Liam de Paor reports from the Livestock Event 2016 in Birmingham, where Brexit was the big topic for UK farmers

The recent Livestock Event at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) in Birmingham was a two-day show on July 6/7 organised by the RABDF (Royal Association of Dairy Farmers) and the major sponsor was Barclays Bank.

This is one of the major Agri shows in Britain and a well organised event. Access by road and rail from all over Britain is easy and a short journey by the free skyrail system brings you there from the airport in Birmingham.

There were around 400 trade stands featuring at this event from Britain, Belgium, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, New Zealand and Portugal.

Indeed there were over 30 stands from the Republic and Northern Ireland.

In addition the RABDF also hosted the National Dairy Show sponsored by Elanco. Dairy breeds on display included the Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey, Friesian and the Holstein.

Other livestock producers were also catered for as there was a National Charolais show, a South Devon championship and a National Lleyn sheep competition.

Strong farmers could also try their luck at a tug-of-war challenge.

Innovative products

Many new products and services were launched at this event and the best were shortlisted for the prestigious Prince Philip award.

These included the Swiftlo Commander — the iPad of milking parlour from Dairymaster which has already won a number of awards elsewhere.

The other Irish entry was the Herdwatch farm management app which already has 3,500 customers in Ireland and was the overall winner.

Visitors to the show could see some fine machinery on display from Hi Spec Engineering, Keenan now part of the Alltech group, Redrock Machinery and Zerograzer machines from Cavan and Carlow.

Apparently the Zerograzer machines are selling well in Britain as this system reduces the need for silage, improves grass utilisation, helps with fragmented or out farms and most important more grass replaces expensive feed thereby improving farm profitability.

During both days six mixer wagons and seven straw bedder machines were shown in action twice a day.

The machinery demo arena was sponsored by Massey Ferguson. There were numerous other presentations and discussions, visitors could attend and participate in. All these were held twice a day, featured industry experts and lasted for 20 to 30 minutes on each occasion.

For example the Business Management Zone had 11 presentations on topics such as robotic milking, Johne’s disease, farm safety, overseas markets etc.

Livestock equipment

The Livestock Equipment Zone in the Beef Arena sponsored by McDonalds had 14 presentations on a range of topics from safe handling of cattle to precision feed management, livestock handling systems and EID recording.

Meanwhile, in the Feed and Forage zone there were nine presentations including an excellent one by Dr Dave Davies who is a former research worker at IBERS in Aberystwyth. This zone was sponsored by Dow Agro Sciences, Germinal, Rothamsted Research, the British Grassland Society and BOCK UK.

For those interested in calf rearing there were seven demos on topics such as calf hutches, management, nutrition, ventilation etc. The Livestock Learning programme in the animal health zone had a panel debate and 14 presentations.

Topics covered included BVD, lameness, mobility scoring, a transition masterclass and the potential for dairy exports. Other interesting attractions included four hoof trimming demos every day.

There were two interesting industry forums and the themes were UK Agriculture and the implications of the EU Vote.

The speakers included Mike King, RABDF chairman, Lord Curry, RABDF president, Meurid Raymond, NFU president, Clive Blacker, UKTI agri–tech specialist, Ian Potter, an Agri Consultant and Tenant Farmers Association chief George Dunn .

Despite the best efforts of the organisers and lots to see and do at the livestock event, the attendance keeps on falling and the number of trade exhibitors was down by about 10%.

None of the major animal feed firms had a stand there this year and brands or firms well known to Irish farmers who were missing included Alltech, Devenish Nutrition, Silotite, Volac etc.

Gold Cup winner

Dorset dairy farmer Simon Bugler from Bridport won the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup 2016 award. His pedigree herd of 570 Holstein cows is yielding 11,600kg of milk at 3.74% fat and 3.15% protein on three-times-a-day milking.

Four years ago Mr Bugler switched to housing the herd all year round and has been rewarded with huge improvements in fertility and health. Antibiotic use has also been slashed and 95% of the cows receive teat sealant only at drying off.

Six dairy finalists

Six dairy units are finalists in the 2016 Gold Cup competition and two are from Co Tyrone. Two of the finalists are Keenan customers using both their machine and InTouch technology. In addition over three of the last four years, the winners have been Keenan customers.

Adrian McFarland farms in partnership with his wife Sharon and their eldest son Ryan who is part time. They run a herd of 106 Holstein cows plus followers on their 64ha farm.

The herd is TMR and parlour fed in winter and grazed in summer to produce an average 8,069kg milk at 4.2% fat and 3.28% protein, with an SCC of 101,000 cells/ml.

David Irwin farms in partnership with his parents David and Sylvia Irwin and along with two full-time staff they run the pedigree Holstein herd of 170 autumn/winter calving cows plus followers.

The 93ha unit is mainly grass with 20ha of spring barley grown for the dairy rations. The herd is fully housed and averages 12,300kg milk at 3.84% fat and 3.21% protein.

An engineering graduate, David has also concentrated on developing a high health status herd with good fertility and this has enabled him to grow sales of pedigree stock — worth more than 5ppl to the business.

The herd is accredited Johne’s and BVD free.

So the RABDF have decided to reschedule the show to a September date and to make it a one-day event. This will reduce the cost to exhibitors, improve the daily attendance and suit grassland farmers better, many of whom were busy making hay or silage during the show.

However, they have a problem as their next event will take place only one week before the UK Dairy event which is hosted by Holstein UK and takes place in Telford which is only 33 miles away.

Trade exhibitors would prefer the NEC for access but do not want to attend two dairy events.

No doubt the RABDF and Holstein UK will eventually decide to merge both events — which would benefit both organisers, dairy farmers and trade exhibitors.


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