Farmer Focus: Frost threatens Valentine’s turnout for cows

Calving has started and so far it is a decidedly mixed bag. Our first cow to calve blessed us with twins.

When we did have a heifer calf, the cow decided to sit on it. Our third cow to calve sadly died.

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Despite knowing since last May that we would be expecting cows to calve at the beginning of February, sure enough it has been a last-minute dash to get everything ready.

All that needs to be done now is hang a gate in the calving pen and we’ll be ready. Then we play the waiting game, which is admittedly very dull.

We aim to get the cows out by Valentine’s Day, if only for a couple hours. But the cold frosts are making turnout tricky. No sooner do they arrive than the sun pops out and turns the hard ground back to mush.

Judging by the number of heads looking forlornly over the gates, the cows know that turnout is due.

This year we have tried a new grass seed variety designed to give us extra growth during the spring and autumn months. It will be interesting to see how this compares against our other varieties.

With our business heading into a period of tricky milk prices, the girls are doing their bit and producing some of the best quality milk we’ve ever had. On our components-based contract this will be most welcome, but won’t be enough to make up any shortfall that will arrive.

With milk prices being where they are it is not surprising to hear of farmers selling up and moving on – and I don’t blame them.

A quick look in the classifieds shows plenty of sales coming up in the near future. Even Ed Grundy is selling his prized Guernsey cattle in Ambridge. I sometimes wonder where it will all end.

Then I’m jolted out of this idle moment to go and check the close-up dry cows. Knowing my luck there’s a calf in there presented backwards.

Ross Symons

Ross Symons farms 200 dairy cows, including his own small herd of pedigree Holsteins, with his parents near Truro, Cornwall. They are converting their year-round calving herd to autumn block calving.