Netherside Gail 141, a Holstein heifer born in April 2020, has been classified as having the highest Dairy Wellness Profit index of any female tested in the UK. She is owned by Tom Yuill who dairies with his family in Strathaven, Scotland.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
Netherside Gail 141, a Holstein heifer born in April 2020, has been classified as having the highest Dairy Wellness Profit index of any female tested in the UK. She is owned by Tom Yuill who dairies with his family in Strathaven, Scotland. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    STRATHAVEN, Scotland, United Kingdom – Tom Yuill said he has always bred for improved performance by using the best semen available. His breeding philosophy coupled with his commitment to the land and animal husbandry has paid off in a big way.
    Netherside Gail 141, a Holstein heifer born in April 2020, has been classified as having the highest Dairy Wellness Profit index of any female tested in the UK.
    Yuill and his wife, Sally, and their two sons, Tom and Andrew, work in partnership at West Newton Farm in Strathaven. They milk 320 registered Holsteins in a robotic milking system and raise their youngstock.
    Spread across four units of land within 3 miles of each other, the Yuills manage 350 acres and rent an additional 50 acres in the summer. The farm is split by the Avon river and public roads.
    Raising quality animals which in turn produce quantity in the bulk tank is not a new concept for Yuill, whose great-great-great-grandfather settled in the area in the 1790s.
    “In the past, the best bulls had high yields and good solids, but as science improved, those bulls were also low fertility and high in somatic cell count,” he said. “So, we breed to maintain the production side while improving the longevity and health traits to create longer lasting cows.”
    Gail’s DWP index of 1,027 was assessed using the Zoetis genomic testing program CLARIFIDE® Plus. According to Zoetis, the DWP offers similar selection emphasis as Net Merit but applies additional emphasis on cow and calf wellness traits and fertility traits. Because of the emphasis on wellness, the index is designed to select for longer lived animals that deliver more profit over a lifetime.
    When compared globally, Gail ranks in the top 1% for DWP. Gail also lands on top in several other categories when compared across the globe: in the top 1% for the Holstein Feed Efficiency Index, the top 5% for fat solids, and the top 20% for health traits such as metritis and calf respiratory disease.
    Yuill said Gail’s dam was previously the herd’s highest Profitable Lifetime Index heifer. Gail has since outranked her mother with a PLI of 688.
    “I never expected to have the highest ranking DWP heifer in the UK; however, Gail 141 has been bred from good stock,” Yuill said.
    Yuill said he plans to flush Gail this summer and breed her to the best matched DWP bull.
    “Genomics is a long-term investment with results not seen overnight,” he said. “If we use the results correctly, it should help us produce more profitable, longer lasting cows which allows for lower replacement rates.”
    Yuill’s family tree is steeped in the area with generations before him living in Scotland. His great-grandfather and grandfather were horse dealers across central Scotland. As such, his great-grandfather purchased farms which were left to his sons and rented out. One of those farms is the present-day West Newton Farm.
    Yuill’s grandfather died in 1920 when his father was only 8 months old. The farm was rented out until Yuill’s uncle began farming in the 1930s. In 1970, Yuill’s father bought West Newton Farm from his oldest brother and created T.C. Yuill & Son the following year, a partnership which brought Yuill into the farm.
    A typical day begins at 6 a.m. with all four family members stepping into their respective roles. Yuill feeds the milking herd and the heifers while Sally takes care of feeding the calves.
    The cows are fed grass silage mixed with brewers grain, a blend of various grains and a mineral mix.
    Tom oversees milking and is the farm’s A.I. technician. Andrew removes soiled bedding for the heifers and does tractor work. The Yuills have one employee who helps wherever needed.
    The farm is located 30 miles inland from the west coast of Scotland. Yuill said the temperate maritime climate results in plenty of rain, 60 inches per year, with temperatures only dipping as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
    But, due to climate and soil quality constraints, Yuill said the lone crop they are able to grow is grass.
    “However, our ability to grow large quantities of grass due to climate and historically having a large liquid milk market make farming here unique,” Yuill said.
    Yuill said he is concerned for the balance of power between the producers, milk buyers, supermarkets and the processors.
    “The balance, or lack thereof, is not fair to the primary producers,” he said.
    Despite challenges in the industry creating a foggy view of the future, Yuill said the thought which carries him outside every morning, the thought that keeps him working throughout the day is simple.
    “To leave a viable business for the next generation if they wish and to leave the land in as good heart as I received it in or better,” he said.
    And, breeding quality Holsteins only makes the livelihood sweeter.