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Marshall Taylor

22 November 1996

Marshall Taylor

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. &#42

Marshall Taylor will be using tail painting, late night vigils, a sweeper bull – and two drenches – to ensure good herd conception rates.

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Marshall Taylor

27 September 1996

Marshall Taylor

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.

"STUFF the EU" said the message on the car in front as I drove towards Stoneleigh for the European Dairy Event. Many of the people there would have put it even stronger.

But Richard Salisbury, directing this world-class event with dignified efficiency thought that most farmers just wanted desperately to get on with whatever was necessary to reopen trade with Europe.

My view is that trade is one thing but the current fiasco is a taste of a Germanic United States of Europe which will ultimately end in tears as it did after the Romans and Emperor Charl-magne.

It was a relief to read the next morning that the European Scientific Veterinary Committee is to look at the Oxford evidence for curtailing the cull. But that will not compensate me for the derisory £25-£58 a head we have been getting for Limousin calves in Taunton Auction Mart against £180 last year, the confused state of our milk quota situation and the damage to both profit and loss account and balance sheet over culls and feed.

Food for thought from the show was ADASs John Summers reassurance that the industry is well structured but should be better costed; Norman Cowards (Midland Bank) confidence that well structured farms will remain very profitable and Steve Amies (Genus) warning that we are still six to seven years behind the rest of the world on cattle genetics.

I did not hear Bill Madders (COPA) explain how producers are to achieve an investment in profitable processing. I sold my Dairy Crest shares immediately the Residual Bodys throw-away discount was revealed. There seemed no sense in holding stock in what is largely a commodity processor suffering from high milk prices, with little milk field of its own and no way of guaranteeing farmer control.

The best moments were enjoying Devon pioneer of kaleage, Ron Pateys enthusiasm for giving the cow what she loves to eat and the Cogent teams drive to provide an alternative answer to retarded dairy genetics. I only hope that the Duke of Westminster can maintain the course set.

I have already placed my second years semen order. Whilst progeny test semen averaging £73 PIN cost me £7.40 from several companies in 1994 I will now pay £5 for Cogent straws with a PIN average of £115, which does allow for the odd duff bull.

The most fascinating moment was watching the Lely Astronaut automatic milking machine massage teats lunge into position. If it did that to me I think Id hit the parlour ceiling but if it saved me getting up at 5.30am I wonder if the cows could be persuaded to just stand there and think of England?

We are now involved in detailed planning to rehouse the herd so that we can take advantage of all these new ideas, leaving the landlords to attend to the slurry end of it. &#42

Marshall Taylor has sold his Dairy Crest shares, but otherwise enjoyed his visit to last weeks European Dairy Event at Stoneleigh.

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Marshall Taylor

12 April 1996

Marshall Taylor

BRITISH cattle are to be culled more effectively than humans were from the Black Death of 1348, which claimed a quarter of Europes inhabitants and helped to end the feudal system. It is impossible as yet to measure the cost to individual farms or the extend it will damage the industry and those who work in allied trades. But life is not going to be the same again.

Some Europeans are putting the boot in by trying to exclude clean meat from our continental markets and pressing for a more rigorous cull so adding to the agony we shall suffer. Do our Euro-partners want the farmers put down too? That is the dangerous knife edge some are being brought to in the industrys despair. But I can only hope my herd, averaging 1.85 cases a year since 1988, will be allowed a phased cull. Fortunately, most of this farm qualifies for arable area aid so surplus acres can be cropped, unlike many west country farms.

My mind has flown over all the possible scenarios for survival. These range from getting out of milk permanently to rebuilding on a different calving regime. I have cancelled desperate measures to sow linseed everywhere. Instead, we shall concentrate on maximum milk from grass this season and aim for lower silage reserves, expecting alternative forages to be cheap and milk prices higher, and milk quota cheap and heifers priceless.

The cows started the month on Italian ryegrass, which helps. The autumn will be soon enough to get the plough out and I count my blessings that we have plenty of heifer growing on.

I am trying desperately not to think of John Gummers lethargic reaction back in 1988. The too-slow funding of research, the farmers slipping odd cows into the food chain due to 50% shortfalls in compensation, the cross-contamination in feed lorries until recently, and Dairy Crests options now. It was a Tory MP who once said "Dont rely on the politicians because they will only drop you in it". Well, Brussels and London have excelled themselves this time while the feed firms keep their heads down. Their cake will have to be labelled with ingredient percentages if they want me to buy it in the future.

