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96


BY JULIE REED


S


ince my last issue our little girl Jade arrived safely. Reminding me to be more sympathetic to the cows when they’re calving.


I am back feeding the calves with my little team, once we are dressed, armed with snacks, the calf feeding part is fairly easy. Jade sleeps in her pram and Adam spends most of his time playing in his 30t sand pit. Calf feeding is a lot easier now, as we seem to have sorted our problem with calf scour. Although we vaccinate the cows with rotavirus, dip navels, religiously tube each calf with 4.5 - 5.5 litres of colostrum within the first six hours of birth, treat them with halacour for seven days, we were finding our cases of scour were increasing, almost to the point of every calf getting scour at day six or seven.


The solution has been laying a new hard standing made from crushed concrete on fresh ground for our calf hutches to go on. Since doing this we have only had the odd case of scour and our calves are flying. Our hutches had been on the previous hard standing for a few years and although it was disinfected between uses, the build up of bugs must have got too strong.


This is one of the situations that if it were our own farm or we had a long term tenancy, we would invest in laying a pad of concrete which could be fully


washed and disinfected, but the figures don’t stack up on a short term tenancy.


At the moment any time I can get on my own (which is not enough) is spent stuck in the office, wading through the ever increasing amount of paperwork. This time of year is worse with sorting our end of year accounts, payroll and basic payment scheme application. This could be a full time job alone, without fitting it around calves, a toddler and a baby.


For us the new basic payment scheme is a bit more of a headache. As we only grow maize and rye grass, our farm is classed as arable so we have to comply with the greening and ecological focus area rules. Part of this means we have to grow a random field of whole-crop wheat to comply with the ‘three crop rule’. Here’s us trying to keep our cow diet as balanced as possible and then we have to try and fit this in somewhere. With one of our staff on holiday for a few weeks, I have been doing some Sunday morning milkings and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m not sure which part I enjoyed the most though, having music on and actually milking the cows or the fact that I know the kids are in the house having a great time with their grandparents and I have some child free time, where I am not in the office.


With one member of staff down


and a new baby, going to Devon Show in May was not realistic, but hopefully we can make it to other shows this summer. As I write this cows are milking the best they have for more than a year, giving 35.5 litres/ cow in milk. This is down to a combination of reasons, including having dried off a lot of cows and sending on barreners sooner. This has temporarily reduced our stocking rate from 130% to 120% while we wait for a flush of cows to calve. We have reduced our cut off for milking any cow from 15 litres to 18 litres. After doing calculations based on cost of production, barrener value and cost of buying replacements, this is what they need to give to justify being in the milking herd. Chris says ‘there is no space to carry passengers’. To be as efficient as possible, we do not want pregnant cows dropping below 18 litres and then having to dry them off early. This comes back to being strict about which cows to serve and which not. Our rule of thumb is a cow must be giving at least the herd average and be less than 180 days calved.


There are times, for example when one of our favourite young cows comes bulling again and is giving two litres less than the herd average, that it can be a difficult decision for Chris not to serve her again.


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