Inspire Cattle Solutions
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The UKVet – Livestock group are launching an innovative and FREE, ONLINE conference for farmer and vets. The programme is relevant to the times and hosts interesting and informative speakers from the industry. The impact of COVID-19 to both producers and vets will be discussed, with another focus on how to improve the sustainability image of the dairy industry. You can REGISTER by clicking on the picture above, or following this link:

There will be two days of talks to choose from, with emphasis on farming on DAY ONE (Wednesday 21st October from 12:00-16:50), with Dairy, Sheep and Pig talks and a veterinary programme on DAY TWO (Thursday 22nd October from 13:00-15:50).


  • COVID 19 and the future of vet/farmer collaboration (Boehringer Ingelheim)
  • Responsible Use of Medicines and Recording (Prof. David Barrett)
  • Vet/Farmer Collaboration, An Open Discussion (Fiona MacGillivray and Owen Atkinson)
  • Diversity in Practice (Navaratnam Partheeban)
  • Mental Wellbeing (Caroline Crowe)
  • Sustainability and Health (Dr. Jude Capper)
  • Integrated approaches to worm control (Sioned Timothy)
  • Don’t leave milk production to chance: ground-breaking new information on the impact of BVD (Ellen Schmitt)
  • The role of vets and farmers in controlling TB (James Russell)
  • Modernising BRD (MSD animal health)
  • Calf Scour Management
  • PRRS – The most costly disease of pig production (Dr. Laura Hancox)
  • Promoting health rather than treating disease (John Carr, Mark Howells)
  • Vet/Farmer Engagement (Fiona Lovatt)
  • Stay Alert, Control Abortion, Save Lambs! (JP Crilly)


  • Improving the outcome when advising on treatment of clinical mastitis in dairy herds (James Breen, Kath Aplin)
  • Youngstock Diseases – an immunological perspective (Ellen Button)
  • BRD (Dr Tim Potter)

Sign up today!

If you have been trying to follow the trend in Evidence Based Medicine but don’t know where to start, Inspire Cattle Solutions’ Dairy Coach, Mike Steele has just published an article in this month’s UK Vet (Livestock) Journal to get you on the right track. Part 1 of 2 publications shows the reader how to search the vast online databases of research in the most efficient way to answer their Clinical Question. It then describes how to choose papers on their reliability and level of evidence and once all have been reviewed, the novice Evidence Adventurer can make an informed and guided conclusion based on a compilation of this knowledge.


This article is for all the busy practitioners out there that don’t have hours to spend painstakingly reviewing complicated scientific papers. The idea is to break this down into small pieces that can be shared with colleagues: perhaps one colleague can write a Knowledge Summary every few months, but if everyone in the practice contributed, a database of common questions could be compiled to support everyday decisions or Standard Operating Procedures.

Mike and Dog

Mike Steele is a veterinary consultant and helped design the course in Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine at Bristol University Veterinary School in the UK. He applies these techniques when gathering data on farm projects, to support the knowledge base before designing countermeasures to improvement schemes. The more we can understand of the background of our challenges, the better we can build programs to fix them.


InspireCows has launched a NEW VIDEO explaining where milk fats come from and how to deal with Milk Fat Depression. Milk components are a major source of income on dairy farms around the world and when the amount of fat in milk decreases, so does the dairy’s income. To manage this, it is important to understand what milk fats are, how they are made and how to manage diets to maximise the potential of milk fat quantity and quality.

“You are what you eat”

Milk components are highly influenced by diet ingredients and composition. The main parts of a dairy cow’s diet are forage and concentrates (maize, grains and other feed ingredients). Forage is a great source of Triglycerides and the maize/concentrates can be a high source of Glycolipids.


Bugs in the rumen find it hard to break these down at first, as these molecules often are UNSATURATED (have double carbon bonds). These can be quite toxic to some rumen microbes. So they add Hydrogen atoms to the unsaturated bonds, thus saturating them (in a process called Biohydrogenation).

Cis and trans bonds

This process takes TIME, as the microbes add one Hydrogen atom at a time in a stepwise fashion. Fat molecules are in long chains (2 to up to >24 carbon atoms described as C18 – 18 carbon atoms and :3 which would be 3 unsaturated bonds) so the bugs tend to add atoms in patterns such as: C18:3 then C18:2 then C18:1 etc.

