Farmer Focus: Heavy rain ends zero-grazing season

It seems incredible to think that we have started calving Jerseys in their fourth lactation since switching from Holstein-Friesian. 

While we have tried to get away from the initial calving block that existed when the heifers arrived from Denmark, the next few weeks are nonetheless quite busy, although far from calving 10 or more in one day.

See also: 9 benefits of switching to a zero-grazing system

About the author

Colin Murdoch
Ayrshire farmer and zero grazer Colin Murdoch switched from Holsteins to milking 225 Jerseys in 2019. The 182ha farm grows 40ha of winter and spring barley for a total mixed ration and parlour fed system supplying Graham’s Family Dairy.
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The vast bulk of the original arrivals are still here but, as we bring in our own replacements, we are now able to be far more selective as to what cows we keep breeding.

It is positive to see that the cull price of a Jersey in good condition remains high. We have had a few away that have made about £800 a head.

I recently spent a few days in Wales at the Genus bull stud.

It was brilliant to see the technology involved in the process of creating the sexed semen and the astounding pace of genetic improvement that genomics has created.

We have been trying to use some of the top Jersey bulls from Denmark for milk components, and North America for yield.

However, I have been encouraged to start genomic testing of our heifer calves to speed up the development of the herd. 

I must admit that I didn’t know genomic test results of a calf at eight weeks old can give the same information as a cow having completed three lactations.

It is another example of our industry being at the forefront of development.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we have finished zero-grazing for the year. Even though we have plenty of grass, all our youngstock are now safely inside.

We have had 16in of rain in six weeks, which limits intakes.

Don’t even suggest buying store lambs or taking winterers to eat the grass. “Sheep” is a bad word on this farm.

Clipping and dosing cattle have taken up much of our time recently, but I like to get it done as soon as they are in. Thankfully, we seem to be over any further lungworm problems. 

This time last year we had a few cases of rotavirus, so we have altered a couple of sheds to have a small, dedicated calving shed in isolation from any other groups. This appears to be working well so far.