HerdAdvance Overview - May 2020

Monday, 1 June 2020

The HerdAdvance project first recruited farmers in the autumn of 2018, with a second opportunity to join the project in the autumn of 2019.

The project has already achieved its target of 500 farm business being involved. Of the 500 farm businesses recruited, 345 have had initial data collection visits. These visits are carried out by the farmer’s allocated Animal Health Knowledge Exchange Manager (AHKEM), and involve collating information about the farming business and system as well as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

By repeating these visits annually the project will track and benchmark performance within and between farms, allowing analysis of how HerdAdvance interventions help businesses better record data and make positive changes to management.

Since early 2019 303 farms have had meetings with their Animal Health KEM and farm vet. These meetings involve updating the farm's Herd Health Plan and setting out three priority areas for the farmer to focus on improving. The AHKEM then develops the priority areas into a HerdAction Plan, with steps for the farmer to follow for each priority area.

Following these meetings 126 farmers have started bulk milk screening for endemic disease (leptospirosis, neospora, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, and liver fluke) and 128 have started quarterly whole herd testing for Johne's disease.

Following a year's worth of testing, farmers complete a Johne's Management Plan with their farm vets, and using their bespoke strategies, attempt to reduce and control herd prevalence.

Forty-seven farms have started genomic testing, and many have successfully completed a HerdAdvance e-learning module on Herd Genetic Reports and used the information to select top 25% index bulls to complement the genetic profile of their herd.

At the initial visit the farmers commit to annual data collection with their AHKEM. Ninety-three of the farmers who first enrolled on the project have had their second year visit, in which data was collected for the preceding twelve months, and the AHKEM reviewed any changes the farmer had made in order to deliver the three-point Action Plan.

In South Wales a number of farmers have joined a Farmer Focus Group, through which they attend group meetings with technical experts. In January a meeting was hosted on farm with Johne's expert Dick Sibley, in which the Focus Group learnt about the most recent research in Johne's detection and management, and then worked with the farm vet to put together a plan for the host farm. A North Wales equivalent is due to be established in autumn 2020.

Due to COVID-19, all on-farm activity has been suspended as of 19 March 2020. AHKEMs are now in contact with their farms remotely, and farmers are continuing with their Action Plans within the constraints of social distancing, and fluctuations in market demand.

Any farmers who have any questions about working under the restrictions of the pandemic, or would like information about market trends, staff management, and/or technical decisions, should consult the AHDB Dairy Coronavirus Support Page.