The importance of C18:1 trans10

One of the most POTENT inhibitors of milk fat is a lipid of 18 carbons long, with one unsaturated, trans bond at position 10 (C18:1 trans10). Even tiny amounts of this in the rumen can depress milk fat by over 20%. So managing milk fat depression is often about allowing sufficient TIME and the right POPULATIONS of bugs in the rumen to fully hydrogenate this milk fat to C18:0.

Managing Milk Fat Depression

Fibre in a dairy cow’s diet is extremely important for microbe health as well as decreasing food throughput times. So making sure that there is enough physically effective fibre in the feed is crucial to manage milk fats and decrease the risk of build-up of C18:1 trans10. Making SURE that you are using shaker boxes such as a 4-stage Penn State Sieve on feed-out and refusals will give a really good idea of how much chance cows have to SORT the food and how much fibre is getting into the rumen.

Watch this video on Milk Fats and Milk Fat Depression on INSPIRECOWS and remember to LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and SHARE if you found it useful

Cow and new calf

It’s YOUNGSTOCK MONTH on InspireCows and we start at the very beginning. Birth in calves is the foundation of the future. Maximising the chances of a live mother and calf involves co-ordinating people, management, environment, equipment and attention to detail. Cleanliness, preparation and training is the key to success.

In this NEW video, you can learn the 3 stages of birth and watch as each is explained. Find out what you need to watch for, when you need to intervene and when to call for professional help.

Remember, if you like this video don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE and click on the Bell notification so you don’t miss the next installments of this Birth to Weaning series.

InspireCows YouTube Channel image

Dairy Profitability Video Series

black and white cows

NEW! 3, Brand new videos explaining dairy profitability are now available on InspireCows, the new YouTube Channel dedicated to Dairy Health. Discover the opportunities available to your dairy business and where more value can be made on dairy farms. Find out how to read your herd lactation curve to its best advantage and deep-dive into marginal milk profits.

Cute calves with tags

Understanding marginal milk can help you to identify where to make the best changes to bring your business into POSITIVE PERCENT GROWTH! Increasing the herd average lactation curve can drive much more profitable milk and bring you closer to that farm upgrade or new piece of machinery you dream of…

InspireCows also has videos on transition management, heat stress and a lot more to come VERY SOON. So don’t forget to Subscribe and click on the Bell icon so you don’t miss out on future tip and tricks.


What do you want to know about heat stress in dairy cows?

Fans and sprinklers cooling cows at 45degC in Pakistan. A Great Set-up!

It’s already May and the temperatures are rising in the Northern Hemisphere. In April, we have had 2 weeks over 28 degrees C and it’s guaranteed that hot weather is to come. Cows show heat stress from a Temperature Humidity Index of 65 (Bernabucci U.) and from there, milk volume, Dry Matter Intake and reproduction will ALL be affected. Do you know what priorities to apply on farms? When and where to place fans; what about sprinklers? What droplet size should you advise? What are the production and repro effects?

Inspire Cattle Solutions training 30 Young Vets in Belgium on Heat Stress for Elanco Animal Health

Fortunately, at Inspire Cattle Solutions, we are dedicated to helping cows to be comfortable whatever the weather! Follow our link by clicking on this text for a FREE webinar on Heat Stress in Dairy Cows. On this, we explain what the thresholds of heat are for cows, what effects heat has on them and why this occurs. We then go on to show the solutions that can be done in order of priority on most farms, inside and out.

Humans feel heat very differently to cows!

Bernabucci U., Biffani S., Buggiotti L., Vitali A., Lacetera N., Nardone A.,. 2014. “The effects of heat stress in Italian Holstein dairy cattle”, .” Journal of Dairy Science 471-486.

Bernabucci U., Lacetera N., Baumgard L.H., Rhoads R.P., Ronchi B., Nardone A. 2010. “Metabolic and hormonal acclimation to heat stress in domesticated ruminants.” Animal 4 (7): 1167-1183. ff ff


Profits and the Dairy

How Profit is made on a Dairy

The basics seem pretty simple: Income minus expenses = net profit. However, with milk prices varying all the time, sometimes by large amounts, it is hard to keep this equation in positive balance! Maximising the Net Profit is an advisor’s main goal!

Income is made from milk SOLD. This is not the same as milk obtained from the parlour: some may be used by the producer and friends/family. Some may be in withhold from drug use and colostrum; so it is good to know what volume of MILK SHIPPED FROM THE FARM is. Other income may be from calf sales, beef sales, surplus feed and bedding etc.

Costs can be many! Most costs on a dairy are in feed. See if you can work this out on a kg Dry Matter basis or ask your nutritionist. It is important to note here that GRASS IS NOT FREE! You still have to maintain it, cut it, store it etc. Other costs are in labour, rent, energy, water etc. Know all of these and you can work out your Net Profit.

