Farmer Focus: Dairy rotation speed up, but covers are falling

With close-to-ideal grass growing conditions of frequent rain interspersed with sunshine, the cows have been milking well and are still sitting up at more than 26 litres.

Good growth rates have enabled us to keep on a fast rotation or grazing interval, having the herd back into paddocks every 14-18 days, and this in turn has helped to maintain feed quality.

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While it appears to be working so far, this quick round has driven down the average pasture cover on the milking platform, meaning we may be a bit exposed if conditions get dry and growth slows down. Time will tell.

First-cut silage was made in two batches, with the first being a little damp, resulting in some slippage in the pit. The second crop, however, was cut in much better weather, and has helped bind the whole pile together.

So far, mating seems to be going OK, with 85% of cows submitted to AI in the first three weeks. While this is a little behind the standard 90% target, hopefully a reasonable conception rate will compensate. Unsurprisingly, it appears to be the later-calving animals that have failed to be seen bulling for AI, but once the bulls are running with the cows it will be possible to get serious about crunching some numbers on Excel to review initial mating performance. 

The majority of this year’s calves are looking well, with 90% weaned off milk, and half due to come off concentrate any day now. There remains a considerable range in sizes within whole group, and the younger/smaller batches will take some feeding to bring them up to target weight during the next 11 months. 

Recently we had the pleasure of having a film crew descend upon the farm, and so spent two days carefully chaperoning them around our lesser-thistled paddocks. It also finally gave us a good excuse to fasten a GoPro camera to a cow, something that surely must be on every dairy farmer’s bucket list.

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.