Farmer Focus: Drying off cows begins

By the time this is published all the cows will be dry and the 4.30am starts will have gone for the next eight weeks. All the team had an obvious spring in their step last week as we dried off the first few cows.

The last field was grazed on 3 December, with the remaining milkers on a diet of 100% silage for the next three days or so, by which time they will all be dry and we will then walk them off the farm to the wintering ground, which comprises fodder beet with silage bales.

See also: How a Shropshire dairy farmer saved £60,000 in mastitis control

Drying off is a bit like an efficient production line: meticulous cleaning with wipes and surgical spirit, followed by antibiotic tubes for some cows, and teat sealant for them all.

Cows are then bloused, fluke-drenched and vaccinated for IBR and BVD.

Cows that have exceeded a cell count of 200 on any milk recordings will get antibiotic tubes. This equates to 15% of the herd this year.

Our main focus over the dry period is the stock – and keeping things as simple as possible for ourselves.

We will have a big push on Mondays and Fridays to set up the week and weekends, so there is minimal routine work in between.

Time aside from that will allow for some maintenance and improvements for next season.

From a management perspective, our focus is very much on next year. Budgets will be finalised in the next week or so, which will give rise to setting a number of targets and goals for the farms and businesses.

One of these will be the tonnes of dry matter grown on the platform – work to address soil fertility has already started.

Last month, the contractors managed to get 350t of lime down while it was dry and now they have the challenge of getting some P and K applied to help build our indices, which are predominantly in the region of 1-2 for both.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and New Year.

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.