Maximising this is THE goal

Profit can be maximised by 3 ways:

Increasing Herd Numbers can maximise cost of production
  • Milk price can be influenced by milk quality (fat%, protein%, SCC)
  • Cost of production can be influenced by reducing disease losses, increasing herd numbers and increasing labour efficiency
  • Volume of milk can be influenced by reducing disease, increasing feed intake, improving reproduction and 3 X daily milking

Income Over Feed Costs

IOFC is a very popular way of working out how your feed costs work to produce one litre of milk. The principle of this lies in knowing the feed costs to maintain the cow (breathing, ruminating, movement, calf growth etc.). Every litre of milk produced on top of this requires a certain amount of kg of Dry Matter at your cost of feed for that time. Of course, the more litres of milk you get, the more “diluted” the maintenance cost becomes and the more efficient your IOFC is.


So IMPROVE YOUR PROFITS by choosing your advice wisely!

Managing People, Equipment, Procedures, Environment and Monitoring can all help to improve your Profits. Inspire Cattle Solutions are GREAT at this!


Where is the Evidence?

Bozic M., Newton J., Thraen C.S., Gould B.W.,. 2012. “Mean-reversion in income over feed cost margins: Evidence and implications for managing margin risk by US dairy producers.” Journal of Dairy Science 95: 7417-7428. doi:10.3168/jds.2012-5818.

Why is it so important to calve at 22-25 months?

Calving at 24 months has great benefits

The ultimate test of heifer management is to look at their average Age at First Calving (AFC). If this lies between 22-25 months there are some great benefits for your milking herd:

  • Increased Yield over whole lifetime
  • Better Udder Health in the First Lactation
  • Decreased culling risk in the first lactation
  • Increased likelihood to calve for a second time
  • Improved economics compared to AFC of <22 and >26 months

What if you don’t achieve this?

It has been published that the average AFC for the UK is 29 months (median 28 months), ranging up to 42 months! This is not a great statistic! Calving beyond 25 months of age is associated with lost future milk and greater risk of culling or not even reaching a second lactation. So many herds in the world are not achieving their potential by allowing heifers to grow more slowly.

How to achieve AFC targets

It’s all down to great management from the start!

It’s all in the raising! Good colostrum management, ad lib or >3 X daily feeding of milk to pre-wean calves, achieving 0.9kg/day pre-insemination growth and 0.5kg/day post-insemination growth are the keys to reaching first calving at 24 months. Any disease, parasites, insemination procedures, poor feed quality or poor feed access will affect this key performance indicator. It is up to us as advisors to work with farmers to minimise these risks and help them to reach their absolute potential! Together, we can do great things!


Where is the Evidence?

  • Eastham N.T., Coates A., Cripps P., Richardson H., Smith R., Oikonomou G.,. 2018. “Associations between age at first calving and subsequent lactation performance in UK Holstein and Holstein-Friesian dairy cows.” PlosOne 13 (6): e0197764 2.
  • Sherwin V.E., Hudson C.D., Henderson A., Green M.J.,. 2016. “The association between age at first calving and survival of first lactation heifers within dairy herds.” Animal 10 (11): 1877-1882 3.
  • Adamczyk K., Makulska J., Jagusiak W., Węglarz A.,. 2017. “Associations between strain, herd size, age at first calving, culling reason and lifetime performance characteristics in Holstein-Friesian cows.” Animal 11 (2): 327-334 4.
  • Hossein-Zadeh G. 2011. “Estimation of genetic and phenotypic relationships between age at first calving and productive performance in Iranian Holsteins.” Tropical Animal Health and Production 43 (5): 967-973 5.
  • Pirlo G., Miglior F., Speroni M.,. 2011. “Effect of age at first calving on production traits and on difference between milk yield returns and rearing costs in Italian Holsteins.” Journal of Dairy Science 83 (3): 603-608 6.
  • Elahi Torshizi M. 2016. “Effects of season and age at first calving on genetic and phenotypic characteristics of lactation curve parameters in Holstein cows.” Journal of Animal Science and Technology 58 (8): doi: 10.1186/s40781-016-0089-1 –

What are my Growth Goals?

Heifers are the Future

Heifers are the future of the herd: Their genetic potential and efficiency should be greater than the current cows so let’s raise them wisely! 20% of the costs on a dairy are from raising heifers and 50% of those costs are in feed: THIS IS NOT LOST MONEY: It’s your investment for the future! How can you make the most of growth rates?


