AN INNOVATIVE approach to bringing the various strands of advice for dairy farmers, 'Dairy Tech', has been launched by Davidsons Animal Feeds.

Launched this week at AgriScot, the initiative hopes to give farmers the benefit of 'a second pair of eyes', when looking at their business, according to Davidson's specialist, Fraser McNicol.

"There's so much advice out there, that sometimes it's easy to be led down the garden path by some of it. This service offers to become part of your management team by helping to give a true evaluation of what information will be useful to you – and it's not just about feeding, but a whole range of management options for your herd."

Davidson's Dairy Tech team have all been issued with NIR (near infra-red) kit which gives accurate knowledge of moist feed and forage to help them evaluate rations, while plate meters can do the same for grass during the growing season. They will also use dung sampling and feed separators to enable them to go in to the fine detail of ration make-up and formulation.

Sam Hodgson, one of the Dairy Tech team, added: "Whatever we do has to be cost effective and so we track data like income over feed, and feed rates per litre of milk produced. This will be extrapolated across all aspects of herd management, from transition management to milk recording."

James Bendle, another member of the team, added: "We all appreciate it's not a machine we're dealing with – it's a ruminant and there are all sorts of things that can go wrong with her. Transition management systems (TMS), for instance, are key areas where we can help.

"TMS is absolutely fundamental to what any herd can achieve, as is the way young calves and yearling heifers are fed and managed. They are, after all, the future of your herd."

The team cited cases where their holistic approach had helped farmers rectify issues they had. In one case, overfeeding of the wrong type of feed in the robot milker was identified as the reason for a drop in milk production.

That issue had gone on for two months and had cost the farmer concerned £11,000 in lost income from milk, which had dropped by almost 10 litres per cow, per day. A change in the type of feed in in the robot addressed the problem immediately.

In another case, tweaking the diet for a better feed uptake and less 'sorting' by the cows, actually reduced concentrate feeding by 3kg per head per day, resulting in a 60p saving per cow. This was worth about £7000-8000 per annum to the farmer concerned for his 350-cow herd.

"Changes like this won't apply in all cases, but sometimes the extra set of eyes we can provide will give a simple solution to a big problem," said Mr Bendle. "Sometimes it is just slowly managing the transition from one type of feed to another, or even identifying that one silage pit is different from another."

Davidsons, of course, is mainly a feed business, but the Dairy Tech team is not tied to feed sales. "We're proud of the fact that our 'contract' with farmers is that we deliver!" said Billy Davidson, who started the business in 1977. " Our reputation is based on the fact that we're in this game for the long term.

"The Dairy Tech team are part of that pledge to support our customers. If they're not making money, then neither are we."