Finally the growing season starts in earnest, as everyone calculates and recalculates their forage requirements for the season, with one eye on replenishing empty silage bunkers. The first crops have recovered better than expected and can be considered reasonable. Heading dates seem to have been affected by the cold early weather, allowing us to delay cutting dates by up to two weeks.
Spring calvers have peaked to two litres a cow a day lower than budget, due to a mix of concentrate and bales of silage that could have featured on the Antiques Roadshow. The good news, however, is that they are holding their production and the eventual flush of grass arrived to coordinate with the beginning of the breeding season. Approximately 99% of cows were served in the first four weeks and repeat rates auger well for a really busy February next year.
We are reviewing our use of IT on the farm. We regularly use email to communicate between units and also with key staff using smartphones, but are now focusing on how we collate, analyse and use the vast amount of data generated from milk records, parlour interfaces, heat detection aids and other sources. One of the concepts we intend to trial is the weighing of cows as a way of measuring body condition. I am all for passive collection of useful data.
This month, I intend to travel to the southern hemisphere to study Wagyu beef cattle and their ability to finish off grass. As suckler cow numbers decrease I am sure there will be a greater focus on beef from the dairy herd. If we can’t give the customer conformation, let’s at least try to give them good eating quality.
Will Prichard manages the family’s 1,250 cows and followers on four sites in north Pembrokeshire. A grassland and block calving enthusiast, he operates two spring and two autumn calving herds and also breeds and sells Wagyu beef