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Miles Saunders

18 January 2002

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. Main enterprises on

his 370ha (915-acre) Oxon

farm are 250 milking cows

and followers, 80 beef

cattle and 200 Mule ewes.

Organic wheat and beans

are also grown

AS THE years go by, some things go round in circles. One of those is the return of a Hereford bull to the farm.

After waiting three months for a movement licence, the young bull arrived, quite content, in the livestock trailer.

He was welcomed by 50 heifers, most of which should already be in calf. He spent the following day resting.

I have returned to Herefords because I am conscious organic standards are tightening and I need beef x cattle that will finish well off grass and silage, rather than expensive concentrate costing more than £200/t.

The bull has been introduced to heifers slightly earlier than usual, because our heifer conception rate has been poor. I think this is because semen has not kept its potency during the time from thawing to insemination.

Natural service will also save time, as we are currently a stockman short, having reshuffled staff. The relief herdsman has now progressed to herdsman and I am now looking for a competent relief herdsman/stockman/tractor driver.

The new herdsman has taken to his new job with enthusiasm. The dairy has had a spring clean and Ive been left with a problem of insufficient bulk tank space as daily milk production has increased to 6000 litres.

Silage stocks are somewhat limited this year. I will eke out forage by zero grazing some grass later in spring. One advantage of not having sheep on the farm is that I should have plenty of grass ready for cutting much earlier than usual.

As this is my last Farmer Focus article, I would like to thank all readers of my monthly articles. I have been writing for four years and thought it would be interesting to compare todays happenings with January four years ago.

Then, we were struggling with temperatures of -9C – similar to this year. We were producing 6100 litres/cow and are now at 7000 litres.

Diet remains similar, consisting of predominately grass clover silage with organic wheat and organic beans. I no longer need to worry about sheep scanning as only 11 remain on the farm. &#42

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Miles Saunders

21 December 2001

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. Main enterprises on

his 370ha (915-acre) Oxon

farm are 250 milking cows

and followers, 80 beef cattle

and 200 Mule ewes. Wheat

and beans are also grown

ALL stock is now in buildings. The last dry cows came in at the end of the first week in December. This is almost unheard of on the farm.

Although there is still plenty of grass to eat, their feet were starting to poach fields. By keeping dry cows out, I reckon we have saved 80t silage and 30 big straw bales.

I have vaccinated all dairy stock against leptospirosis for the first time in eight years. Following milk samples and blood tests, we felt it would be worthwhile financially and also address a staff health and safety issue. Although abortions and sudden milk loss are not a problem, I was concerned about cows losing early pregnancies.

I am sad to be losing my herdsman, a rather happy sole and good at his job. He is leaving for a job in New Zealand. I am sure the early mornings will be bright with humour in the south island when he arrives.

I was rather pleased when the assistant herdsman/stockman asked if he could take on the position. It is good to know capabilities of staff before you appoint them. I am sure the dairy herd will continue moving forward with a certain amount of continuity.

The present herdsman finishes on Christmas Day. Then we will be down to three full-time employees. I shall be looking to take on an experienced stockman/relief milker/summer tractor driver in the New Year.

Since calvers have been in, their intakes have been allowed to creep up. This has resulted in a few cases of milk fever. I will cut down silage intake and increase straw. I can usually go through a year by only buying one box of calcium, but not this year as I am already into the second box.

Organic milk production is currently in an over supply situation following conversion of a large number of producers. This will be overcome by good marketing and producers sticking together when things get tough. I have confidence that Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative are working hard to achieve the goal of equilibrium between supply and demand. &#42

Milk fever has been a problem on Miles Saunders farm recently and he is already into his second box of calcium and is changing the diet.

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Miles Saunders

26 October 2001

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. Main enterprises on

his 370ha (915-acre) Oxon

farm are 250 milking cows

and followers, 80 beef cattle

and 200 Mule ewes. Wheat

and beans are also grown

MAKING the farm simpler to manage and hopefully more efficient, is my latest venture. The first thing I have done is sell the sheep.

I was finding a flock of 180 ewes took too much time to manage with not enough reward. I was also fearful of proposed tagging and paperwork legislation that may become a burden in the coming months.

I was impressed by the help the local police gave, when needing to stop the traffic on a main A road near the holding, to allow a lorry and drag to reverse into an awkward gateway to load ewes. Before loading, the sheep had the last laugh, making sure they ran through a three-wire electric fence creating a tangle.

I have sold 16 cows on the over-30-month-scheme. I prepared for the 5.30am loading time the previous day, arming myself with licence, passports, and checking ear tag numbers closely before going out for the evening.

Returning at 11pm, I had a final check of the licence only to discover that I needed to clip hair off tails and put an arrow on the left hind rump. So my fiancé and I started clipping at 11.30pm.

I would like the ministry official who thought this would be a good idea to explain himself to the livestock industry and wonder whether he has any plans for sheep. Thank heavens I will not need to worry about that any more.

This autumn weather has been ideal for cows and they have been out during the day with outdoor access at night and the main feed available. Only needing to scrape out once a day saves time – we also save one mixer wagon session.

Bulling heifers are in now, with the aim of keeping the growth rate at 0.7kg/day, which should help fertility.

The other benefit of good weather is that land work has progressed well with virtually no days lost to rain. In fact leys being ploughed up are hard and taking a lot of breaking down. Most of our wheat is now planted and some beans are also in the ground. &#42

Good-bye sheep…Returns from Miles Saunders 180 ewes no longer justify the hassle of keeping them, so he is concentrating on dairying in future.

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Miles Saunders

28 September 2001

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. Main enterprises on

his 370ha (915 acre) Oxon

farm are 250 milking cows

and followers, 80 beef cattle

and 200 Mule ewes. Wheat

and beans are also grown

THE implications of a repeat of the last two autumns weather are constantly on my mind. A recent dilemma was when to mow the remainder of third cut silage. Last year, rain began in mid-September and didnt stop.

