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Glenapp Estate Co Ltd
Glenapp Estate
Charlie Russell
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Launch of Glenapp Estate Monitor Farm
Posted: 20th Sep 2013

Meeting report:


Launch of Glenapp Estate monitor farm


Attended:  over 70 people supported and attended the launch of this new South west Scotland Monitor Farm meeting held at Glenapp Estate, on Tuesday 20th August 2013.


Meeting Structure:


1 – Introduction and welcome                                                Heather Wildman

2 – Endorsement of Monitor farm program & scheme         Gary Mitchell NFUS Milk Committee Chair

3   Background and history of Glenapp Dairy                        Charlie Russell

4  Farm Walk 

Station 1          Dairy, herd health & KPI’s  Jimbo, S Rafael & A Paine

            Station 2          Grass management, budgeting & herd genetics   A Langridge, D Keiley

            Station 3.         Soil health, potential & challenges                 C Russell

5  Lunch

6  SWOT  analysis


Introduction from Heather

Heather Wildman welcomed everyone to the new dairy monitor farm and congratulated the team here at Glenapp on becoming the new SW Scotland Monitor farm  


The three-year programme is aimed at giving dairy farmers world-class business expertise and technical knowledge.   


 “Glenapp shows dairy farmers and their staff the numerous challenges of a large-scale dairy unit, and lets them monitor how the business develops over the three-year programme. This project differs from previous monitor farms as Glenapp is only recently established as a dairy unit and is in the early stages of development.

“Farmers will be able to follow progress on the unit as it uses our guidance on building design, ventilation, calf and heifer rearing, implements the DairyCo mastitis control plan and the DairyCo healthy feet programme, and take advantage of cost analysis through our Milkbench+ service.”

The monitor farm audience is primarily dairy farmers; however the project will also benefit other stakeholders within the supply chain including bankers, consultants, suppliers, vets, merchants and processors

Farmers within the immediate vicinity of the monitor farm will benefit directly whilst the lessons learned and best practice will also be communicated to the Scottish dairy industry as a whole

The Monitor Farm programme is funded by the Scottish Government and is the third in the series of Scottish dairy monitor farm projects. Monitor farm projects have shown to improve the performance and profitability of a commercial farm, typical of the area over a three year period and beyond. In this project the monitor farmer opens their business to a wider community group, mainly consisting of famers but also including other professionals linked to dairy production and the supply chain. 

The Inclusion of a management group within the project will bring the following benefits to members:

·         improve physical and financial farm business performance using a whole farm business planning approach

·         influence farmers’ attitude to change and increase the scope and speed of new idea uptake by allowing participants to see and try new ideas on the monitor farm

·         encourage farmers to record and analyse data and herd health benchmarking performance against peers and identifying areas where change can most improve performance

·         encourage farmers to set objectives and budgetary targets and to monitor performance against them

·         -encourage the development of efficient systems measured against financial physical and environmental indicators

·         increase awareness and understanding of industry marketing methods and management tools that are available to help grow their businesses

The value to dairy farmers becoming members of the monitor farm community group must not be underestimated.  In my experience of both Hillhead and Brechin community group members, i have seen growth in the farmer’s personal development; their ability and confidence to speak in public, raising their profiles and skills with their peers and in the industry.  i have seen people moving on to take up roles across milk companies, NFUS, committees and boards which until now they would not have had the confidence to do so.  These members not only offer additional support to the monitor farmer; they assist in getting out messages, experiences and ideas to a greater audience

Dairy operations continue to face considerable challenges particularly in responding to input and commodity volatility, legislative and economic environment, and climate change. These projects will assist farmers across Scotland address these challenges.

Gary Mitchell

Gary offered his support and encouragement to the new dairy monitor farm, endorsing that we need farmers from every system to get behind and support this project.  As when it comes to dairying and profit – system is immaterial, what makes the difference is the management and skill of the staff and management.  Dairying is in an exciting place but we need to up skill and keep ahead of the market and competition we cannot do this without knowing our own businesses and challenging ourselves further.  GlenApp offers us the opportunities to do this whilst accessing top international speakers and advisers as well as learning from each other.


