Mayo mattresses prove tempting for Devon herd

Mayo mattresses prove tempting for Devon herd

You just need to look at the neat row of cows filling every cubicle to know what the herd at Woodhay Farm near Exeter thinks of the Mayo cow mattresses.

Add to the picture the fact not one of them had seen a cubicle before arriving on the unit speaks volumes as to how comfortable they are.

“They take to them well. I find them really good,” says Herd Manager, Ollie Scantlebury. “For a cow that’s never seen a cubicle in their life and to take to it is brilliant.”

The 300 cow, autumn calving herd is made up of quality cows that slip out of the tight 12-week spring calving blocks on an additional five units run by Wastenage Farms in the South West. These dairies serve cows to dairy semen for four weeks and follow with beef sweeper bulls. Cows not in calf, but with good production figures, low cell counts and good feet are moved to Woodhay Farm.

All of the spring units are simple grass-focused systems, where cows are out-wintered on fodder beet and calve outside on grass. Some loose straw housing is available, but the herds will never see a cubicle.

As a result, when Woodhay Farm was initially converted to concrete cubicles with straw, the team struggled to get cows to lie in them. Add to the situation plenty of wind blowing the straw out of the cubicles, the cows instead often took to lying on the loafing and feeding area. Consequently, the decision was made to invest in quality, comfortable cubicle mattresses.

Robin Boaden, Farms Manager for Wastenage Farms, explains: “We looked at stuff that was value for money, but cow comfort was very important as we had to attract cows that weren’t used to lying in cubicles to lie in. We also looked for mats that were simple to install, allowing us to fit them ourselves.

“We visited a lot of farms that had them (Mayo cow mattresses) and they recommended them. Some people had had them in for 10 years and were pretty pleased with them and they were still going.”

The Mayo mattresses were sourced through Mole Valley Farmers’ store in Newton Abbott with support from Business Development Manager, Richard Griffiths, who has a strong knowledge of cubicle design and cow mattresses.

Robin says: “Mole Valley Farmers were as good as gold. We have a good relationship with Mole. We do a lot of business with them. They look after us well.”

Robin also rates the general service from Jay McCoy in the Newton Abbott store. “He’s almost my personal shopper. If I want anything he finds me the best offer. He’s brilliant.”

Initially, 240 cubicles were installed, with the Mayo mattresses added in the first year. At the same time, the team decided to swap from using straw to sawdust on top of the beds. Herd expansion lead to a further 80 cubicles being added to the system in year four, with the same mattresses. “We wouldn’t really have gone with anything else,” says Robin.

Depending on the season, the herd is housed full time on the cubicles from around the start of December until the end of February. At the shoulders of the season, the herd will be provided with access to self-feed silage and some cubicles after milking, before heading back to grass. They’ll also be fed flat rate through the parlour. During the main grazing season, they’ll just receive grazed grass and up to 3-4kg of cake per head per day in the parlour.

All six of Wastenage Farms’ units source their dairy chemicals from Mole Valley Farmers. This includes Deosan parlour chemicals and Mole Valley Farmers’ own-label iodine teat spray. “I think  they’re decent, good quality chemicals,” Robin adds.

Farm Facts - Woodhay Farm

  • Owned by Pete and Di Wastenage of Wastenage Farms
  • 89ha (220 acres) grazing platform
  • 61ha (150 acres) also rented for silage and dry cow grazing
  • Pig farm converted to dairy unit four years ago
  • 300 cow herd - mostly Irish Friesian, Jersey cross Friesian and some Holstein
  • All of the herd is served to beef
  • 6,000 litres per cow per year at 4.6%fat and 3.7% protein
  • One tonne concentrate per cow per year
  • Calve in 12-week block from mid-August to the end of October
  • Milk sold to Arla
  • Rotationally paddock grazed
  • Fed self-feed maize and grass silage.

For information on the cubicles and cow mattresses available through Mole Valley Farmers, please contact your local store