I watched weather forecasts like a hawk and there seemed to be a window of opportunity a fortnight ago. Mowers started on Sept 16 with the sun shining and cut headland before rain began. The following day was dry so the remainder of fields were cut ready for pick-up the next day. As I write, it is raining and I am concerned about quality as the sward is 80% red clover and dry matter will be very low.

I have been trying to move store lambs on a long distance licence to Cambs for the last month. As Cambs is in a clean area and we are provisionally free, movements had not been able to take place. But Oxon has now been declared free, so I rang DEFRA to find out whether there were any changes. They decided not to issue any movement licences that week, leaving them for the local authority to do the following week.

Cows are calving well this season, with few assisted births. Out of 70 calvings, there has only been one milk fever case and cows are discharging placentas cleanly after calving, with the exception of a couple that had twins.

Calved cows are buffer fed after morning milking. The ration includes grass silage, wheat whole- crop, organic beans, organic wheat, organic soya and brewers grains. Along with grazed grass, this produces average daily yields of 30 litres. Milk protein is good at 3.5%, but butterfat is struggling at 3.7%.

I have had some concrete grooving done around cow yards. It should be money well spent, as a casualty cow following a fall would be expensive. It will also give cows greater confidence when moving around yards.

I also have a block of land half a mile up the road, which is in serious need of refencing. This will allow me to put dry stock there without having to worry about electric fencing. Using contractors will mean fencing can be done when weather conditions are favourable. &#42

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Miles Saunders

7 May 1999

Splash out for heavier, healthier piglets

PIGLET mortality can be cut and weaning weights increased by using the MIK Thermo Oase warm water bed from Hanco National Pig Supplies.

Used in conjunction with overhead heaters or placed over a floor heating system, the water bed has no running costs, says the company.

The flexible bite-resistant outer cover containing the water produces a soft, warm surface. This encourages the piglets to spend more time lying on the bed, reducing body heat loss.

Research shows that compared with insulated concrete floors, piglets on the Thermo Oase gained 0.83kg more weight to weaning, mortality was down 3% and the frequency of skin lesions decreased, says the company.

Prices start at £34.50 (01432-860518, fax 01432-860815).

Build-yourself bins

A RANGE of self-assembly bins developed by Perry of Oakley should ease bulk storage and handling problems.

The bins have a modular design which allows storage capacity to be increased after purchase, if necessary.

The range of tote bins and intermediate bulk containers is made of galvanised sheet steel and has models with up to 17t storage capacity.

The 1.2 sq m tote bins, which Perry says are its most popular line, have fitted forklift channels and an overall storage capacity of 2t.

Optional extras include dust lids, weather lids, elasticated tarpaulin covers, sight glasses and a lever-operated outlet slide.

Prices start at £389 (01404 891400).

Fabulous addition to Avonmore stud

SFL Fabulous Monet Red is the latest bull to join the Avoncroft stud.

A Momentum son out of SFL Enhancer Shorna Red, he is said to be one of the highest ranked red and white Holstein bulls ever on production. He was progeny tested jointly in the US and Germany.

He offers 1200kg milk with 20.3kg (-0.42%) butterfat and 30kg (-0.12%) protein and has a PIN of £98. Udder width and strong central ligaments are said to be his strongest points.

His semen costs £22 a straw (01527-831481, fax 01527-87978).

Silage treatment raises growth rate

IMPROVE growth and feed conversion rates by treating silage with Herbi-sile, says manufacturer Trouw Nutrition.

Combining high levels of both bacteria and enzymes, the additive is said to produce an efficient fermentation and diminish protein breakdown in the clamp.

Keeping bacteria and enzyme components in separate packs retains maximum effectiveness until the point of use, says Trouw.

Herbi-sile costs £1.25/t of silage treated (01606-561000, fax 01606-41963).

Christian Fox

Christian Fox has taken

over management of 100

cows and followers, on a

200ha (500 acre) mixed

farm in West Sussex, with

150ha (380 acres) of arable

crops. The plan is to

increase profits and lower

costs by producing more

milk from grazed grass

THE weather has been awful. Lots of rain, a brief flurry of snow and howling winds. Grazing conditions have, therefore, been far from ideal, but have paled into insignificance compared with the antics of our animals.

Having been spooked by a hedge-hopping Chinook helicopter, our weanlings flattened the fence and fled into the woods. Im not saying the woods are big, but some occupants are still waiting for the war to end.

Of the 23 fugitives, all but one turned up over the next two or three days. The last was found eight days later. We worked out that they travelled about 10 miles – amazing.

While we recaptured the calves, the cows mounted an uprising, storming our garden at 2am one morning. We quashed this attempted coup before it gained real strength, but they werent done yet. The next night they executed a daring break-out onto Singleton village cricket pitch, a fine example of manicured turf, one of the best kept in Sussex. Formerly, that is.

Despite all this action, cows are grazing well and as we start AI all but four are cycling normally. These have been checked by the vet and will have every chance of getting in calf within the block. All cows and the off-lying heifers – which are being served by a hired bull – have been tail painted.

Grass growth now is well in excess of demand, so we will end up making silage on about 13 acres that have got away from us.

I am hoping to take this soon, to allow maximum recovery time before any potential dry spell in the summer. The average cover is now 2100kg of dry matter a ha, so we are still on target for the time of year.

I have nearly finished setting up mains electric fencing to all grazing areas. It is now quite easy to give a fresh break of grass at each feed. A few extra strategically placed water troughs should finish the job off.

All we will need then are command towers and search lights at the corner of each paddock and we might keep what remains of our tattered local reputation. &#42

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

farm in mid-Wales. The main

holding at Pentre comprises

145ha (360 acres) of grass,

with some short-term grass

lets being taken, and hill

rights extending to 97ha

(240 acres). Stocking is

101 suckler cows, 975

ewes, 230 Beulah Speckled

Face ewe lambs and 35

Welsh Mules

THE figures 32-31 were not just the score in a recent Wales rugby game – sorry to gloat – but also the numbers of ewes and lambs we had in different fields during a recent IACS sheep count.

Having had a BSPS, SCP and area check, I hope well have some peace for a while.

