Geoff Vickers - Farmers Weekly

Subscribe and save

Farmers Weekly from £129
Saving £36
In print AND tablet

SUBSCRIBE NOW

sub_ad_img

Geoff Vickers

3 January 1997

Geoff Vickers

Geoff Vickers manages a 445ha (1100-acre) in-hand estate farm in south Cheshire. The 300-cow dairy unit is the main enterprise, plus a sizeable arable section. The farm grows 69ha (170 acres) of forage maize.

HAVING had one cow with a twisted stomach four weeks ago, which was half expected on 100% maize, we are now including 0.75kg of barley straw in the high yielders mix. We are not caustic treating it and so far so good.

The only problem with feeding maize silage alone is how to feed the low yielders and dry cows. If we try to balance it with protein we are over-feeding, so its back to barley straw to dilute the mix.

The new dry cow mix fed up to three weeks before calving is 10kg maize silage, 6kg barley straw and 0.8kg of a 38% protein concentrate. Close to calving they go onto a pre-calving mix which changes the rumen from store to lactation mode.

Traceability has been a buzz word for a while but there seems no doubt the subject is developing some teeth. Daily milk sampling, which is now practiced across the board, has improved quality assurance.

The next step is declaration of rations. BOCM invited The Milk Group into its plant at Newcastle Under Lyme to show us where it was on the subject.

It showed us how its product tracking system worked with an example load on a farm traced back to which shift produced it and where each raw material was sourced. All raw materials had samples stored for periods of three months in case of a query.

As an industry, I am concerned that we have potential problems on farms, particularly in complete diet situations where feedstuffs are often tipped onto the floor in open sheds.

There is potential for feed which arrived in perfect condition to deteriorate over three or four weeks in such storage conditions. It is no good suppliers holding samples of deliveries if feed is spoiling on farms.

Some of the new codes of practice call for farmers to hold samples of deliveries for three months. I think we would need to sample everything on the farm every Monday morning to ensure everybody is happy. I guess we will all have to install huge vertical bins before were finished.

The questions is, at what point do we tell birds to stop "manuring" the fields?n

With feed quality assurance now demanded by some milk buyers, Geoff Vickers is now wondering at what point well tell birds to stop manuring the fields.

    Read more on:
  • News

Geoff Vickers

8 November 1996

Geoff Vickers

Geoff Vickers manages a 445ha (1100-acre) in-hand estate farm in south Cheshire. The 300-cow dairy unit is the main enterprise, plus a sizeable arable section. The farm grows 69ha (170 acres) of forage maize.

MAIZE harvest started yesterday having put it back twice due to the mild conditions.

Although the grain has been bullet hard for a few weeks, the rest of the crop is still quite lush, and it is only just ready really. The Claas forage harvester is a remarkable machine and is cracking all the hard grain perfectly. A few years ago we would have been ill equipped for this years conditions. The contracting professionals have reacted without hesitation at investing in such equipment as the industry changes. Yield looks good from the first 30 acres.

I have decided to try some of the Potato Feed Capping sold by James & Son. We are going to cover our large outside clamp with it. Usually we put our maize in the covered clamps, which discourages the birds to some extent. The potato material comes as a porridge consistency and is pumped on to the top of the clamp without a sheet. We have to form a surface as if it was a 1ft deep swimming pool with the sides sheeted and tyred as usual. This is all booked for Tuesday. It will be nice not having to throw tyres on to the whole clamp. The potato feed is 16% crude protein and 35% starch, so will all mix in well with the diet.

I will be glad when we get some maize into the diet, as we still seem to be struggling to get performance from the fermented whole-crop. In finalising next years cropping programme the other day I kicked the planned whole-crop out and replaced it with more maize.

We are having a full-scale look at herd fertility again, as we are still not satisfied that we have got to the bottom of the problem. It seems to be spread across the whole farm. Two weeks ago we pregnancy-tested 40 heifers and only 20 were definitely in-calf. Not many years ago we would put 40 heifers out with the bull, not think of pregnancy-testing them, and reliably have 38 calving over six weeks.

