By Debbie James

A Pembrokeshire dairy farm has nearly doubled cow numbers by hiring an entire milking herd.

Simon John’s father-in-law, David Howell, provide him with an opportunity to increase cow numbers when he decided to cut back on his day-to-day farming activities.

He didn’t want to relinquish ownership of his pedigree Pendwr Holstein Friesian herd so he hired 110 cows to Simon and his father, Geraint.

The Johns, who farm 300 acres, had been keen to expand their dairy operation at Tymeini, Tufton, and a cow hire agreement facilitated by their farm consultant, John Crimes of CARA Wales, provided the perfect solution.

Mr Howell is paid an annual fee of £180/cow while retaining ownership of the herd. He pays semen and insemination costs in return for ownership of the resulting calves as replacements to maintain the pedigree line and as beef calves for fattening.

In a separate agreement, Mr Howell contract rears heifer replacements for the Johns, from weaning until two months prior to calving, at a flat rate fee of £1.25/head/day.

To facilitate the herd expansion, the Johns have invested £130,000 in a new cubicle shed for housing from the end of September to the end of March.

It incorporates some of the best features of sheds they had seen in operation on other farms.

Simon says his main focus was on cow comfort and feed space.

“I wanted the accommodation to be roomy, especially around the feeding area because we’d had issues in our existing shed with crowding at feeding time," he said.

“To allow for this we have created 285 feet of trough space, enough for 140 cows to feed, with a 16-foot wide passageway next to the feeding troughs so there is no pushing and shoving.’’

The herd was previously run as one group but the new housing allows the herd to be split into two groups according to yield.

“The highs are in the new shed but if we have more highs than we have cubicles for we can utilise part of the old shed where there are 192 spaces,’’ Simon explains.

It is the first time there has been more cubicles than cows which means cows spend more time lying down.

“They are resting for longer and don’t have to jostle for space at the troughs so we no longer get as many cases of sole ulcers,’’ says Simon.

“We were under pressure for a while when we first expanded the herd and when the new shed became operational we saw an immediate uplift in milk yield of 2 litres/cow/day.’’

Milk is sold to First Milk on a Tesco cheese contract.