Update from Charlie

Charlie Russell, Glenapp Estates Manager, introduced the farm. He said “Glenapp is 5,024 hectare unit rising from sea-level to above 600 feet, with an annual average rainfall of 60inches. The opportunity to establish a purpose-built dairy unit is expected to generate sufficient and sustainable net revenues in order to maintain and enhance the Estate.

“We established the herd in 2008 by purchasing 200 heifers from the Isle of Jersey, 200 cross-bred heifers from Ireland and 100 British Friesian types from the Longtown area. We started milk production in February 2010 on a purpose built green field site, and today milk 628 cows through the parlour.”

The dairy-unit is centrally located, being built on a green field site at a cost of £1.2 million. The herd is milked through a 70-point rotary milking parlour and the unit employs a team of four fulltime staff according to Assistant Herd Manager Jim Murray.  He said: “We milk twice a day at 5am and 2.30pm and cow throughput is 400 cows per hour.

“The herd is block-calved in February, at a peak rate of 40 animals per day, and have a current calving-index of 373 days. We aim to have 85% of the herd calve in the first 25 day period, with first service conception-rate currently at 65%. The herd is averaging 4,200 litres per year on a predominantly grass-based system at 4.5% fat and 3.5% protein.”  

The herd, which operates a cross-breeding programme, is utilising approximately 410ha as a grazing platform and support area, with additional land used for silage. The herd is now moving towards an on-off grazing system explained Dairy Herd Manager Arnon Langridge.


“During the past two winters we incorporated a mixture of housing and out-wintering on forage-crops and silage. Due to unsatisfactory crop utalisation levels as a result of the wet weather conditions, we reviewed the sustainability of the system. Grass is measured on a weekly-basis with growth rates peaking at 140 kilos of dry matter per hectare per day of growth, with an average growth-rate peak of 93 kilos per day.


“This year, we have not sown fodder crops and aim to maintain the herd in housed accommodation and winter paddocks; with on-off grazing and silage. The cows will utilise our existing accommodation as well as having access to a buffer-based silage ration. Cows are dried-off in December, resulting in a traditional 60 day rest period.”


Milk is collected on a daily-basis for cheese-making by The Fresh Milk Company at Stranraer, and milk price over the past 12 months averaged 32 pence per litre, with a July 2013 price of 34ppl. Mastitis is rare at 8% treatable cases; somatic cell count is 135 with bacto-scan levels of 25

“We have used GPS systems and have soil mapped the dairy grazing platform and silage fields in order to achieve optimum savings in fertiliser costs as well as, to provide efficient utilisation of each tonne of fertilizer and lime spread on the farm.


“Previous reclaimed areas, mainly from the 1960s, that had deteriorated, have been replaced with modern drainage systems and reseeding projects. We operate a 5-7 year reseeding policy and this year, we focused more on diploid and clover mixes.


“The policy is aimed at providing more persistent and better seasonal grass growth and spread as well as, better ground cover, higher water soluble carbs and higher D value. For every D value increase in grazed grass and silage; we aim to increase production by an additional third of a litre per cow.”





Why convert to dairy?         

Generate sufficient and sustainable net revenues to maintain and enhance the Estate.









Why become a monitor farm?


We continually bench mark ourselves against others within our discussion group and within the industry, whilst not being the least profitable – we are far from the best,


We would like the monitor farm to be a profit based monitor farm and help us answer the following questions



With our young stock are the national target weights correct for south west Scotland? and what are sustainable future rearing strategies without antibiotic milk powder.



Looking to the future how do we maximize our investments in a 70 bale parlour:


And with our team here at Glenapp how do we transfer skills, retain and promote within the ranks of our growing business.







Workstation 1                        Jimbo, Andy & Steve

·         Green field site which started milking cows Feb 2010.

·         Currently milking 628 cows, av daily yield 15.5 litres @ 4.5% BF and 3.5% Protein, 135 SCC and 25 Bact, July Milk price 34p/litre,

·         Projected annual yield of 4200 litres,

·         Milk sold to Fresh Milk Company in Stranraer

·         Mastitis 8% treated cases

Milking Routine

Parlour design to maximize milk harvesting efficiency of the herd with individual management occurring off platform through automatic shedding gates.