That said, the count was on a sunny day and it all went OK. Soon after, the weather turned and what looked like being an early year with a chance of saving on feed costs has been quite the opposite.

Lambing went well on the whole, although we need to tighten up our management to ensure we have less dry ewes. Ewe lambs have come back from tack, but unfortunately they havent done as well as in the past.

As April comes to a close, we havent been able to sell a lamb yet or try out a recently purchased second hand turning crate for sheep in the hope of creating a one stop shop for drenching, foot-trimming and tailing.

All cattle are still housed at the time of writing, with silage stocks just lasting. Having weaned all calves over seven-months-old and with the recent good trade in Sennybridge market perhaps we should have creep fed them and sold them straight off the cow. Lets hope the trade lasts.

I recently attended a briefing on the new Tir Gofal scheme which looks like being an attractive scheme for the fortunate ones who make the grade. I have not decided whether to go for it yet or not. Its a 10-year scheme with a five year break clause and during these challenging times a lot can happen in just five months, so it will need careful consideration.

I recently attended the National YFC AGM in Bournemouth, and it was good to see the farm minister address us on the Sunday. His predecessor turned down invites in past years, maybe as it has not been held in resorts capable of taking Concorde.

The minister gave a witty and genuine address and it was good to see young farmers having an opportunity to put forward their views first hand. Were determined to survive and make this industry one we can be proud of again, just give us a chance. &#42

Gordon Capstick

Gordon and Mary Capstick

farm 230ha (569 acres), at

Milnthorpe in south Cumbria.

Stocking is 100 suckler

cows, with calves finished

alongside 100 purchased

stores, and 1200 Mule ewes

producing prime lambs.

About 10ha (25 acres) of

barley and 6ha (14 acres) of

soft fruit are also grown.

LAMBING is over, bar for one or two stragglers. We had what could be described as a nice easy time weather-wise.

A lot of good healthy lambs hit the ground. Some lambs didnt end up running, but we had fewer field deaths than in some years. Lets hope they are all wanted and leave a bit of profit, and it doesnt all go into the supermarkets pockets or in abattoir charges.

Early lamb prices are quite encouraging, but lets not forget that these are the most expensive to produce, and prices have no need to dip just because Easter is over. If the multiples want continuity, let them put their money where their mouths are.

Not quite as many cows have calved as normal by now, but I am sure a sudden spate of calvings is just about to happen.

We have had more than half bull calves so far and we have lost two calves through calving – bulls of course. One came backwards, and one which was in the calving box was forgotten about in the heat of lambing and was stuck at its ribs.

We have started selling last years entire bulls. They have weighed between 480 and 520kg live weight and prices have been 5p to 8p/kg better than last year. But they are still far from being profitable. There should be a premium for those reared sympathetically.

The pick-your-own fruit is starting to take on its spring look and we have been planting some replacement strawberries and raspberries.

We would like a better picking season than last year. We are so dependent on the weather for our fortune or misfortune in that enterprise.

By the time you read this, the cows will be out – we hope. We have rarely turned out before the May 12, probably because all those woolly things have eaten the grass. But silage stocks look good and should see us out.

The spring barley is growing well and will need its fertiliser dressing and spraying before too long, but only when my consultant tells me.

Its now time my wife, Mary, opened the dreaded IACS envelope and gets that job over with. Im sure it will be just as easy to understand as usual. &#42

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms with

his parents on an organic,

mixed 370ha (915-acre)

farm in Oxfordshire. Main

enterprises are 200 milking

cows and followers, 190

Mule ewes, 50 beef cross

stores and 70 beef cross

calves. Winter wheat, barley,

oats and beans are grown

for the organic market

IT is nice to have the cows out days, after the long winter. But grass regrowth has been slow in April mainly due to the cold wet weather.

Cows have been kept fairly tight at 0.3 acres/cow first time round and are still getting 5kg DM of silage with concentrate over night. It can be difficult assessing how much silage to give; if the cows havent finished by morning milking there is a lot of shovelling out to do.

I have spent some time analysing cow health care results, some are good and some leave room for improvement. Our results, in cases/100 cows, are; clinical mastitis 15, washouts 1.5, retained cleansings two and milk fevers three. Our rolling average cell count is 200.

But 21.7% of the 95/96 heifer calves born didnt calve for a second lactation, which is disappointing. The 21.7% was made up of 9.3% culls, 9.3% deaths as a calf, and 3.1% lost as casualty animals.

Lameness is not a major problem with only 8% of the herd having their feet seen to.

We have never found it necessary to foot trim the whole herd and only 35% of those lame required antibiotic treatment, the other 65% were treated with stockholm tar, Cowslips or blocks and homeopathic remedies.

Sheep have moved off the hill field that was infested with chickweed, and they have done a good job cleaning it.

Where the sown grass and clover establishment is poor, I will put the Einbock weeder through it and oversow with some more seed. At least the small clover seedlings can get some light now. Once the sward has been grazed or cut once, chickweed no longer seems to be a problem.

May is going to be a hectic month; two of my staff are going away on holiday, silage making is usually in the last week of May, and there is the Oxon YFC Country Fayre – for which I am chairman.

The main aim of the fayre is to give the general public hands-on experience of tractor driving, JCB Fastracs, archery, laser clays and Honda pilots. All we can now hope for is nice weather. I think June may seem quite quiet. &#42

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Miles Saunders

9 April 1999

Dual-purpose trailer right for a bike

ATV-users looking for a dual purpose trailer might be interested in Armstrong & Holmes latest model, a 200kg capacity hydraulically tipped trailer.

The rear door can be hinged at the top for emptying like a conventional tipping trailer or hinged at the bottom to act as a ramp, says the company.

Designed to be pulled by any size of quad bike, the trailer has its own hand-operated hydraulic pump for tipping.

The body is 1.9m long x 1.2m wide and 1.9m high and is carried on a chassis running on 22×11 tyres, says the company.

It costs £950 (01400 261061, fax 01400 262289).

Wipes and towels friendly to skin

PROTECT sensitive skin from rough wipes by using specially formulated and non-contaminating paper products from Sentinel Laboratories.

