Early colostrum delivers results for Ian Ratcliffe

Well, it has certainly been a busy few months here at Hill Farm, starting with Cath and I getting married in May. We had a fantastic day, with the sun shining and everyone having great time.

Our wedding was followed by a well-earned honeymoon and Dad was left in charge. Things were as simple as we could have hoped while we were away, with the cows grazing full time and no buffer being fed. We came back to the last hour of first cut being brought in – it was certainly a come-down putting tyres on the pit within an hour of coming home.

Drying off started at the end of May, with cow numbers soon building up. We settled on feeding them straw and round bales on a paddock that needed reseeding. Then the wet weather really kicked in and we had to bring the animals in, which wasn’t ideal, but we managed.

We are now two weeks in to calving, with things going well. We have loads of British Blues running around looking fantastic. Cath has been in charge of the calves and they are in safe hands. They are getting colostrum as soon as possible and it shows. We were warned about serving to British Blues, but we have been happy with the decision, as we have only pulled three out of 45 and the value will help the cash flow a lot.

The fresh cows are milking well, with some hitting 48 litres already. We are grazing them by day and housing them by night. We are torn whether to graze them harder, but we need to keep intakes up for these high yielders and set them up for serving.

So, things are looking positive, with grass growing vigorously, clamps full, maize looking good, calves everywhere and cows milking well. If only the milk price was better.

Ian Ratcliffe, 27, took on the family farm in Cheshire, comprising 121ha on 1 April 2011. He aims to calve 230 in an autumn block averaging 7,000-8,000 litres a cow a year, maximising milk from forage.

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