Kevin Daniel has a mixed
lowland holding near
Launceston, Cornwall. The
65ha (160 acres) farm and
20ha (50 acres) of rented
ground supports 70
Simmental cross suckler
cows, 380 Border Leicester
cross Suffolk ewes and has
28ha (70 acres) of arable
WEBBED feet are still the order of the day at Trebursye, with Novembers rainfall continuing in the same way as October – non-stop.
Living on top of a hill we do not experience any flooding, but fields are still saturated and have water standing in some places. Seed corn remains in the shed and it looks inevitable that many lambs will need to be housed and fed intensively.
The few lambs marketed recently have been sold to our local abattoir, which now trades as Premier Lamb after joining forces with St Merryn Meat.
Unfortunately, along with the new name came a new dressing specification, moving away from MLC standard to a new company spec, removing kidney and channel fat, which can mean up to 0.5kg of carcass weight loss.
It becomes increasingly confusing to the producer to compare abattoir pricing when there is no standard dressing specification throughout the industry. We cannot assume that the best price a kg will give the maximum return.
The wet, stormy weather, although not perfect for finishing lambs outside, has proved ideal for housed cattle with plenty of air movement inside the sheds. We have had only one case of pneumonia, which was promptly treated with a long-acting antibiotic. All calves are fully weaned and settled on to full winter rations.
Cows have dried off quickly this winter without any mastitis. This confirms my suspicions that cows have not milked so well this year and explains why calves are on average 16kg lighter at weaning. I feel that a shortage of silage and delayed turnout last spring has resulted in lower milk yield. Suckler cows are no different from dairy cows in that they need adequate nutrition in early lactation to achieve full potential.
The table shows our silage analysis results for this years crop. First cut was harvested from mainly Italian ryegrass leys in perfect weather, but really needed cutting a week earlier, which would have improved the energy levels. A few weeks later we cut 43 acres of rented grass keep and although the aim was always to cut at a mature stage, two weeks of wet weather delayed harvesting and turned an anticipated 10 ME crop into a 9ME crop. Six weeks after first cut, a second cut was taken between the showers from the same area. This has produced a good silage, but its low dry matter is far from ideal for the ewes. *
Date of cutting
May 18 June 15 June 30
Dry matter% 26.2 26.4 18.6
ME 10.6 9.1 10.9
CP% 18.1 13.4 15.6
D-value 66 57 68
John Glover currently milks
65 cows plus followers on a
40ha (100-acre) county
council holding near
having recently moved from
another 20ha (51-acre)
county council farm
MUD, mud glorious mud, is what we have in the field outside our kitchen window.
This is where the dry cows come to feed at a ring feeder. The feeder is on hard standing, but the ground around it is wet and muddy and as the cows like to lie down around the ring, they look in a sorry state. So much so, Granny was overheard to say: "Are the cows all right or are you going to wash them down with a hosepipe to clean them up?"
The new building we have been waiting so long for will be finished today, so at last we can think about bringing some more stock indoors; the only stock in at the moment are the milking cows and some young calves.
We are also getting near the main calving time of December and January. The December calvers are all dry and we are able to bring a small group in to feed pre-calving, but the rest must stay out. January calvers are due for drying off, but because we dont want to turn them out, a few will only be dry for six weeks. A weeks work should see stock in the new building giving us space to dry some cows off.
We have also taken out the last cubicles and are waiting for some made-to-measure feed barriers to convert the building for youngstock housing. We hoped to have the new building and other building conversions finished well in time for Christmas. Although we have already had our first Christmas card, the idea is that youngstock could still go in and out of the building and clean up the grass until then.
Even though we are only about a mile-and-a-half from the old farm as the crow flies, the ground here is not as light. Away from the buildings and excavations for drains and foundations, there is a pocket of clay making gateways wet. So perhaps we cannot do things the way we used to. *
Louis Baugh and his wife
farm 186ha (460 acres) at
Neatishead Hall and 91ha
(225 acres) at Beech Farm
near Norwich in Norfolk.