Made using natural vegetable dyes, removing the need for bleach or whiteners during manufacture, its disposable wipes and towels are more skin friendly, says the company.

Absorbency and strength have been improved using a slow bonding process during manufacture. All products are completely biodegradable, adds Sentinel. Individually priced, towel packs cost £24 for a 1000-sheet pack of wipes measuring 40cm x 40cm (15 inch sq) (01444 484044, fax 01444 484045).

Now a film wrap for your forages

JOHN Deere has added a film wrap for forages to its range of crop packaging which includes netwrap and baler twin.

Manufactured from a three-layer co-extruded brown film for higher puncture and tear resistance, it is available in black and white colours in both 50cm (19.5 inch) x 1800m rolls at £32 each or 75cm (29.5 inch) x 1500m at £40 (01420 545800, fax 01420 549549).

Gordon Capstick

Gordon and Mary Capstick

farm 230ha (569 acres), at

Milnthorpe in south Cumbria.

Stocking is 100 suckler

cows, with calves finished

alongside 100 purchased

stores, and 1200 Mule

ewes producing prime lambs.

About 10ha (25 acres) of

barley and 6ha (14 acres) of

soft fruit are also grown

I OUGHT to start with an introduction to Park House Farm. On this site we have 215 acres of grass and 10 acres of fruit. We also have 129 acres of parkland and another four acres of fruit adjoining our landlords home at Levens Hall near Kendall and 225 acres of land at another estate farm where the house and buildings have been sold.

All land is tenanted or on a farm business tenancy and belongs to the Bagot family of Levens Hall.

As I write, the silly season is about to begin. Around 70 cows and all the sheep are due to produce in the next few weeks. The cows have already started calving and we have two nice bulls and a heifer, so far. Calving cows look quite fit, after what must have been one of the worst summers and back-ends for many years.

We have just weaned the calves from 30 later calving cows and they are getting an extra helping of barley mixture to get some condition back on them.

Stocks of silage, and especially hay, look tight and all the big bales have now gone. When everything is onto clamp silage it seems to disappear like a snowball in a heat wave.

We have been housing sheep and are pleased with the way they have wintered. But they have recieved hay since late December, beet pulp since mid January and are now on full cake rations. There are a few that dont come up to expectations – probably those that should have been culled harder.

I hear some are worried about all the extra lambs that might be born this year. I think we should talk the price up not down. I am a great supporter of the Farmers Ferry and think it will benefit exports more than ever this year.

We started lambing on March 21 and with 900 due to lamb in the first two weeks, its all hands to the pumps. Lambing time is usually arranged to coincide with the Easter holidays, when our two daughters will be home from university for their Easter break – some break – and Mary will not be busy supply teaching.

We also take on one or two extra helpers to maintain 24-hour cover. Permanent staff consists of our son Paul and our man Dave, who has been with us since he came for a weekend job while still at school 16 years ago. &#42

Christian Fox

Christian Fox has taken

over management of 100

cows and followers, on a

200ha (500 acre) mixed

farm in West Sussex, with

150ha (380 acres) of arable

crops. The plan is to

increase profits and lower

costs by producing more

milk from grazed grass

MILKERS have now grazed 60% of the farm which puts us on target to graze the whole farm once by mid April. Grass growth is about 30kg of dry matter/ha a day and our average farm cover is 1900kg DM/ha.

This is a critical time for grass measuring and budgeting as I want to ensure we make the best use of grazing rather than making heaps of relatively expensive and unwanted silage.

The girls are so pleased to be at grass again. They are doing a great job of grazing by day with maize silage at night, running out of food before morning milking. Concentrate is flat rate fed at 5kg a head with 30% in the morning and 70% at night to encourage good grazing.

By the beginning of April they will be out day and night with no maize and only 4kg of concentrates.

Out-wintered yearlings are getting to grips with the former silage fields over the main road. Weanlings are also getting used to grass in their diet this month. The few born in February and March will have barely eaten concentrate at all. Next year, when we are block calving I hope to wean them from calf pencils straight to grass.

It is strange to think that if the weather is non-Arctic over the coming winters, these weanlings may never be housed again. Then it wont just be Anchor that has free-range cows.

I have decided, after consultation with both our vet and my grassland farmer gurus in Wales, to worm calves with long acting avermectin in late June having given them a challenge over the spring. We will worm them again before winter grazing starts.

When you read this I will be on my annual pilgrimage to the ski slopes. Upon my return I will tail paint the cows for pre-mating heat observation, so I can record all heats for four weeks and then sort out any non-cyclers before we start AI.

This is crunch time for the changes we are making. My dedicated detractors suggest that cows held over this long will be difficult to get in calf. We need a tight calving pattern and a high number of cows in calf to make the system work. &#42

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

farm in mid-Wales. The main

holding at Pentre comprises

145ha (360 acres) of grass,

with some short-term grass

lets being taken, and hill

rights extending to 97ha

(240 acres). Stocking is

101 suckler cows, 975

ewes, 230 Beulah Speckled

Face ewe lambs and 35

Welsh Mules

ON March 1 I found myself in the Celtic Manor Hotel, together with many others involved in Welsh agriculture, for the launch of the new Welsh beef advertising campaign.

Thanks to the Prince of Wales and Secretary of State it got more coverage than had been anticipated. It was also very pleasing to see it launched in all Welsh Somerfield stores on the same day

By mid March all grassland had received two bags of fertiliser an acre. Some say its a bit early, but T Sum 200 had arrived a couple of weeks earlier and with fertiliser being cheaper tonne for tonne than cake – before you take into account the fact that grass works out at least five times more efficient – then I think its worth the risk. The only limiting factor was ground condition, but low profile tyres combined with borrowed twin wheels made it possible.

We are around three-quarters through lambing and although tempting fate, things seem to have gone fairly well. Mother nature plays a major role even using the sheep shed for twins. There are only so many pens you can knock up for temporary holding. Splitting off thin ewes and giving them a better chance has also worked well.

