16 November 2001

Stephen Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs, in

partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470 acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a further

20ha (50 acres) of rough

grazing. It is stocked with

50 dairy cows, 280 Lonk

ewes, 100 halfbreds and

40 gimmer hoggs

TWO weeks after DEFRA vets surveillance sampled our flock, we are still waiting for results, but I presume we would have heard by now if anything was wrong.

Although there have been reports of dissatisfaction locally, with some aspects of officials work, I have nothing but praise for those I have met. Be they Americans, Portuguese, Spaniards, Sri Lankans or even the occasional Brit, they have all been thorough, efficient and courteous. If only some of the political masters had shown more of these qualities.

We are now in the middle of serving cows. Heifers, were served in September and October.

I began DIY AI in 1989, but in all that time I do not think I have read as many articles on the subject as I have over the past six months or so.

Thawing temperature, thawing time, technician v DIY and every other aspect seems to have been analysed in bewildering detail. Having read most of it, I am not sure I am any the wiser. It is fortunate that last year was not my first season because our poor conception rate would probably have dented my confidence. But heifers held as well as previous years, with 80% conceiving to first service.

I have no doubt full-time technicians are more accomplished at the job than most producers, but we are given a head start in that timing is often on our side. When a cow stands during the afternoon, I will serve her at the feed passage during the evening feed.

A disadvantage with the technician service is that when you were going to be away from the yard, the cow had to be penned. Some cows become stressed by this, and we are told stress must be avoided to maximise conception rates.

Most experts say splitting straws reduces conception rates, but I must confess to not being able to resist this particular sin. Calving in a block pattern increases the opportunity to split straws even in a small herd. All cows and heifers are put to dairy sires. This year, cows are going to either Comestar Outsider or Cogent Lucky with heifers to Jumel. &#42

After much reading on AI, Steve Morris is unsure whether he is any the wiser, but he remains committed to DIY.