I am beginning to believe that the reduced fallout from the atmosphere is causing an imbalance in trace elements or alternatively a lock-up of copper. We have taken samples of fresh grass and grass silage, fresh maize and will test the maize silage when ready. You cannot test for sulphur by soil test, only by plant tissue. Talking to the vet and fellow farmers it seems to me that the lighter the land the greater the problem.n

Geoff Vickers will be glad to get some maize into the milkers diet – he is struggling to get performance from the fermented whole-crop forage.

    Read more on:
  • News

Geoff Vickers

29 March 1996

Geoff Vickers

THIS morning the news is dominated by the latest BSE evidence. The announcement on Wednesday was supposed to allay public concerns. The wording seems to be that there is a slight possibility of a link to CJD rather than a strong possibility that there is not.

As I write, the ban on British beef spreads ever wider with New Zealand and Singapore the latest countries. The Consumers Asso-ciation has advised the public to avoid eating beef if they want to reduce their risk to exposure.

It is difficult this early to react constructively when our livelihood is threatened. It is particularly hard for the pure beef herd which has not had a BSE problem. The Irish solution seemed to have some logic with a controlled slaughter campaign where herds which had infection removed all cows over five years of age. The idea of slaughtering all the national breeding herd is unthinkable. By the time you read this hopefully a constructive way forward will have been decided. We have taken five calves to market this morning three of which are Hereford crosses. They are just right and will not improve by keeping so we will take our chance in the ring.

The end of the milk year is looming with the usual hype on the year-end position creating plenty of speculation. Anyone relying on a threshold from their buyer must be in cloud cuckoo land. Anyone with unused quota must be actively trading at the moment with the margin between unused and used well over 20p. We have swapped our surplus quota with agent Wright Manley and made 26.5p which seems crazy. If we have our arithmetic right we will now be within one day of quota.

Our farmer-owned milk company the Milk Group has confirmed prices for next year which look very competitive. It looks as if our quality will achieve in excess of 26.4p net. It is clear that a number of producers who have been at the bottom of the market for 12 months are looking to move. I do hope they will look ahead at the need for some producer strength long-term. To my mind directly committing to a buyer gives the buyer control of the milk. Once they have control of the milk, they have control of the price. That is when you will hear talk of "these prices are too high". For the good of our industry, join a strong producer group that represents your interests in the market and in the politics of the industry. &#42

For the good of the dairy industry, those seeking to change milk contracts should look ahead at the need for producer strength long term. Committing to the buyer gives the buyer control of the milk.

    Read more on:
  • News

Geoff Vickers

8 December 1995

Geoff Vickers

LIFE is settling down to the winter routine even though the weather continues in a very mild mood.

We have really seen little rainfall compared to both the north or south. Field work finished off with some 33 acres of Soisson wheat following maize. The pheasants and crows have made a huge effort to ensure the plant count is not too high but the increased seed rate on this last field looks to have tired them out. All autumn crops have gone in well and look terrific.

I have been finalising next years budgets which look promising with milk price nicely up and cereals the same. Following some re-organisation of land on the estate, we have lost some 30 acres to one of the tenants. This was basically part of the arable section and the dilemma is how to keep the cereal area up and yet maximise cow performance. Stocking rate is 2.39 LU/ha – pretty tight for some of our light and hilly land.

The cows are milking very well with the highest yielder being a fourth calved Thamesdale Triumphant doing 55 litres/day. Complete diet feeding really shows up the passengers with some cows in the same group on the same ration only running in the mid-20s. The Dutch heifers have all calved and are mainly milking well. The highest £80 PIN animal is a big disappointment and is only giving 26 litres/day. Our own heifers are all averaging just over 30. I would like to see them doing a bit more. We are playing around with the ration and the groups to hopefully give them a better go.

Already breeding has started again. We have committed ourselves to the Duke of Westminsters Cogent bull testing scheme. We are only to use the test bulls on first calf heifers which seems a sensible way to reduce the variables. They have sent us 40 straws so far which we are well into. Some more are on the way. I am most impressed with the principles and objectives of the Cogent Scheme. Tim Heywood has explained to me that if they can co-ordinate all the best parts of the fragmented world wide bull testing schemes into a single clearly defined programme, we can have a system which is world beating in the future. With Tims enthusiasm and the financial commitment of Grosvenor Holdings behind it, it is one of the most exciting projects to come to our way for years. &#42

Its time to think about next years calf crop at Peckforton Home Farm. Geoff Vickers has joined the Duke of Westminsters Cogent bull testing scheme.