They must EAT, EAT, EAT to reach 66% of adult weight at 13-15 months for insemination and 85% of adult weight at first calving. Working back, a 650kg Holstein cow needs to be around 550kg at calving (730 days old) and 410kg at insemination (445 days old). If they wean at 110kg at 100 days old, this means a target gain of (410-110)/345=0.87kg/day to insemination and (550-410)/(730-445)=0.5kg/day post-insemination to calving.

The VALUE of reaching these targets lies in improved YIELDS over a lifetime and decreased risk of culling in their fist lactation (Eastham, Sherwin, Adamczyk, Pirlo)

HOW do you achieve that?

heifer outdoor
Maximise intakes and keep them comfortable

Of course, FEED is important! Make sure they have enough ACCESS to feed together and make sure the feed is NOT SORTABLE: Fibre needs to be chopped short for heifers not to sort and leave it. Clean and accessible water is also important to maximise intakes. PROTEIN is very important and QUALITY counts, therefore choose a pellet mix aimed at 18% Crude Protein of good quality. 16% CP is acceptable but 18% have better growth rates (Broadwater). 2.4 to 2.6MCal/kg Metabolisable Energy (10.1 to 10.7MJ/kg) is also recommended. Comfortable, clean and spacious accommodation is also important for maximum rumination and lying times.

What you NEVER do is feed poor quality or even rotten silage to heifers because they are seen as an unnecessary cost. Look after them at this stage and they will reward you later!


Where is the Evidence?

  • Eastham N.T., Coates A., Cripps P., Richardson H., Smith R., Oikonomou G.,. 2018. “Associations between age at first calving and subsequent lactation performance in UK Holstein and Holstein-Friesian dairy cows.” PlosOne 13 (6): e0197764 2.
  • Sherwin V.E., Hudson C.D., Henderson A., Green M.J.,. 2016. “The association between age at first calving and survival of first lactation heifers within dairy herds.” Animal 10 (11): 1877-1882 3.
  • Adamczyk K., Makulska J., Jagusiak W., Węglarz A.,. 2017. “Associations between strain, herd size, age at first calving, culling reason and lifetime performance characteristics in Holstein-Friesian cows.” Animal 11 (2): 327-334 4.
  • Pirlo G., Miglior F., Speroni M.,. 2011. “Effect of age at first calving on production traits and on difference between milk yield returns and rearing costs in Italian Holsteins.” Journal of Dairy Science 83 (3): 603-608
  • Broadwater N., Chester-Jones H.,. 2011. eXtension: Feeding Strategies for Post-Weaned Dairy Heifers, 2 to 6 months of age. Accessed January 29, 2019

Increasing Pellet Intake from 0.1kg to 0.9kg/day can indicate when to wean

Most dairy farmers choose to wean their calves at a specific age, because they have always done this. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS! When calves are weaned is determined by whether or not the rumen has developed enough to cope with solid food. So this is an economic decision based on price of milk replacer, milk and concentrate pellets, which all vary from month to month.


Rumen Development

When calves are born, their guts act a bit like humans BUT after 3 weeks on 0.1-0.5kg/day calf pellets1, they are developing their ruminant-like, 4-stomached gut. It is the presence of solid feeds such as pellets, grasses and dry matter (straw) that influences this development

Rumen development from Dairy eXtension USDA

The calf will alter intake depending on when it is weaned: so work out the cost of this vs. the cost of milk you have available and alter accordingly1

From Dairy eXtension USDA


As long as pellets and forage/fibre are given to a calf, its rumen will develop over the space of 3 weeks or so in order to cope with weaning to solid food. Management afterwards on starter intake amounts will allow calves to “catch up” depending on farm strategy. So weaning should really consider the costs of milk replacer, milk, pellets and forage from month to month.


Where is the Evidence?

Calves need colostrum first!

All calves need to get colostrum: it’s definitely the best meal of their lives! However, after that, most calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours and may be reared in small groups together. The question is: does this affect their growth performance or behaviour?


