Farmer Focus: Let’s not divide into block v all-year calving camps

I want to start with an apology. I promised myself that I would not use these articles to moan.

However, the weather and milk price cut have combined to make February and March difficult to say the least.

The weather continues to baffle. Every time we have a couple of dry days and progress is being made the heavens open and fieldwork is brought to a standstill.

To-do list

One thing that has gone on the jobs list for the summer is a tidy up of all the gutters and drains in the yard to divert any water away from the lagoon.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks preparing maize ground when things do clear up.

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The grass is showing signs of wanting to take off every time the sun does show its face. I really feel for farmers trying to lamb sheep or graze cows in this weather.

It’s noticeable how much fodder appears to be moving around the roads locally as the pressure mounts on stocks.

Mixed quality

On the cow front, performance remains good, although trying to negotiate our way through the remaining cuts of silage from last year is proving a little stressful as quality is very mixed.

This gives us plenty to work on this silage season. Feed prices are creeping up, making milk price drops more painful. We’ve fixed our blend until October at a reasonable price, but getting more milk from forage has to be the aim going forward. 

At a time when unity is required, it appears the industry is becoming increasingly divided into block and all-year-round camps. We are in a local discussion group with a range of systems and we have learnt something from every visit so far.

However, would I be able to block calve at Lower Wood? No. Not unless our cows are going to grow fins and start swimming (our ground floods every year).

Decisions on systems should be made based on management capabilities, farm size and layout, and not on what is perceived to be in vogue at the moment.

Henry Wilson milks 225 Holsteins on a tenancy alongside his parents Jean and Chris in Alberbury, Shropshire. Cows calve year-round with milk supplied to Muller on a non-aligned contract. Focus is placed on good cow health, fertility and business efficiency