Farmer Focus Livestock: Clyde Jones on calving

Clyde Jones manages a 550 dairy cow herd on the 1600ha (3954-acre) Bisterne Estate, Hampshire. The herd is split into spring and autumn calvers and is milked through a 50 bale rotary parlour. Cows are mostly Holstein with some NZ Friesian and Swedish Red and White influence

It’s an interesting time of year for the spring calver, as just when you think you have lots of time before calving starts, in fact time quickly runs out.

The whole appeal to block calving in spring and autumn is the down time for strategic planning and having the ability to prioritise future tasks. With this in mind, our head herdsman Mark and I went over to Limerick for the Irish Positive Farmers Conference. Whether Ireland has the monopoly on positive farmers I don’t know, but they seem to be able to fill a fair size hall with them. The speakers and the papers were of interest to our extended grazing principles and made a lot of common sense.

We heard how New Zealand dairy farmer Colin Armer managed to replicate a simple system over a number of farms involving thousands of cows. These principles are adhered to by Lincoln University farm. The head of department, Adrian van Bysterveldt, having pushed forward these ideas, has now taken up a post at Teagasc, the Irish agricultural research station, which incidentally had 10,000 farmers attend their open days. You can begin to see why I was in the midst of positive producers, and a large dairy manufacturing base obviously helps, too.

Adrian, speaking at the conference, came up with the idea of a Comparable Stocking Rate, which would enable one farm to be compared with another on the basis of the liveweight of the cow and the amount of feed fed and feed available. This gives a figure that would include a farmer who has access to many sources of feed – not only grass.

I rushed home to work out my CSR figure (85kg lwt/t of DM feed), as I think it will become more prevalent in the future.

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