My worst case scenario will be all arable. A three-year rotation of winter wheat, winter barley and spring oilseed rape looks simple, though, with less demand for feed wheat, prices will not be high. The compensation money would have to be invested off-farm while the situation settles down, as it surely will one day, leaving us to lick our wounds and start afresh.n

Marshall Taylor has considered a range of scenarios for survival if he has to slaughter some or all of his herd. These range from getting out of milk to rebuilding the herd with a different calving regime.

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Marshall Taylor

19 January 1996

Marshall Taylor

I REMEMBER the vet on the AI training course telling us that sex was something he reserved for high days and holidays due to his declining years.

Fortunately it did not prove to be an infectious condition, since my cows have never been so fecund as this year. No doubt the autumn grass released a lot of pent up potential, which helped, together with a kg a day of pre-calver rolls followed by ad lib maize silage and minerals after calving.

I have never seen the herd respond so effectively, starting the new year with an extra 5 litres a day a cow, recouping the drought damage and providing an opportunity to concentrate the calving pattern into September/October, which suits this dry farm. MD Foods is helping by not operating a seasonality payment system, yet.

The focus is a nocturnal creep around the herd at midnight, probably the greatest contribution to heat detection, though causing no little matrimonial stress. I inherited the reputation of Dianas grandfather for never going to bed on the same day that I arise and at last I have a legitimate excuse. But, like the vet, not a habit I can maintain for too long.

The latest pd scanning session at 30 days after the service found three negatives in 23 cows, with plenty of time to shoot one and treat two. But one-third of 20 out-wintered heifers proved empty. They have been short of energy and the negative ones are now being housed on extra rations.

Both cows and heifers are all being put to a very wide spread of Cogent young bulls with no high-priced semen being used at all. These young bulls have a genetic potential very superior to the current stock, offering far better odds than the National Lottery. We shall monitor the results closely and follow a strict culling policy in three years time.

We are adjusting production patterns to the potential of the farm so that we can maintain margins when prices fall in the future. The strip grazing of catch crops this winter has been very successful in showing how to extend the grazing period. The stale milkers have just started (mid-January) to tackle the kale after producing four litres a day off 12sq m of forage rape through December. Moving the fence on a narrow front using plastic posts and a reel at each end is not an unpleasant chore and the herd wanders back unattended after a couple of hours to cleaned cubicles and topped-up ring feeders. &#42

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Marshall Taylor

17 January 1996

Marshall Taylor

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 way to start the new year! The sharp cold snap bit into the whole farm, bringing our extended grazing experiment to a sudden end for the autumn calvers.

One day I was worrying about poaching the pastures and the next day the mud was cast like iron and all the drinking troughs were sealed with 6in of ice. Worse followed when the frost got through the chinks in the lagging on pipes within the building. The following days were spent rushing around with a hose pipe and milk churns of water which brought back memories of other bad winters.

Now all we need is the forecast heavy snow to round the winter off. But the cows havent minded a bit, although we still turn the stale milkers out for a couple of hours to make the yard work easier.

The dry cows and in-calf heifers are enjoying polishing off the last of the grass now that the field troughs are running again, embalmed in a steamy mix of straw and manure. That just leaves the tanker driver and me to worry about all that snow since we farm on the top of a 1:6 hill but she looks capable of driving up anything.

The winter grazing has been a success. So far we have been able to reduce concentrate consumption from 0.24kg/litre to 0.20kg/ litre and improve yields by 350 litres a cow, whilst fertility has never been better. But I have been particularly generous with mineral supplements, adding £4/t to the cost of straights since the cows receive none via compounds. MOC is running at 23.74p/litre and we are bang on quota profile.

The lessons to apply for 1997 are to install many more gateways to avoid the mud; apply an extra late dressing of nitrogen and be much more disciplined with a back fence. The target should then be 4000 litres off forage, mostly grazed, but on a drought-prone soil type there is a big element of risk involved. We have yet to decide how to buffer for this, although I am inclined to opt for straw plus maize gluten feed, plus a block of kale. &#42

Marshall Taylors grazing lessons for 1997 are to install more gateways, apply extra late nitrogen and be much more disciplined with back fencing.

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