·         Cows milked at 0500 and 1430, generally 4 people milking through calving and breeding with 2 milking rest of year.

·         Comfortably 400cows/hour

·         Cows automatically identified at entrance point – if not recognized or milk not suitable for human consumption – milk “dumped” down separate line connected to pasteurizer where milk to be fed to calves can be processed to reduce the risk of Johnnes.

·         Minimal teat preparation required due to cleanliness of cows coming from grass.

·         Individual cow supplementary cow feeding on parlour, ACR’s, auto teat spray, auto footbath and cow retention bars utilized to hold cows who have not given 90% of expected yield.


Where are we going?

·         Improve individual animal efficiencies by culling poor performers and utilizing best genetics available.

·         Improve disease status of herd, already monitoring and vaccinating for BVD, Lepto, IBR, monitoring for Johnnes.

·         Can we improve parlour utilization to increase profitability by increasing number of grass based cows or adding a second herd?




Andy Paine NMR      

·         We provided context for the herd performance using the NMR/University of Reading KPI Study, analysing performance of 500 UK Holstein/Friesian herds.  Available here via NMR Online

·         The most striking thing with the Glenapp herd are the fertility stats.  Eg, current herd calving interval is 373 days, National median figure is currently 419

·         76% of cows in herd calve down <385 since last calving

·         100 day in calf rate is 44%.  National median is 27%, with top 25% achieving 35%.

·         Chronic cells are very low.  Just 4% of herd have cell count of over 200,000 cells/ml for two consecutive recordings.  Median in UK is currently 12%.






Workstation 2            Arnon & David

·         Our cows average 455 kilos however there are big variations from pure Jerseys weighing 340 kilos to New Zealand Holstein Fresians at 700 kilos.  This will always cause problems for budgeting.  

·         However, a 455 kilo lactating cow eats 3.3% of body weight = 15 kilos dm.  

·         We would feed a lactating cow any energy source that creates a return on capital.   At the moment typical grazed grass analysis is 12 me, protein 19% at a cost of £31/tonne dm, silage £51/tonne dm, this compares very favourably –v- other feeds in the market place at £260 for equivalent analysis.

·          We work a paddock grazing system with 12 hour breaks – this helps to maximize grass growth and automatically triggers an additional 30% grass growth over set stocking by allowing the grass plants to mature to the ideal three leaf stage.

·         Mineralized water troughs are centralized in paddocks to optimize water intake and efficient cow lane-ways minimize walking distances as for every kilometer every cow has to walk she loses a litre of milk in energy.

·         92 grazing paddock totaling 410ha milking platform and support area - additional land used for silage and other enterprises.

·         Grass measured weekly – growth rates peak end of May/beginning June with individual peaks of 140 however average growth rate peak of 93 was dropped to zero during winter months which also included April this year. 

·         Excess grass during peak growth periods is silaged only when a surplus is calculated, this is now done “in house” with our own silage team.

·         In past winters a mixture of housing and outwintering cattle on forage crops and silage has been utilized, unfortunately the winters of 2011 and 2012 has made us question the sustainability of this system.   Wet weather reduced crop utilization and conditions to unsatisfactory levels.  

·         In 2013 there are no fodder crops sown and we aim to winter the cattle in a mixture of housed accommodation and wintering pads on off grazing and silage.

·         Housing accommodation includes 700 cubicles, loose housing for 310 and slats 150.


In late January springing cows are brought back to the calving shed at the parlour and from 10th February 2012 we can expect to peak at 40 cows calving per day during the 8 week calving period. 


Prior to AI commencing on 9th May cows are tail painted and uterine checked with all non cyclers and dirty cows checked by our Vet, treated as necessary. 


AI is done “in house” over a 5 week period with teams of sweeper beef bulls for a further cycle.

Fluke control normally carried out in Dec as cows dried off, but due to new treatments available blood testing being done next week for fluke as well as liver biopsies for mineral status.

PDs are also due next week – so fingers crossed!!!

