Marshall Taylor rents a 121ha (300-acre) farm near Taunton, Somerset. He carries 150 Holstein Friesian cows and followers, and takes sheep on winter keep. He grows 28ha (70 acres) of forage maize.
WHAT a surprise to open the post after a long weekend away in Cheshire and find slaughter certificates for our cull cow backlog. But even better was the phone call later in the week from the cattle auction inviting me to send half of them in. Someone in Whitehall definitely does read FW, thank goodness.
We are already compiling a second list of culls and fattening the leaner ones up on stock feed potatoes plus straw in an outdoor paddock whilst dealers are tendering £95.70 for our Friesian bull calves now. I wish I had the space to keep our beef cross calves on rather than get £20-£50 at auction, for I am sure the country will soon be eating beef in normal amounts with the onset of the cold weather.
In the meantime we continue to strip graze calvers on grass, with the stale milkers on rotational set stocking. The far track does have a layer of gunge over it, and I shall have to buy a rotary road brush if this is to be a common practice.
We are not looking for much milk from grass, for the high yielders are only out for a couple of hours in the morning and it complicates herd manager Steves day.
But we are relying on grass to help ensure cows hold to service. I have held back late spring calvers to concentrate on September and February calving. Since we cannot tolerate lower conception rates adding to this delay, these cows will get two drenches of a vitamin and trace element concentrate that Cogents Stewart Scott has recommended. But it is not a habit I want to continue at £3.60 a dose.
However late night vigils, tail paint and even use of a sweeper bull are on the menu this year. I cannot wait to introduce DIY sexed embryo implantation when the time comes to improve even further. The rate of genetic improvement will then rocket, but may also bring disaster if we have based our bloodlines on the wrong genotypes. *
Marshall Taylor will be using tail painting, late night vigils, a sweeper bull – and two drenches – to ensure good herd conception rates.