Farmer Focus : Michael Scully 19/11/04

I WROTE LAST month about some unexpectedly high somatic cell counts. But just as quickly as the problem appeared, it has now disappeared.

We had the plant checked for malfunctions and stray voltage and everything was fine. Other than drying off a few late lactation cows, there were no other management changes to be made.

As we were doing quite a lot of building work in the vicinity, my suspicion is that we had a temporary stray voltage problem that disappeared as soon as the work had finished. Thankfully, it looks as if there have been no long-term health consequences.

Most of the building programme has now been completed. The new slurry lagoon and farm tracks are in place, but we have decided to delay blinding off these tracks until spring. This will give the roadways a chance to settle in over winter and should allow us to do a better job of blinding in spring.

There is also a fear that the winter rains would wash away expensive quarry dust before it could bind properly. We have also re-roofed the cubicle sheds, as the old steel had become a patchwork quilt of repairs.

The steel was bought last May before the price rose and should ensure that everything stays dry for at least 20 years.

The next big decisions will be on the breeding policy for the coming season. Those we take today will be reflected in the herd in six to seven years’ time. For that reason, I need to take a view of the farming environment at that point.

I will certainly prioritise a high fertility cow, with the ability to sustain many years of compact calving. Whether it will still make sense in seven years’ time is another question. If not, then Jersey bulls on the heifers is an obvious route. I will let you know next month what decisions have been taken.

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