    Read more on:
  • News

Geoff Vickers

30 June 1995

Geoff Vickers

Geoff Vickers manages a 445ha (1100-acre) in-hand estate farm in south Cheshire. The 300-cow dairy unit is the main enterprise, plus a sizeable arable section. The farm grows 69ha (170 acres) of forage maize.

I WAS planning on starting second cut on June 19, as the crops have really enjoyed the cold damp weather. It will only be five weeks since first cut but overall quantity looks greater with potentially excellent quality.

Our adviser, David Hughes carries a garlic crusher and indicator paper in his pocket at this time of year, so when he called in today we ran round and tested a few fields for nitrogen levels. They were almost all about 500 parts a million, which is fairly high and potentially a cause of poor fermentation in bad weather.

If next weeks forecast is dry, we will get going and try for a two-day wilt. If wet we will wait a week, as the grass is still young, but then go the week after Cheshire Show and if still wet we will get the acid on. I havent thought which one yet.

Milk is still flowing freely from the cows with very steady production for the past six weeks. Our Milkminder Prediction has us falling steadily down the graph all through June but just now we are wandering straight across the sheet and are about 600 litres a day ahead of expectation. The same feeding regime as last month continues with over half the herd lying out on just 17 acres. The spring calvers are still in and are really motoring. Despite the seasonality adjustment in The Milk Group contract, we managed an MOC of £1330 a cow in May.

We have had some excellent pregnancy diagnosis results lately, so the breeding board looks much tidier. I still have not received the results for the copper tests taken by "Trouw Nutrition" (I got into trouble last month calling them BP Nutrition) but had a phone call from Alan McCubbin this morning.

Copper is OK but selenium is low, which could contribute to "lock up" of copper. HST Feeds, our feedstuff supplier, tested the fresh grass and first-cut silage and their result shows average copper but high Molybdenum and very high sulphur in the fresh grass. We will run some more samples because I think sampling can be so far out sometimes.

The cold weather has really held back our maize. It has allowed rabbits, pheasants and weeds to really have their way up to now. I hope the roots are going down while there is nothing going on top. Ten days hot weather would put things right all round. &#42

    Read more on:
  • News

Geoff Vickers

5 May 1995

Geoff Vickers

Geoff Vickers manages a 445ha (1100-acre) in-hand estate farm in south Cheshire. The 300-cow dairy unit is the main enterprise, plus a sizeable arable section. The farm grows 69ha (170 acres) of forage maize.

I HAVE never seen so much maize sown in Cheshire so early. The ideal conditions prior to Easter tempted anyone who was not still struggling with slurry removal to get going.

Our other arable crops kept us busy for a while but maize planting was due to commence on 20 April.

The maize land is in the valley between the two Castles, and also carries the Sandstone Trail footpath. I am all for sharing the pleasures of the countryside with our cousins from the cities. But the number of folks crossing this part of the farm can climb to a thousand people a day in the summer.

As we cannot reinstate the footpath fast enough to keep people happy, we have decided to plough this land in separate blocks this year. If we do not, the path is reformed by the public while we are ploughing and ends up all over the place.

It is disappointing that a minority insist on letting their dogs loose while a further minority damage the crop by taking corn cobs away. The majority are excellent and seem to take great pleasure from their trip out here.

Zero grazing of the Italian ryegrass is going well. The dry weather has suited travelling but the cold slowed growth right down.

Our Kidd feeder gave us some tears with serious problems which had not shown while delivering the young stock silage all winter. Getting the parts was far from easy.

Last week Muller Dairies (one of our Milk Group customers) brought a party of dairy farmers from the eastern part of Germany. They were visiting the factory and some local farms, with the smallest producer running 600 cows, and some up to 2000.

After they had gone, I began to worry that they may start using our ideas and then start competing with us. I suppose they are in the EU so no problem. But we must not be so open with visitors from outside the EU. &#42

    Read more on:
  • News
blog comments powered by Disqus