ONE problem with these articles is being required to write them two weeks before publication. So last month when I mentioned the milk link price, it came as a surprise to receive the letter that was the PR disaster of a 0.5p a litre cut.

It has since been dressed up as an increase in members’ capital contributions alongside a 0.25p a litre cut in price. Now other milk buyers are lining up to cut their prices. It is a further knock to a sector of our industry with little confidence at grassroots level.

Will dairying go the same way as the pig industry? There are lots of things we producers will continue doing for little or no return, but 5am, seven days a week becomes a lot less attractive when an SFP appears for doing nothing.

Anyway, charging into the future with blind optimism has seen four heifer calves born for every three bulls – a most welcome statistic. Some bulling heifers too young to serve last autumn are now aged 18-21 months and running with a bull.

Despite being housed in cubicles next to the dairy, it seemed an easier option than AI. With nearly all cows served to Holstein bulls, we will have enough replacements. Heifers born last autumn will join them in a couple of weeks and calve in Sept 2005.

A welcome spell of dry weather has allowed cereal drilling and autumn spraying to be completed. Cows have also been out for a couple of hours each day. They are on a full winter ration and are eating just as much when turned out, but it cleans their feet up.

Our biggest problem with lameness is digital dermatitis and slurry heel. The only way to keep this in check is with a footbath four or five times a week.

This problem is compounded by the automatic scraper system, which infuriates me by running quite happily every two hours throughout the day, but manages to trip out most nights.