Johnjo Roberts in a field with dairy cows© Lindsay Walker

The countdown to calving suddenly feels as if it is accelerating fast now Christmas and New Year’s Day have been and gone.

To-do lists have been written and rewritten each time a tinge of apprehension creeps in.

Along with the repetitive list-making, I find myself counting and recounting bales left on the wintering ground and working out how many days we have left before walking the cows home.

See also: Autumn or spring block calving – which is best?

Christmas Day break

The festive period allowed us to put the farms on to a 10-day weekend routine, allowing the team to get plenty of time away.

I was particularly grateful to the team at home who insisted on working on Christmas Day, which enabled me to watch the girls’ reaction to Father Christmas dropping by. 

It’s the first time I haven’t fed animals on Christmas Day since I can remember; it was much appreciated and repaid when I worked Boxing Day.

Once the cows return we will walk them through the parlour once or twice each week to draft springing cows into a calving group. We take this opportunity to teat spray the cows and put them through the foot-bath.

New pasteuriser

Calf sheds will be set up over the next two weeks and calf feeders disinfected. We will deep clean the parlour with new liners and a trial run of the pasteuriser. 

The pasteuriser is a key piece of our calf-rearing equipment. All of the colostrum and whole milk passes through the 500-litre tank before being fed to the calves.

This offers a good all-round disease control measure and helps form part of the farm’s Johne’s control plan.

Michael Gove offered some assurance over Common Agricultural Policy payments until circa 2024 this month. If this is the case, it offers businesses time they will desperately need to adapt to change.

However, it would take a very short memory to forget how Mr Gove can alter his position and any proposal would have to be put before parliament.

It may also need to navigate its way through a general election, so I suspect there are a number of changes to come yet, with one eventual outcome – an end to Basic Payments.


Johnjo Roberts converted his family’s 250ha beef and sheep farm on Anglesey to an 800-head spring-block calving dairy in 2014. Maximising grazed grass and good milk solids are priorities.