Results just in:

628 cows PD’d in total

297 confirmed in calf in the 1st 3 weeks

179 in calf 1st 2nd 3 weeks

72 in calf 3rd 3 weeks

80 empty


292 Heifers scanned

198 confirmed in calf 1st 3 weeks

47 in calf 2nd 3 weeks

21 in calf 3rd 3 weeks

26 empty












Workstation 3                        Charlie

The grazing block of the Dairy runs from zero to 600 feet with an average rainfall of 60 inches.   We have a vast range of soil types from sand to peat bog to rock, admittedly with some better stuff in between! 


It has been proven the world over that costs per litre are a co-efficient of profitability of dairy farms, however, grass utilization also has a 70% relationship with profitability.


But there are other fundamental reasons for maximizing grass utilization, at the moment it is 12% of the price of concentrates

·         with increasing population growth, and

·         demand for biofuels,

·         variances in weather and

·         Eastern civilizations developing tastes for a western diet will continue to drive up the competition for cereal based diet.   


We are farmers sell protein and protein is in essence nitrogen it is therefore essential that we at Glenapp look to remove all the barriers that reduce the inefficiencies of the nitrogen cycle or in other words maximize the growth potential of rye grass


We have GPS’d and soil mapped the dairy grazing platform and silage fields outside the dairy platform to achieve optimum savings in fertilizer costs and efficient utilization of each ton of fertilizers and lime spread.  The soil mapping also revealed the massive variations of soil type, ph and P and K requirements even within field boundaries.  The analysis also revealed an imbalance between magnesium and calcium. 


To date we apply flat rates of urea or nitrogen after every grazing, variable rates of MOP in May, variable rates of G27 in August, variable rates of calcium lime to maintain ph’s at 6.3  and have an ongoing trial with Calcifert S to measure the impact of sulphur on grass growth and milk production.


We have reclaimed areas which had reverted following reclamation work in the 1960s where many grant aided drainage systems have now deteriorated beyond working conditions.  This has involved replacing drainage systems and reseeding projects.


Paddock performance is still extremely variable however our knowledge on what is restricting growth is improving all the time.


Arnon’s weekly grass measurements allow us to identify problem fields and paddocks that are not performing.


Re-seeding policy – 5-7 year rotation whilst in the past we have also chased late heading variety mixes 2013 has seen us concentrate more on diploid mixes and clover – we believe them to be more persistent a better seasonal growth and spread and higher yielding, better ground cover, higher water soluble carbs, and higher D Value.   Bearing in mind that for every D Value increase in grazed grass or silage we produce .3 of a litre a cow extra.


Clover complimentary growth curve, nitrogen fixing 150 kg N/hec/yr =£129.00 with no spreading costs, excellent trace elements, decreases bulk density of soil, increases response rate of fert, encourages cattle to graze tighter and increase intakes.


Issues with establishment and weed control – experiments.



Good cow tracks are essential for a pasture grazing system, they assist with cow foot health, cow flow and minimizing pasture damage.  Small amount of poaching damage can cause up to 20% growth loss over the next year.
















SWOT Analysis results:


Estate/ Landlord open to invest/change


Passion for soil & improvement

Local knowledge

Infrastructure / facilities


Variation in genetics & size of cows

Location – shape of land

Walking distance (if expanding)

Johnes - scale



Monitor farm

Reduce cost – mineral use

Autumn calving


More milk

Soil/grass management



Staff retention

Milk price fluctuation

Commodity prices



Heather Wildman closed the meeting by thanking everyone for attending this the launch and encouraging them to sign up to both the community group member and management group.


Date of the next meeting

Wednesday 25th September, 11 – 2 at Glenapp dairy            Brian Costello from Ireland will be taking us through budgeting forage and preparing for the winter, maximizing autumn grass and how now to prepare for spring grass.

Thursday 24th October            11 – 2 venue TBC        Steve Raefael, Academy vets & Lorenzo – we will be discussing dry cow management, drying off, herd health plans, vaccinations and body condition scoring

Thursday 28th December        11 -2 venue TBC          Calf rearing strategy - planning, setting  targets, roles and responsibilities



Heather Wildman

Extension Officer, Scotland


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