Farmer Focus : Clyde Jones 14/01/05

WELL, CHRISTMAS came and went with, thankfully, no worries on the stock side. The only excitement came from a joyrider who thought he could drive a hot hatchback across a grazed turnip field.

Needless to say, he didn’t get far in the mud. I say a hot hatch, as he torched it afterwards. Ah, the joys of urbanisation – even when it comes in the shape of the aesthetic new Poundbury development.

One of the turnip fields at Clandon had grown poorly, so we have been buffer feeding with fodder beet, laid out in rows to strip graze with the crop. The beets were so big we thought cows would form teams of 11 for a kickabout.

They are, however, tucking into them and we are achieving our objectives of slowing cows” progress to three weeks for a 10ha (25-acre) field, while still maintaining good body condition. This means there will be turnips left after half the herd has left in mid-January to calve in February.

When we dried cows off, we double dosed them with Orbeseal and a dry cow tube. We did this to avoid our annual mastitis problem, but this is not grounds for complacency and we still have to clean out and keep udders clean.

Ventilation is an issue in both the buildings we intend to calve into. A few years ago we removed the top course of blocks from the side walls, which brought a fresher feel to the atmosphere and bedding straw retained that crunchy feel for most of the day.

The same issues also needs addressing in calf accommodation. The best way will be lighting a smoky fire in the shed and observing the route smoke takes to exit the building.

Calves will have a halfway house this year and after nursery pens will go into an open-sided building with access to grass paddocks. From there, they will go onto good paddocks. These provisions should accommodate the big rush of calves on the way.