• Richard Pilkington, near Wrexham

    Swapping to NIS brings lower costs, more consistency and healthier cows.

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The fall in milk prices last year prompted Richard and Ruth Pilkington and their family, who run a 250-pedigree Holstein herd at the 800-acre Shordley Hall near Wrexham, to take a closer look at how they could provide good quality feed and have healthier cows but at a lower price tag…

Producing 2.5m litres annually, the Pilkington’s Aintree herd is housed year-round and fed a TMR ration based on maize silage, wholecrop winter oats from an ag-bag, maize, rapemeal and NIS. In the winter, the ration has grass silage added, and in the summer, zero-grazed grass mixed in.

Richard says NIS has been fed sporadically to the milking cows over the past six years as an alternative since sugarbeet pulp increased in cost, but last summer, the plummeting milk price prompted a rethink for him and his nutritionist Dr Huw McConochie of Wynnstay.

Huw suggested switching from sugarbeet pulp to NIS permanently. I was concerned that NIS wouldn’t contain enough effective fibre – but I was proved wrong as after including it a 1.5kg/head/day – a direct swap for sugarbeet pulp – butterfat increased immediately. The cows have always run around 3.9% butterfat but since introducing the NIS we’ve consistently been over 4.1% while averaging more than 34 litres/cow/day.

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