A new investment is a second-hand bulk feed bin holding around 12t. It cost £900 delivered and erected. To ease the workload during a busy period, we also bought a concentrate snacker feeder which is towed behind the quad-bike. The plan was to just reverse it under the bin and fill it up.

Prior to the bin and feeder being delivered, we installed the base and took measurements from a neighbours feeder to ensure we could reverse underneath. Unfortunately the design has changed and the new feeder is 6in higher than the old one. It was embarrassing having to jackhammer holes out of a concrete base wed just laid, with all the neighbours coming by with a wry smile.

Silage stocks seem to be disappearing faster than melting snow and its unlikely that well have any left over, even though we made more than ever last year. We may need to buy brewers grains to stretch it out. &#42

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms with his

parents on an organic, mixed

370ha (915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes,

50 beef cross stores and 70

beef cross calves. Winter

wheat, barley, oats and

beans are grown for the

organic market

AS we enter April, turnout is only just around the corner. Our usual turnout date is around April 10, somewhat earlier than last years on May 1.

The main constraint on grazing is soil type, as much of our land is grade 3C-4 Denchworth series clay, and it is very susceptible to poaching.

Grazing is all three to four-year leys with fairly open swards, so there is not much of a grass mat to help keep cows up. But open swards do allow us to make the best of clover. However, grass clover leys are also slow to get started in spring.

I am pleased with most of our new leys, with the grazing ley that was undersown looking best.

Sheep are currently grazing a new silage ley that has a big problem with chickweed. I use sheep as a management tool for grassland production, as much as another enterprise in their own right.

All grazing fields still need to be paddocked. The sheep electric fencing wire and stakes are used to make six-acre paddocks.

This allows us to graze paddocks for two feeds, or run high yielders before low yielders around the farm. It also saves the herdsman from moving fences throughout summer and is easy to take up and allow the fields to be rotated.

Lambing has been going well. We have lambed 180 ewes in less than two weeks, only leaving 40 to go, at the time of writing. The lambing percentage is currently running at 187% – I doubt if it will go up now.

We put a lot of effort into keeping everything as clean and hygienic as possible. Ewes are well bedded and lambing pens were totally cleaned out after the first week. All lambs receive 50ml of cows colostrum as soon after birth as possible, to try to give them the best start possible, as well as navel spraying them with iodine.

Strong ewes and lambs are turned out when lambs are three days old. All this effort put in at lambing time keeps away the problems of watery mouth and other bacterial diseases.

Ewes were fed a concentrate mix, similar to that offered to dairy cows, for three weeks pre-lambing. Hence, the total concentrate cost this year will be just £4 a ewe. &#42

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Miles Saunders

20 November 1998

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market

THIS past year has had its financial ups and downs for us, but the net results are similar to the previous year.

The dairy herd was the bright spot with good prices and yields and a tight check on all costs. Beef and sheep enterprises have also held their own. Prices have been good and with plenty of grass always in front of them their growth rates have been pleasing.

Cereals, however, have been disappointing. Damp weather meant that we were unable to harrow comb crops more than once on our heavy clay soils. Wild oats were a major problem and this resulted in a higher presence of green in crops at harvest, slowing the whole process down.

Much of the wheat was cleaned twice before sale, leaving a yield of 1.25t/acre, which was 0.5t/acre lower than previous years. But prices have been slightly higher than last year.

Wet weather has continued. We normally get an average rainfall of 540mm/year. This year to date we have had 600mm, with October rainfall amounting to 108mm. We still have about 200 acres of winter wheat to be planted.

I have had two sets of silage analysis done. The first set went straight in the bin, as they were so poor they were unreal, with a D-value of 55. The silage seemed much better than that.

A more recent analysis is more what I expected, but the protein level is a bit lower than I would have liked.

The analysis results are: First cut – 11.4ME, D-value 71, 13.8% crude protein, pH 3.5, second cut – 10.8ME, 68D, 14.9% protein and pH 4 and whole-crop – 10.1ME, 63D, 11.4% protein, pH 3.6 and 11% starch.

Last month, we took delivery of a new Keenan 140 mixer wagon, to replace the tired Keenan 100 which we have had for several years. The old machine wont be retired yet, as its new role will be feeding youngstock away from the main farm unit. The larger model allows me to save about 40min a day, as I only need to make three mixes as opposed to five. &#42

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Miles Saunders

5 June 1998

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market.

IT seems a while ago now that the cows were turned out and able to buck and run with excitement, but it was only May 1. I did get the event on video this year. Looking back at last year, turnout was on April 10.

Now near the end of May, the cows should be finishing their first circuit of the grazing paddocks. As the swards are fairly thick and tall this year, the high yielders have the best of the grass in each paddock, followed by the low yielders, which are then tightly followed by the in-calf heifers, with the aim of eating down the sward as far as possible.

The plan is to start topping any stems after the next time the cows have been through each of the paddocks.

Most of the neighbours seem to have finished first-cut silage and although I aimed to start cutting on the bank holiday Monday, the weather forecast is now not so good until the middle of that week. We would not normally start until then anyway.

Shearing was completed quickly and efficiently on May 18. I am sure the ewes are pleased to be cooler. The lambs were temporarily separated prior to shearing, and were wormed with garlic, and had Vetrazin put on their backs and around the crutch area, to try to avoid any flystrike.

In previous years we have been very prone to flystrike, probably due to the close proximity of the river. If the weather is bad this week and prevents silaging, it will give me a chance to check the feet, udders and teeth of the ewes.

The last group of beef cattle that were sold a few weeks ago, made more than I expected, which is a very pleasant surprise. The Organic Livestock Marketing Co-operative that I belong to, has been able to negotiate a slightly higher price for beef and lambs through to the end of July. Organic steers are now making 230p/kg deadweight for EUR, 2-3L grades, and 225p/kg dw for 0+ 2-3L grades. Organic heifer prices are 5p/kg dw less. &#42

High yielders are being followed by low yielders and then in-calf heifers to ensure that thick, tall swards are eaten down tightly, says Miles Saunders.

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Miles Saunders

10 April 1998

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market.

