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Company history

NMR was formed in 1943. Before 1943, milk recording in England and Wales was carried out by a loose confederation of milk recording societies based in each county.

Each society had its own chairman, secretary, recorders, committee, fee raising structure and office, some counties had up to three societies. Central government involvement was not involved although some limited financial assistance was provided by the Ministry of Fisheries of Food (MAFF).  The membership of the milk recording societies was small, some had only 25 herds; however, their members were enthusiastic and progressive. 

NMR was formed in response to a report published in 1942 titled "Proposals for extension and development of Milk Recording in England and Wales under the auspices of the Milk Marketing Board (MMB)". The aims and objectives were to "assist and encourage milk producers to record milk yields of cows in their herds in order that the management and performance of the dairy herds shall be improved for increased milk production in war time and thereafter". The proposals stated that recording should be voluntary and membership should be open to all producers. It was felt to be important to retain the local empathy with producers and county committees replaced the local society committees between 1943 and 1947. On the formation of NMR some branches saw a three-fold increase in membership with NMR recording 25 per cent of all dairy cows from 16% of herds in England and Wales. 2.7 million samples were tested nationally at many sites including dairies. 

20 years after being formed in 1963, NMR had increased the number of recorded herds to 17,409. During the next 10 years NMR continued to develop and increase its commercial awareness such that by the end of 1972 the MMB's financial support represented only 35% of NMR's costs with the farmers paying the majority of the cost. The work was carried out at seven laboratories and 11 offices throughout England and Wales. Infra red analysis had been introduced and 7.2 million samples were tested annually.

By 1983, NMR was operating with a field technician workforce of 2,288 and all milk samples they collected were tested for fat and protein - lactose analysis was an option until the following year. Financial support from MMB only represented 26% of NMR's costs. 1983 was the peak of NMR's output. In 1984 milk quotas were introduced and the number of cows being milk recorded by NMR dropped to 1,242,716 as the number of cows in the UK dropped. NMR worked hard to reduce its costs and restructured with financial support from MMB at 24%.

Genetic information started to become available and NMR introduced the Cow Production Index, the first "mass index" for all recorded cattle, and financial value to statements.

The Wilson Committee was formed in 1989. Professor Peter Wilson and his committee were charged to bring forward recommendations which would unite the areas of milk recording, breed societies and genetic evaluation and reduce duplication of effort and cost with recommendations that were practicable, equitable and acceptable to the industry as a whole.

Many of the 12 recommendations were acted upon: 

  • The formation of a truly independent Genetic Evaluation unit to provide genetic evaluations to the UK under an independent chairman, John Moffitt. This role is now the responsibility of the levy body, Dairy Co.

  • Milk recording organisations to be self financing. NMR, has been financially independent and 100% funded by farmer customers since 1 April 1993.

  • The reduction of duplication of paperwork - with the wholehearted co-operation of most breed societies, systems like Calflink have reduced costs and effort to all. NMR is also co-operating with breed societies in joint ventures and planning others to the benefit of members in England and Wales.

June 1990 saw the introduction of somatic cell counting as an NMR service and within two and a half years over 65 per cent of all samples were tested for cell count.

During the late 1990's NMR developed an expertise in software development for farmers' own PCs and automated parlours by the formation of Agrisoft with specialist software development and support resource. This initiative follows NMR core competence of collating and processing individual cow data to produce management information to allow dairy farmers to make informed management decisions at individual cow and herd level.

In 2003 NMR formed a new subsidiary business called National Milk Laboratories (NML) which operates in the bulk milk quality testing sector. This was a new area for NMR which utilises the same laboratory and transport equipment as NMR. NML tests bulk milk samples on behalf of milk buyers to determine the level of components such as % fat and protein and therefore determine the payment to be made to the farmer. NML also tests for food safety issues such as antibiotics and animal health issues such as levels of infectious disease.

The diversification of NMR’s core recording continued and our portfolio of products strengthened by two further additions;  NMR acquired Nordic Star,  the ear tag identification business, in 2004 which is now reported in a separate business called National Livestock Records in which the Group also reports development projects associated with the red meat sector. In 2014 NMR acquired Inimex, the bovine genetics company which trades in the mainland Europe as Gemimex and in the UK under the brand of Bullsemen.com.

NMR today

NMR today is an integrated service provider working for both farmers and milk buyers as well as an independent source of data from advisors such as vets, farm consultants an breed societies. NMR is totally financially independent with a plc status. Milk recording data is used to provide the phenotypic database for UK genetic evaluation and also the milk recording database is used to provide the basis of food providence schemes run by major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks & Spencer.

NMR currently tests 10 million samples of milk annually. This involves processing a bulk milk sample from 97% of UK farmers with every collection of milk made from the farmer and processing a monthly individual milk sample from 60% of the individual cows in the UK. NMR is represented directly in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as receiving samples from Southern Ireland.

Milk recording is still a voluntary service, however the percentage of dairy herds which record increases each year as the professionalism required to manage a successful dairy enterprise increases along with higher demands for food providence information as farmers are viewed as the first step in the food chain.

NMR has launched a number of new services to help farmers know the issues within the herd which affect efficiency and animal health. New services include a suite of tests for infectious disease such as Johne's; a service to identify mastitis organisms using DNA and software to record health events such as lameness.  The latest addition to NMR’s suite of tests is GeneTracker which is an innovative genomic testing service which allows farmers to quantify the DNA of new born calves to assess their future productivity and value.

NMR has continued to invest in new software and laboratory equipment and believes it is positioned to provide the services required by the dairy farmer of the future although NMR remains true to its core competence of independence and data quality.dit Delete