Farmer Focus: Constituents up, cell counts down

The past few weeks have seen a fair bit of travelling, from looking at calves in Scotland, to the Livestock Improvement Company’s Pasture to Profit Conference in Worcester. The nine-hour combined journey time provided a fantastic opportunity to mull over making money from milk

There really is no beating car journeys for uninterrupted conversations. And in both instances, the chit chat on the road was on par with the main event.

Read more from our other livestock farmer focus writers 

It was a really motivating couple of days. The quote from one speaker in Worcester, along the lines of “biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing like hell”, has left me more determined than ever to find a local(ish) dairy support block to rent next year for additional heifer grazing.

Back in Cumbria, the milking cows were finally housed on 16 November, with their new feed pad completed just in time.  In an attempt to ensure we have plenty of grass close to the parlour when we are busy calving in the spring, the main herd has spent the past few weeks grazing outlying areas of the farm. 

A sprinkling of wood chips on the rougher areas of the tracks helped salvage walking conditions through some wet weather, and hopefully the herd will appreciate the reduced walking in four months time when they are milking harder and needing to get back in-calf.

Milk quality has been good in recent weeks, with the latest collections currently averaging 4.9% fat and 4.1% protein, while pleasingly somatic cell counts have also been reducing.  Regularly stripping the whole herd and culling a couple of repeat offenders appears to have made a significant difference, and with the prospect of 100 heifers to calve in the spring, things hopefully look set to further improve.

Finally, while having a hair cut the other day, the barber guessed I was a farmer (not sure how, I’d had at least two showers since being anywhere near a cow) and then proceeded to question why I hadn’t yet complained about anything.  How did it ever come to be that if you work in agriculture, the default assumption is that you must spend your whole time whinging?

George Brown won the Farmers Weekly Apprentice in 2012. After a stint working on  dairy farms in New Zealand he has returned to the UK and is now managing the 330-cow dairy herd at Cairnhead Farm on behalf of Robert Craig.