IT ALWAYS seems like a good idea to spread the workload throughout the year. The only problem then is, you dont have any slack months. March has been yet another busy month, ploughing, cultivating and drilling the spring wheat, and now we are into a rather hectic second week of lambing.

Having had a good year for silage last year, we will have about 500t of silage left over. We have made the decision to plough up a 13ha ley this spring, rather than leave it until the autumn when it was due to come up anyway. This area has now been drilled with Avans spring wheat. Another 14ha of spring wheat has been undersown with a grazing ley, which may be cut for whole-crop silage depending on first and second cut silage yields.

The fields coming out of grass were "Rotalaboured", a machine similar to a rotavator, designed to detach the roots from the leaves; then ploughed, pressed and power harrowed. The seed is cleaned only and planted at a rate of 240kg/ha.

Lambing is currently in full swing. On housing, the ewes were split into three groups, singles, twins and multiples. This allowed us to feed each group according to number of lambs they were carrying.

They are being fed a ration based on the same mix as that of the dairy cows, but the mineral supplement has been changed to a sheep mineral and seaweed. The ration is made of organic wheat, oats and beans, and non-organic molasses, wheat gluten and linseed. All lambs are given 50ml of cows colostrum at birth via a stomach tube to ensure they get a good start.

Ewes and lambs are turned out when the lambs are strong enough to cope with a deterioration in the weather. All individual pens are cleaned out and disinfected between each ewe with the aim of keeping any disease to a minimum.

Early April sees the turnout of the cows. The land is heavy clay and the swards are fairly open and young, so we have to be careful not to damage them by turning out too early. The grass has not been bulked up yet. As I write today (Mar 28), there is about 1500kg DM/ha on the grazing leys. &#42

With about 500t of silage left in the clamp, Miles Saunders has ploughed up 13ha ley for spring wheat rather than cutting it.

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Miles Saunders

13 February 1998

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market.

IN THE first half of winter the cows milked exceptionally well, but since Christmas, when we changed silage clamps and were forced to use some third cut at the front of the clamp, the milk has dropped an average of 2 litres a cow.

The third cut in question analysed very well so we didnt anticipate any problems. It was clamped after being on the ground for a week during a wet spell last September.

As I write we have just moved onto the second cut, so hopefully milk yields will not suffer any further. The second cut analysed as follows – dry matter 26%, DCP 18%, ME 10.9 and D value 68.

Retaining high protein level is obviously very important, especially for us, being organic, as buying-in organic protein or approved protein is very expensive. In the past we have never used a silage additive and found we were regularly getting protein levels of around 12%.

For the past two seasons, we have used HM Inoculant from Nutrimix, with very good results, and have ordered it again for the coming season. I have found the cows have milked far better on the silage treated with an inoculant. At the end of the day the cheapest form of milk we can produce is that achieved from forage, so we need to optimise that area as much as possible.

I have lost eight cows under the voluntary cohort scheme. They were cows born in Sep 1989, just before we turned organic. A shame to see good cows go, but the cohorts on an organic farm must leave the herd as soon as possible. I guess this has left us with surplus quota, so I check quota profile figures, and lease out any surplus.

The sheep were scanned just after the new year, with the results equating to a lambing percentage of 193% – 27 singles, 112 twins, 37 triplets and 12 empties. The empty figure is higher than expected.

Last year we had a similar number empty and as they were financially worth very little in the summer and as they all seemed healthy, we kept them, rather than culling them, giving them a second chance. It will be interesting to see if it is the same batch empty again, in which case they will be culled once the retention period is over. It may in fact be a group of the older ewes that needs replacing anyway.

Last autumn our calf girl left to get married and we replaced her with a 17-year-old lad, who needed a work placement whilst doing day release at Lackham College. Although his parents werent farming, his grandparents were, so he knew some of the basics and has proved very capable and very willing to learn. Hopefully he should go a long way. His next major achievement will be to pass his full driving test which comes up soon. &#42

Using third cut silage saw yields drop by 2 litres a cow, but Miles Saunders reckons moving onto second cut should stop any further drop.

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Miles Saunders

19 December 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main

enterprises are 200 milking

cows and followers, 190

Mule ewes, 50 beef cross

stores and 70 beef cross

calves. Winter wheat, barley,

oats and beans are also

grown, and sold on the

organic market.

TO MAINTAIN our organic status, the farm and all its operations have to be verified by an inspection body, annually.

We are members of the Soil Association and their inspectors carry out our inspection, along with completing the annual return form stating livestock numbers, cropping, sales etc. We could also be checked at random by UKROFS, who oversee every organic producer in the UK.

At the inspection we need to supply up to date details of what has happened on each field, including the cropping and any inputs, such as manures or supplementary organic approved fertilisers, and at what rate of application.

Regarding manure, the inspectors need to know how it was managed, storage, composting etc. They also require details of stock, forage conserved, rotations and harvest yields. The inspector will want to know details of arable and grass ley seed types/mixtures, and what measures have taken place for disease and pest control across the farm.

We have to be able to verify everything that happens. It sounds daunting, but most of the required information would be detailed on a conventional farm anyway, via invoices, sales receipts, movements book etc.

The inspectors are interested in movements, especially regarding movements of animals onto the farm, and where they have come from, as this can highlight non-organic animals entering the system. The animal medicines book is also keenly looked at; it is important that the farm is not using routine medicines. Any drugs used should also have good reasons for use.

Stocking rates are assessed to ensure that the farm is capable of sustaining the livestock on the land. We need to give details of forage tonnes, bought-in feed and its sources, and details in dry matter terms of all feed rations from calves to cows, sheep and beef. The whole exercise is aimed at ensuring we are not contravening any of the organic standards and that our farming methods are sustainable in the long term.

The inspector takes a look around the farm, at crops and livestock. They are looking for healthy stock, not over crowded and well managed land.

Our inspection this year took approximately half a day. We dont find it too daunting now, as we know what type of detail they require.n

Forages and bought-in feeds as well as record keeping, stock welfare and movements came under scrutiny in Miles Saunders recent inspection by the Soil Association

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Miles Saunders

21 November 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an

organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main

enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule

ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Winter

wheat, barley, oats and beans are also grown, and sold on

the organic market.

