Farmer Focus: DairyCo is doing good for dairy farmers

At home, the brewers’ grains have arrived, writes Ross Symons.

Sitting in a nice pile in the yard, I’m busy calculating how many pints that pile of stuff has created.

Then, the next time I’m in the pub, I can take great satisfaction knowing that I’m doing my part helping to feed Daisy over this winter. One pint at a time.

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This month also saw me attend the DairyCo research day, as for the first time it was held in Cornwall. In the past DairyCo has come in for some criticism and I can understand why – we have no option but to hand over a part of our milk cheque every month regardless of whether we want to or not.

Having seen the projects being undertaken and having had a chance to speak to those undertaking them, I left with a sense of optimism and excitement. There was plenty to take home and apply.

The beginning of July also marked the Livestock Event. I wasn’t able to attend this year, so had to make do with reading reports and looking at pictures instead.

Each year the amount of new products amazes me. All of them are designed to make our farming life a little bit easier and in some cases will make our borrowings a little bit bigger too.

What puzzles me with these gizmos and gadgets is that they are almost counterproductive at times. They claim to be able to reduce manpower, yet that is exactly what they need – the squidgy organic bit to control the big metal boxes.

These gadgets may be able to milk cows automatically, detect calvings, or scan grass covers strapped to your boot.

But what if the farmer doesn’t tell the computer about that cow being treated with antibiotics and she contaminates the bulk tank? Or the calving detector is put in the wrong cow? Or the person walking the field of grass walks the wrong one or doesn’t turn the machine on?

Or worse still, what happens when a son – who was only trying to help out his dad on market day – accidently sends him off with the wrong passport?

Is there a machine that can possibly get me – ahem, I mean “a farmer’s son”– out of that hole? Probably not.

Ross Symons farms 200 dairy cows, including his own small herd of pedigree Holsteins, with his parents near Truro, Cornwall. They are converting their year-round calving herd to autumn block calving