Farmer Focus : Clyde Jones 11/02/05

THE IDEA of front loading your heifers sounds attractive. This is where you start serving heifers early to get them at the beginning of your block calving period. They will stay at this pole position each year and be joined by other incoming heifers each year, thereby condensing your calving period.

The reality is that you have a parlour full of mischievous heifers intent on sabotaging any thought of a peaceful reintroduction to the new year’s milking routine.

We have 50 cows calved with about 35 heifers and it’s only the beginning of February, our planned start date. They are calving down to Friesian cross bulls with few hitches so far. And a good run on heifers, too.

Chalk tracks have recently been widened to 6m. We put a steep camber on the track, in the thinking that it would subside. Only it hasn”t and cows are being issued with crampons as we speak.

We will cap the track with oolytic limestone later, to prevent Duncan suffering white-out when he brings the cows in.

A few other construction jobs have also been completed over winter, including a dung sump. This is a separation unit that takes out the solids and grit, allowing clear water to pass through to a soakaway. The construction is simple, consisting of a sloping concrete apron with an infill pipe and an outlet pipe situated lower down.

We will be able to scoop out the dry solids every week or two – I will keep you posted on its progress. In the meantime it will stop cyclists getting splattered as they pass through on the cycle path through the farm. The route even got nominated in Mountain Bike Rider magazine. Wait until they see our tracks.