Farmer Focus: Did our winter routine start too soon?

Winter routine is now in full swing at Lower Wood.

In hindsight, the heifers and dry cows could have stayed out a little longer, but after rather a wet weekend earlier in the month we decided that they were doing more harm than good, poaching gateways and also just starting to lose a bit of condition.

I must say it has been a bit of a shock to the system. I am a big advocate of all the benefits the winter routine brings with it, especially in terms of labour efficiency.

What I perhaps hadn’t bargained for this year was that we have almost 30% more stock, which certainly adds plenty of work.

See also: Opinion: Should I feel optimistic or pessimistic for dairy future?

With the mild autumn continuing, I am really intrigued to see how well this very late-season silage will feed.

The inability to utilise this late-season grass is a weakness of the housed system. I certainly know the sheep boys in our area are rubbing their hands with glee as the grass continues to grow.

We survived the visit from our discussion group – Milk Tank. It was a great exercise and with all the financial benchmarking we then did afterwards, I think everyone came away with some really useful snippets.

I will be looking to see what optimum cow numbers are, according to land and forage availability. It will be an interesting exercise.

My wife and I are gearing up for two weeks in Australia, flying on Christmas day for a friend’s wedding. I am very anxious about leaving the place, especially over the Christmas period given the extra work this will place on everyone.

However, with the prospect of going to three times a day milking in the New Year, it is actually proving to be a really useful exercise as we have got a couple of new faces in to help and it will also mean that different people will learn different skills.

We are heading to a Muller meeting tomorrow night. I would imagine it will be a heated evening given next month’s price cut and the continuing pressures on costs.

Driving efficiency is one thing, but how far can we go?


Read more about Shropshire farmer Henry Wilson