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grass at about seven months old, when they are offered a small amount of hard food for about a month until they adapt to the changed diet; that’s the last they receive until finishing at about 26-27 months. All 800 head in the system spend the winter inside, utilising the farm’s existing cubicle buildings and two new cattle sheds built in the last two years.


The finished cattle go to Jarretts in Bristol, where most have a carcass weight of 330-380kg and achieve a classification of R4L or O4L. The meat is branded as ‘West Country Beef’, which gives purchasers a guarantee that the animal was born in the west country and fed a minimum of 70% forage.


“I’ve seen the product on sale


in London and that gave me a real sense of achievement”, says Ben, who is President of the British Friesian Breeders Club. “The British Friesian is ideally suited to our current system, as the cattle do well at grass, are efficient converters of forage into muscle and finish at an optimum age for us; I don’t think we could do better with any other breed.”


Two new sheds have been erected since 2013.


The cattle thrive on the farm's permanent pasture. COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE COW


Mary Mead’s views on the current issues faced by the dairy industry.


he lifting of milk quota without any managed exit has hit many dairy farmers hard. Some producers sought to capitalise on the new situation and, as a result, milk production increased throughout 2014, as did world supplies.


T


An evident change in calving pattern has also contributed to the ‘Spring Flush’ which is even higher this year. Various bodies and industry advisors have encouraged this expansion and it beggars belief that new units have been set up without any milk contract in place. Where was the market


intelligence? It is all very well predicting great opportunities based on growth in world population, but not in this chaotic manner. We have no independent producer organisation; one that could collate the streams of data that flow from the various bodies that monitor the processing industry in order to better tailor our production to processor capacity. Self regulating co-ops being the exception.


Approximately 50% of milk produced goes into the liquid market and the rest into manufactured product such as cream, butter, cheese, yogurt and various dried powders. All the excess milk now being produced will need to find a home in the manufacturing market and so constituent value will be key. It remains to be


seen if seasonality payments will also be applied more generally or just on specific contracts.


The industry faces difficult times as it struggles with this excess milk which desperately needs to achieve a higher value. Capped for so long at 80% of home production, imports have filled the void. We need either to replace these with home produced product or get exporting. We do, of course, rely on the processors and they have to compete in a world market, and in particular, with our near neighbours. The strength of Sterling versus the Euro is working against us and if they are to succeed then we must try and supply them with quality milk at the lowest possible cost. This is a very tall order, but we have the cow to do it.


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