wales.
With them came their pedigree Lyganlan black and white herd, which is no stranger to success in the show ring - but these days they are hitting the headlines with another breed.
A growing collection of Brown Swiss is making its presence known at local shows and leading specialist dairy events and performance in the milking parlour is rising as maturity is gradually increasing yields.
For Malcolm and Glenys Williams, their son Mark and his wife, Sian, the arrival of Brown Swiss at Clomendy Farm came about largely by chance.
“It all started off with one of my friends going to a sale and paying a fair amount of money for Brown Swiss embryos. As a favour, I loaned him some cash and he repaid it by letting me have a half share in an embryo, which turned into a heifer calf,” says Mark.
“That was five years ago and everything has moved on from there. We were very happy with the way she developed, especially when she started to milk, giving just under 8,000kg as a heifer.
“Then, out of interest more than anything else, we went to Alun and Carolyn Davies’s Quarry herd sale in October 2008, and came away with another calf.
“Not long after, while looking to improve fat and protein levels as well as feet, we went back to the Quarry herd and bought a further 10 privately.
“The move to South Wales followed a division of family assets on the farm at Halkyn, in Flintshire, having looked at farms at several locations,” says Mark.
“Here we have 74ha (183 acres), including 12ha (30 acres) of tidal saltmarsh. We have put in two new outdoor silage pits, which released covered space for more cubicles. The 38-year-old 10:10 herringbone parlour is still with us.
“We brought half the pedigree Holstein herd with us and use the name of the North Wales farm as our black and white prefix.
“Currently we are milking 95 cows, of which 16 are Brown Swiss, and we see their introduction as a sound move. They calve down by themselves and management is a dream. You can guarantee they will be the first into the parlour and cell counts are extremely low, too.
“Yield-wise they can be immature as heifers, but we are finding they develop with every calf. They keep on going and going far longer than the black and whites.
“Our oldest cow has just calved her fourth and is looking very fit, with the prospect of many more lactations ahead of her.
“We have no intention of going all the way down the Brown Swiss avenue and will probably stick at around the 25-mark, alongside 75 black and whites. Availability of land will be the deciding factor.”
Calving is all-year-round, with grass silage being barrier-fed in the winter until April turnout.
While the growing collection of silverware at Clomendy reflects the standing of their Brown Swiss, including show ring placings above some well-known Holsteins, Mark readily acknowledges much of their success so far is down to the Quarry herd purchases.
Some of their placings have even been at the expense of the Davies family.
Mark and Sian cannot wait for the day stock carrying their Elite prefix is mature enough to show its merits on the show circuit.
Though managed as one herd, milk recording is kept separate. The Holsteins are nudging on a 9,000kg average, while 10 Brown Swiss heifers and two cows are averaging 6,113kg at 4.22 per cent butterfat and 3.44 per cent protein, a figure which will improve considerably with maturity.
That is already being borne out by their oldest cow, Quarry Ace Whisky, having given over 11,000kg at 3.88 per cent butterfat and 3.23 per cent protein in her third lactation and 54 days into her fourth had topped 1,755kg.
One of the best performing show cows, Quarry Luke Lovely, has topped 8,200kg at 3.92 per cent butterfat and 3.26 per cent protein with her second calf.
Brown Swiss and Holsteins are not the only pedigree breeds at Clomendy. Sian’s pride and joy are her four Jerseys.
Glanmor Julian Jean was champion calf at last year’s Welsh Dairy Show, reserve inter-breed at Shepton Mallet and has taken a string of show titles this season.
All three breeds could well be at the Welsh Dairy Show - no doubt with some serious family rivalry.