I THOUGHT that the work-load was meant to reduce once all the crops were planted, but at the moment we still seem as hectic as ever. We are working hard at getting all the stock into various barns for the winter – sorting out water, and feed barriers within each barn.

We needed to make some better feed mangers. I wanted these to hold enough silage to last 24 hours, provide a barrier that the cattle could not throw silage over, and one that kept the food clean. I could not find anything on the market that fitted our specifications or price. So, we have resurrected some old straight 4.6m long barriers with extra metal work and new wood in the bottoms. A silage retaining barrier was made 76cm high that is slotted into a concrete plinth that is 15cm high. The barriers can be removed if necessary. The aim is to reduce time spent shovelling cattle feed.

Milk protein levels were starting to become a bit of a worry through October, with 60 of the 170 cows currently milking being fresh calvers. The protein had been all right at the beginning of the month at 3.26%, but by the end of October had dropped to 3.23%. When we sampled for cell counts this month, we also had the butterfat and protein tested. We found that the cows were calving in at a protein level of 3.4%, and then were slowly dropping down to 2.8% at around six weeks. During this time we had changed from third cut silage at 18% protein to first cut silage at 14% protein. It then became clear that there was a shortage of energy and protein in the diet, so we have increased the level of organic beans we are feeding to 2kg, from 1kg, changed barley to molasses and included 1kg of chopped straw to open up the diet. The protein level then subsequently increased to 3.25% and then 3.45%.n

Milk protein levels were starting to be a worry for Miles Saunders in October – but changes to the winter rations have now improved levels.

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Miles Saunders

26 September 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves.

ISNT it nice to have finished harvest. The wet weather meant that some of the straw got wet and had to be turned several times, and unfortunately in some fields the straw had started to rot, so we landed up chopping it. Ploughing and cultivations are well under way, with land turning over well this year following the damp summer months.

Currently, effort is also being put into selling some of the surplus cereals. Prices seem to be down about £30/tonne from last year, but still a high premium compared to conventional prices. We also aim to put all the cereal harvest through the cleaner before sale, including the portion we intend to feed ourselves. The reason we clean the cereal we intend to feed is to reduce the possibility of the weed seeds passing through the cows and back onto the fields.

The milking cows are currently split into three groups. The fresh calvers are milking well, averaging 27 litres on 8kg of concentrate, made up of organic beans, organic barley, linseed expeller and wheat gluten. The medium yielders receive 2kg and the low yielding group, no concentrate. The appropriate concentrate is mixed with silage for each group. The silage is being fed as a buffer to reduce risk of bloat with the excessive levels of clover that are about this year.

All the seed has been ordered for this autumn. We will be sticking to the varieties that seem to do us well, namely Hereward wheat, Fighter barley and Punch beans. We intend to drop oats this year, because of lack of demand.

To accomplish all the land and stock work, our workforce has increased. We are currently employing a herdsman; a stockperson, who leaves at the end of the month; two general farm workers, who are capable of doing most things; and a student. We also have one self-employed general farm worker who is currently working afternoons and nights for us, to enable us to keep the hire tractor working on the heavy work to be done.

We are hosting a farm open day on October 6, organised by the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative, for anyone interested in converting to organic dairy production. A farm walk in the morning is followed after lunch by four speakers, who will cover the topics of converting, financial studies of farms in conversion, milk markets and beef and cereal markets. For further information please contact OMSC Tel: 01934-750244, Fax: 01934-750080. &#42

Miles Saunders is feeding silage as a buffer to reduce risk of bloat in the three milking groups as there are excessive levels of clover in swards this year.

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Miles Saunders

29 August 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Winter wheat, barley, oats and beans are also grown, and sold on the organic market.

CALVING has now started in earnest, with 30 cows under way in the first two weeks of August.

Condition score is generally about 3.5, and birth difficulties have been minimal, although some of the calves are getting rather large.

Pre-calvers are on a ration comprising 10kg of 18% CP Silage and 1kg of 18% protein concentrate mix. After calving, the cows and calves are moved from the field into a calving box, where we ensure the calf gets its colostrum. Once we are happy it has had enough, it is moved to the rearing area, where it receives three litres of whole milk twice a day.

The first finished lambs of the season were sold at the end of July, through the Organic Livestock Marketing Co-operative. The average weight was 20.5kg. The lambs should fetch the SQQ price plus 20p/kg dead weight.

Harvest is also in full swing. The yields on our organic cereals seem to be slightly above average, which is pleasing. Fighter winter barley yielded about 1.75t/acre. Winter oat Gerald followed with a yield of 2t/acre, and we have nearly finished combining the winter wheats, Avalon and Hereward, which look set to reach 2t/acre.

We decided this year to bale all our straw ourselves, rather than use contractors. It is being made into small bales with a flat 10 sledge, which was originally the prototype, designed by my father, for the Cooks Flat 8 Automatic and the Flat 10 Automatic sledges. The bales are handled on and off trailers by the Matbro using a squeeze loader lifting 40 bales at a time. This makes handling quick and easy.

Third-cut silage is about three weeks earlier than normal, and we are to start moving this week. This means we will leave the straw baling and get the silage in before the quality falls. Finding somewhere for the silage to go is going to be the biggest problem, as the silage clamps are already full, and the third-cut yield looks good, with excellent clover growth again. &#42

Third cut silage is earlier than normal at Willow Farm, and its an excellent crop with plenty of clover. Quality is high, and the main concern is finding somewhere for it to go as the silage clamps are already full.

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Miles Saunders

1 August 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Winter wheat, barley, oats and beans are also grown, and sold on the organic market.

AFTER a number of dry years, it is nice to be in a situation where we have plenty of grass for the livestock. Second-cut silage was made in early July. The red clover swards have really shown what they can do this year.

