Farmer Focus Livestock: Freezing weather a problem for Clyde Jones

A week is a long time in politics and also in farming when temperatures are -8C. We certainly copped it with the rotary pulsation and the dump line freezing. The slurry wasn’t flowing anywhere and wash lines, although drained became frozen. Goodwill and determination kept the guys going and got the job done.

I, on the other hand, escaped to this year’s Pasture to Profit conference. There was a good selection of speakers, not including Graham Harvey, the agricultural writer for The Archers, as he was stuck in traffic. It would have been more plausible if he’d said he had one of Ruth’s cows calving or David’s tractor had a puncture.

The atmosphere in the audience was positive: everyone you spoke to was on the up and seeking different ways to reduce costs in light of recent milk price reductions. The outwintering competition was a good idea providing some thought-provoking and novel uses of forage crops fed to dry cows.

On the farm we have more than usual autumn calvers with the cubicle sheds full. Spring calvers will have to lead a more pastoral life than they’ve been used to.

At the southern end of the estate, fodder beet is grown and harvested for local customers. There was an abundance of dry cow feed, so we got the 130 dry spring calvers down there receiving 8kg dry matter of beet and 4kg of bale silage. It took cows a few days to realise they had to harvest the stuff and soon learned not to pile into the silage, but to have the pudding first and the fibre after.

I’m pleased to report cows are increasing body condition while remaining healthy for calving. Fit not fat as they say, which is as good as any New Year’s resolution.

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