A lot has changed since Johnny Mackie moved to Shotlinn Farm near Strathaven in 1974 with 64 dairy cows which were a gift from his mother.

Now the farm carries 1300 head of stock in total with 580 dairy cows along with youngstock and beef.

Johnny and his wife Margo farm in partnership with their son Allan and his wife Joanna. Archie, Allan and Joanna’s three-year-old son already looks like being the third generation in the business.

In total they farm 100ha at Shotlinn with a further 300ha of rented land and they employ seven full time staff. The Mackies have a good reputation for the way they look after and manage their staff and have a waiting list of potential employees.

“If we are going to get the best from our cows, we need to make sure we employ and develop a strong team,” Johnny comments.

“We are a family business and our staff become part of the family. Our longest serving employee has been with us for 20 years.”

Attention to detail is the driving force for the all year round housed milking herd which is averaging 10,500litres at 4.1%BF and 3.2%P. Cows are milked twice a day through a 40-point rotary parlour. They calve all year round with heifers calving in at around two years old.

Despite the size of the herd, cows are treated as individuals. The herd is milk recorded and they make good use of auto ID to allow individual feeding to yield in the parlour as well as monitoring health and fertility.

The main forages produced are grass silage and wholecrop. Dry cows and youngstock will graze in the summer. Three cuts of grass silage are made a year with all field and clamp work carried out by the farm team. In a high rainfall area (53 inches per year), this helps ensure timeliness and that good weather windows can be exploited.

Barley and oats undersown with grass are grown for wholecrop and to act as a lead into new leys. Around 32ha are reseeded every year.

Rationing is the responsibility of nutritionist Grace Smith from Carrs Billington who has a unique insight into the herd having previously relief milked on the farm. She works closely with David Walker of LS Smellie, Strathaven who supply the custom formulated compound and blend.

The system is based on a partial TMR formulated to give M+26 litres and comprising grass and arable silages, draff, molasses and a 34% protein blend.

Cows are fed a high energy compound in the parlour which contains a high level of bypass protein, in the form of AminoMax, to complement the rumen degradable protein supplied by the TMR.

As herd health is of critical importance to the Mackies, biotin is included in the compound feed to help ensure optimal foot health. A maximum of 7kg/day is fed.

Cane molasses from ED and F Man has been an integral part of the system since 2002. Richard Dobson from ED and F Man explains it can play several important roles.

“The six carbon sugars in molasses and molasses blends are proven to be more beneficial to dairy cows than the five carbon sugars found in fermentation co-products including silages,” he explains.

“They are more highly rumen fermentable and more effective at improving fibre digestion, increasing microbial protein production and stimulating rumen fungi. Cane molasses also has a significant impact on the rate of rumen fermentation. Sugars are rapidly fermented and by promoting faster and more active fermentation, they will increase rumen throughput and so stimulate dry matter intakes. Which is essential in high yielding dairy cows.

“The higher intakes and energy dense ration also mean cows hold condition better in early lactation and begin cycling early, helping the Mackies achieve excellent fertility in the herd.

“Finally, molasses blends help improve the physical structure and palatability of the diet which also encourages good intakes and reduces sorting all of which contribute to the overall performance of the herd,” said Mr Dobson.