Effects on Growth

  • If calves are left to suckle their mothers, the cow produces up to 14kg LESS milk per day to weaning. This is economically unsustainable in most dairies!
  • Calves staying with their mothers for up to 6 weeks, gained weight at 3 times the rate of separated calves up to 6 weeks (Roth B.A. 2009)
  • Calves on automatic feeders gain more weight than suckled calves after weaning (0.4kg/d) (Roth B.A. 2009)
  • Calves on automatic feeders eat 16-19kg more concentrates in total to weaning than suckled calves (Roth B.A. 2009). This however, is far less money invested than that lost in milk from mothers.
  • Calves kept with their mothers gain 25-28kg more than automatic-fed calves to weaning (Roth B.A. 2009) (Kisak P. 2011)
  • There is no evidence of any difference between group or individually housed calves or separated/suckled calves on disease rates (Costa J.H.C. 2016) (Grondahl A.M. 2007) (Kisak P. 2011) (Lee H.J. 2009)

Effects on Behaviour

Behaviour of mothers and calves is more subjective to measure and evidence reflects this. People tend to measure vocalisation of calf and mother, play behaviour, head movements and other signs that they think might be seeking behaviour for either mother or calf.

  • The calf to mother bond increases with increasing time to weaning and mothers/calves bond to their specific parents/offspring.
  • These bonding behaviours however, appear to be present even after 6 hours from birth in the mother but not so much in the calves (Stehulova I. 2017), so separation from this time onwards would appear to have a behavioural effect on the animals concerned.
  • Calves and mothers appear to seek each other, but this behaviour is expressed less with the mother, even after 3 hours of separation.
  • Separation appears to have effects on calves but only after several days of contact, so separation early would appear to be beneficial if this is your management strategy


From an economic point of view, separation at birth has better growth weights in calves after weaning and has lower Johnes’ disease rates (Windsor, 2010). It also gives up to 14kg more milk per day from the mother. This makes separation at birth an essential decision on most dairies. From a behavioural point of view, there are beneficial effects of staying with mothers in terms of bonding but separation at birth does not appear to have effects on the calves and mothers seem to have less impact after even 3 hours of separation.

Where is the Evidence?

  • Roth B.A., Barth K., Gygax L., Hillmann E. 2009. “Influence of artificial vs mother-bonded rearing on sucking behaviour, health and weight gain in calves.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 119: 143-150
  • Kisak P., Broucek J., Uhrinkat M., Hanus A. 2011. “Effect of weaning calves from mother at different ages on their growth and milk yield of mothers.” Czech Journal of Animal Science 56 (6): 261-268
  • Grondahl A.M., Skancke E.M., Mejdell C.M., Jansen J.H. 2007. “Growth rate, health and welfare in a dairy herd with natural suckling until 6-8 weeks of age: a case report.” Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 49 (1): 16
  • Jensen M.B. 2011. “The early beaviour of cow and calf in an individual calving pen.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 134 (3-4): 92-99
  • Lee H.J., Khan M.A., Lee W.S., Yang S.H., Kim S.B., Kee K.S., Ha J.K., Choi J.K. 2009. “Influence of equalizing the gross composition of milk replacer to that of whole milk on the performance of Holstein calves.” Journal of Animal Science 87 (3): 1129-1137
  • Stehulova I., Valnickova B., Sarova R., Spinka M. 2017. “Weaning reactions in beef cattle are adaptively adjusted to the state of the cow and the calf.” Journal of Animal Science 95 (3): 1023-1029
  • Windsor P.A., Whittington R.J. 2010. “Evidence for age susceptibility of cattle to Johnes’ Disease.” The Veterinary Journal 184 (1): 37-44

Should you invest in Pasteurisation?

Pasteurisation of milk improves health and weight gains

The quick answer: YES!

The evidence is overwhelming to support the feeding of pasteurised milk to calves. They have been proven to grow faster, disease risk is lower and mortality rates reduce!

Preweaning health and performance is significantly better in calves fed pasteurized waste milk as compared to calves fed a traditional 20:20 milk replacer feeding program:

  1. They had fewer sick days, lower mortality rates, lower costs for health expenditures, higher weights at weaning, and a higher gross margin ($8.41/calf) per calf
  2. Their Average daily Weight Gain (ADG) was significantly greater in calves fed pasteurized waste milk (0.46kg/day)
  3. Preweaning mortality rates were 83% lower for calves fed pasteurized waste milk (2.3%) than for calves fed milk replacer (11.6%).

Losing a heifer calf means losing genetic improvement in the herd, the investment of feeding a pregnant cow and the investment of time in birthing and rearing. Invest in a pasteurisation machine and it will definitely pay off!


Where is the Evidence?

Try reading more on:

  1. S., Godden. 2008. “A review of issues surrounding the feeding of waste milk and pasteurization of waste milk and colstrum.” University of Minnesota: Continuing Veterinary Education. Accessed January 24, 2019.