Farmer Focus: Saving nearly 2kg a cow in the parlour

Serving started on 1 May, a week later than previous years to try to avoid having as many late January calves. And, after the pressures of this spring, an extra week for the herd won’t be a bad thing.

Cows were all tail-painted the day before, and general bulling activity seems good. This is a relief after the late spring and prolonged buffering with silage throughout March.

Grass growth finally took off in the second week of April and we were able to take the brakes off the cows and hit and maintain a 20-day grazing round, with no silage and easing back the feed in the parlour from nearly 6kg to 4kg.

See also: Jersey cows produce profits from milk solids in Ireland

Grass quality is excellent and the cows are milking well, giving about 1.8kg of milk solids.

We are measuring grass every week, using this information to track grass growth, average grass cover on the farm and the round length of the cows (how many days it would take to graze the whole farm based on the hectares grazed since the last grass measure).

The information allows us to foresee potential grass surpluses which could compromise quality – or potential deficits.

Walking the farm is also a vital management tool: it’s amazing how many actions you can note down by the time it’s done.

Fieldwork has ramped up in the past week, with the wintering ground being worked down and resown back to grass. Fodder beet crops will hopefully be all sown by the first week of May, followed by the kale.

Some rented land has posed some issues, having produced very little in the previous two seasons. The conclusion is it’s down to historic compaction from potatoes – there was near to no worm activity.

Hopefully a deep subsoil and 2t/acre (4.942t/ha) of lime and chicken manure will help kick-start a crop of AberNiche. Between serving and planting forage crops, 2019 is already coming into focus.

We are looking to recruit a new member to our team on the farm – any energetic and ambitious people looking to progress a career in dairy, please get in touch!

Johnjo Roberts converted his family’s 250ha beef and sheep farm on Anglesey to an 800-head spring-block calving dairy in 2014. Maximising grazed grass and good milk solids are priorities.