It’s a Balancing Act

It’s a Balancing Act

Significant expansion at Hardgrove Farm near Dumfries in recent years has never been at the cost of herd performance.

In 1954, Alistair Marshall’s father John, purchased Hardgrove Farm, a 565-acre farm with a 100-cow Ayrshire herd, sheep, beef, and potatoes. A lot has changed since then with the farm now standing at 900 acres and specialising exclusively in milk production from a 580-cow Holstein herd.

Hardgrove Farm currently have five milking groups; yielding 44,40,33,28 and 25 litres respectively with a herd average of 34.8 litres, milked three times a day. Alistair explains “I’ve always felt that a cow responds best to having a consistent diet 365 days of the year and if you get the nutrition right the rest falls in to place – it is so pivotal to performance. Every aspect is analysed in detail, from forage to minerals to the water, so I can provide the absolute best diet to achieve high yields successfully.”

Gordon Macnaughton, area manager at Scotmin has worked with Alistair for over 20 years and explains “My role is to support Alistair’s endeavor to get as much out of his dairy enterprise as efficiently as possible. Carrying out pre-cut grass testing, forage analysis and milk analysis are just some of the additional services that Scotmin offer. This allows us to produce products that exactly meet the needs of livestock on a farm by farm basis.”

Alistair’s detailed approach to nutrition means that he opts for a custom mineral which perfectly balances the specific needs of his herd. At Hardgrove the cows produce a consistent high level of milk, cows return to service quickly after calving, with very few ongoing issues – this is essential to profitability and although costs are under pressure from dairy farmers, I urge them not to cut back on quality nutrition as it can prove detrimental in the long run through poor animal performance, health issues, vet’s bills and extra labour costs.

Alistair concludes, “My target herd size is 600; that’s where I feel my business gets the best economies of scale. Aside from that my main focus is soil management and forage quality, as I truly believe making the most out of home-grown forage has the most potential to increase production efficiencies.”