Ian Ratcliffe finds new leys are growing well

We’re getting to the end of calving now, with 182 in milk and 22 left to go in October. Our attention is now shifting to fertility, with serving for next year’s block just around the corner. We have decided to work towards a 10-week block next year, starting the third week in July.

The herd has been tail-painted to identify pre-service heats so non-cycling cows can be sorted, ready to start serving on 17 October. Having thought long and hard, we have decided to serve to British Blue, then fertility plus and sweep up with bulls. There is a danger of poor calving ease with the British Blue, but we have chosen an easy-calving bull and no maiden heifers will be served this time. Generating a good calf income is hugely important to our business to help fund the replacements for the following year.

A big advantage for calving next year is that we will be able to work to exact service dates, allowing cows to be transitioned more effectively. This proved challenging this year, with many not calving to predicted dates, gaining condition as a consequence and making them prone to post-calving issues. A small TLC fresh group has enabled us to get these cows away as well as we can, but transition is definitely something we hope to do better next year.

We have just drilled the last of our re-seeds, with 32ha (80 acres) planted this year at the home block and silage land away from the farm. This has been costly but worthwhile, with the new leys growing fantastically when the rain did finally come. The cows certainly let you know when they go into an older ley – I think we may be spoiling them. The farm will be well set up for spring to get out early and graze these leys. Although we have not had to use the tracks much this autumn, I am sure they will prove their worth next spring.

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