About 100 autumn calving
Holstein Friesian cows and
followers are grazed on
Broads ESA marshes with
forage from Italian ryegrass
LIKE elsewhere, the past month has been wet and has scotched any ideas of extended grazing.
We have some December calving heifers mopping up permanent pastures, as we do not like leaving too much growth behind in the autumn. Frost and high water levels give excessive winter kill and slow spring grass growth.
Heifers appeared content, but I winced at the level of poaching. However, we have persisted, deciding the poaching to be the lesser evil. Our harrow and roll will be busy in spring.
Calving was going well until two successive heifers produced well formed dead calves, alarm bells rang about the possible causes. Thankfully, the next three calvings were trouble free. But it will be discussed at the quarterly management meeting with our vet.
The speed of change within the industry is breathtaking. The new minister is someone who will meet, listen and act for farmers; previously untouchable supermarkets are being forced on to the back foot and are having to justify their practices, with the OFT taking an interest. If money disappearing from your accounts did not point to crisis then the television said it, as both Sunday lunchtime political programmes debated it recently.
Now I know where the money has gone. The Press recently reported increased profit and market share for Dairy Crest created by higher expenditure on advertising and retaining extra margin from lower priced raw product. That is being repeated in other dairy companies, who have the upper hand on milk pricing.
To shift the balance will require radical restructuring in how we market milk. Regional co-ops were given the thumbs down pre-vesting day, but the NFU/RABDF initiative to pull producers together to create a critical mass for leverage in negotiations must be considered.
I was disappointed at the response at a recent producers meeting, seeing a lack of interest in restructuring or indeed the need for change. Surely we must look beyond the short term.
Back to the weather. The wet has given way to a cold snap and a Mistle thrush has taken up its usual possessive residence in the berried holly tree by the back door, somewhat earlier than usual. Is this a blip or a sign of a hard winter to come? *
John Martin farms in
partnership with his parents
on the Ards Peninsula 15
miles south of Belfast. The
65ha (160-acre) Gordonall
farm and 16ha (40 acres) of
rented land carry 400 Suffolk
x Cheviot ewes, a small flock
of Suffolks and 40 spring
calving sucklers. About 20ha
(50 acres) of barley is grown
for feed and for sale
WATER, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink – that quotation has been ringing in my ears in recent days.
It seemed rather ironic that in the middle of all the rain, our water system sprung a leak. The first we knew was when we received a half-yearly water bill for about four times the normal amount. Much digging followed to uncover pipes and fit stop valves. After numerous attempts we narrowed the problem down to a 12ft stretch of pipe, under the main lane to the farm.
The only option was to open the road and replace the pipe, only this time we put it through some ducting so it can be replaced more easily in future. Forgetting about the expense of pipe, water fittings, digger hire and about three days of our time, some good did come from the episode. We now have stop valves on every water line across the farm, so it will be easier to isolate any future problems.
While much of the country was awash, we escaped relatively unscathed, although much of our land was submerged briefly. Being so close to the sea, tidal times greatly affect the rate of drainage, but most standing water had disappeared within 48 hours.
We were fortunate to get our winter barley sown, while the poor conditions caught many others out. Slugs could only be hit by spreading bait with an ATV, as ground conditions prevented the use of anything heavier.
Wet weather has not encouraged grass growth this autumn, so we find ourselves a bit tight for sheep grazing. The 170 early lambers were housed on Nov 7 after the building had been washed out and disinfected. Ewes were crutched a couple of days later in preparation for lambing, but concentrates were not introduced to the 50 mid-December lambers until Oct 20, as they are all in good shape. March lambers are mostly marked now and we will keep them on the best grass for the next month.
Cattle have settled well since weaning and are starting to thrive. Some of the cows lost a bit of flesh, so they are getting a little extra silage to build them up.
Silage quality is good, however, I notice an odd dark spot. I am concerned that rain during second cut may have resulted in some soil contamination, so we will have to pick the silage fed to ewes more carefully than usual.
Whole-farm soil sampling, carried out in the name of integrated crop management, produced no big surprises. Phosphate and potash levels only need to be maintained in most fields, but pH was a little low in some places, particularly on rented land. *