The high quality of the silage leys will have made up for the disappointing whole-crop. The whole-crop was undersown with 3kg/acre of red clover last autumn, as hopefully a way of getting the red clover established better. The whole field of 27 acres went flat so that the crop had to be mown first, rather than direct cutting it. It also meant that the red clover was then non-existent, and the field has since been cultivated and reseeded again.

Most jobs on the farm are done by the farm staff, but we always aim to keep our tractor numbers to a minimum. A 130hp tractor is hired from the end of May to the middle of October for all the hard work. Also, a second tractor of 100hp is hired from late July to the middle of October to help with the land work. Staff numbers have also risen to cover the harvest period. We have taken on a student from the local agricultural college, and also a student from the USA.

Cow numbers have increased over the last two years, and we are now at the point where we could do with selling some, prior to this years intake of heifers. I took two heifers to the local market a couple of weeks ago. When I arrived, I asked for a valuation before they were off-loaded, and was told that I may get £550. So they came home again, not even going through the ring. I hadnt realised how far the trade for all cattle had slipped – farmers selling store calves must have been wondering what to do next.

We need to choose the bulls for this years breeding season. The choice is immense, with bulls from all over the world. My criteria is a bull that will produce cows that are very tidy, 700kg+ on milk, preferably a plus on protein, a large chest width, and with no size increase.

Size is important as I do not want cows to outgrow the cubicles – that results in injuries, and ultimately the need to change cubicles. It is also important that we produce cows that are strong and will last the rigors of the large dairy herd.n

The high quality grass silage leys have made up for the disappointing whole-crop forage. The second-cut grass/red clover silage was made in early July.

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Miles Saunders

14 February 1997

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Winter wheat, barley, oats and beans are also grown, and sold on the organic market.

JANUARY started with temperatures down to -9C, which, with the wind chill factor, brought freezing pipes for a number of days. But we were able to thaw each pipe to allow water to flow, avoiding the need to move water manually.

Usually with this cold weather I would expect milk yields to drop, but they did not, and we continued to produce more a day than forecast. After Christmas we had moved on to alternate-day collection, and the bulk tank capacity of 9500 litres is now being maximised.

The herd is predominantly late-autumn calving, and consists of a high proportion of heifers. Decembers dairy costings showed we were producing 19.04 litres a cow a day, with a rolling average yield of 6100 litres a cow. Our forecast for milk production predicts we will be 3% over quota, but I feel this will not be a problem, as within our milk group there appears to be a large enough threshold to leave us safe from super-levy.

Throughout this season our milk quality has continued to be good, with butterfat averaging 4.2%, protein 3.47% and SSC at 143. I would like to get the butterfat down to nearer the 3.7% required by our milk buyers – the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative – as we are paid a standard price a litre for milk that meets the minimum standards of 3.7% butterfat and 3.2% protein.

The current high butterfat level is wasting litres of quota, as our butterfat base is only 3.9%. This month saw a rise in our net milk price to 28.2p/litre after all deductions.

The cows are being fed a ration made up of 1kg organic beans, 3.5kg wheat which is under conversion, 2.5kg linseed expeller, 1kg prairie meal, 30kg organic grass/red clover silage (DM 40%) and 8kg organic whole-crop silage (DM 33%). This keeps us within the organic standards.

After a couple of cows slipped over in the yards, I felt it necessary to get the surface regrooved, as it has not been done for many years. I decided to use our own staff and hire in a concrete groover from a local contractor. Our relief milker has been doing this over the past two weeks and the results are good.

At the beginning of the month the ewes were scanned, as lambing is due to start on Mar 20. The results were nothing special, with a 174% overall expected lambing including empty ewes, but 24 ewes are expecting triplets or quads and will be drafted out in the next week for extra care.

We have just sold 70 finished lambs and five finished beef cattle direct to the abattoir. Prices should be good, with organic produce receiving a 20p/kg premium over the Standard Quality Quotation prices for that week. The lamb gradings were pleasing, with most at U3L. &#42

Miles Saunders (right) runs an organic mixed farm in Oxfordshire. One task this month has been to re-groove the yards to prevent cows slipping.

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Miles Saunders

14 March 1996

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Wheat, barley, oats and beans are grown. All produce sold is organic.

Miles Saunders farms in partnership with his parents on an organic, mixed 370ha (915-acre) farm in Oxfordshire. Main enterprises are 200 milking cows and followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50 beef cross stores and 70 beef cross calves. Wheat, barley, oats and beans are grown. All produce sold is organic.

WITH little rainfall in winter months so far, February arrived with vengeance, with the winds blowing gale-force at times.

I recently attended a meeting where lameness expert Roger Blowey was speaking, and many different ideas were suggested to reduce lameness.

One idea we have been practicing in the last few months is housing heifers after calving on strawed yards, as opposed to cubicles, as they are more susceptible to laminitis. They now seem much happier and the incidence of lameness in the group is now non-existent. As the majority of the cows are cubicle-housed, it brings home to me how much extra straw we would use if we were on a loose housing system.

Earlier in the winter, we had quite a problem with pneumonia in the calves. The monthly vet bill was larger for the calves than the dairy herd itself. We currently have over 100 calves, and decided to invest in two Proctor Ventilation systems.

These increase air flow throughout the shed by blowing air through a large plastic tube suspended along the length of the shed roof, down to the area below, creating uniform air movement throughout the shed. They initially seemed expensive at £600 per system, but it is hard to quantify the cost of pneumonia in stock and loss or reduction of production later in that animals life. The incidence of pneumonia in one shed has cleared completely, and with only a couple of new cases in the other shed.

Our silage stocks for cattle have been going down quicker than expected, so we have introduced 1kg chopped organic wheat straw to the cow ration. Silage has been reduced by a third to the youngstock, and replaced with ad-lib organic barley straw. This should make sure that our silage stocks last until the end of April.

The dry January and early Feb enabled us to go through all our cereal crops with our 12m Einbock tined weeder, which uproots most surface weeds and weeds with shallow roots. Weather conditions permitting, we should be able to make another pass with the Einbock in March.n

The new ventilation system in the calf shed is minimising the risk of pneumonia, according to Miles Saunders. Two systems cost a total of £1200, but may be money well spent.

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