Farmer Focus: The calm before the calving storm

With calving due to commence mid-February, January will be a little like the calm before the storm on our farm.

All cows are now receiving a dry cow mineral in their feed and we have just completed a blood analysis to check for any mineral deficiencies.

Previously, these tests have shown slightly low levels of iodine and selenium – minerals with the potential to have a very negative effect on herd fertility. Therefore we try to be as proactive as possible to minimise future problems and, ultimately, production costs.

We now routinely vaccinate all cows with Rotavec-Corona before calving, as a few years ago we had problems with this virus.

See also: Read more from the livestock farmer focus writers

The dairy breed crosses and our home-bred weanling bulls continue to be fed a total mixed ration of silage, bread and meal. Visually these calves seemed to have performed well since housing and we plan to weigh them again towards the end of January.

We have 80 predominantly Friesian-cross bulls on our farm that are eating ad-lib meal and straw. It will be interesting to compare the physical and financial performances of both feeding systems.

Accidents can happen all too quickly on a farm. Two weeks ago, when I was climbing up the ladder on to the silo to strip back the cover, I slipped and fell, breaking my right wrist.

The speed at which the accident happened is the scariest bit. A job that I have done so many times, never thinking that I could or would fall. But from being at the top of the ladder one second to finding myself on the silo floor the next, it just goes to show the care that needs to be taken by all of us as we work daily on our farms.

I’d like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2016.

Matthew Brownlee farms 121ha alongside his father. They run 100 Limousin cross suckler cows and buy in store cattle to finish.