Farmer Focus: I hope Brexit can find a home market for bull calves

The heatwave has gone and autumn is now in full swing. I find it a crazy time of year, as we believe we make forage in summer, but – especially this year =- more will be made in September and October.

Grass growth has been phenomenal. We have been able to zero-graze almost 3ha compared with our usual 2ha.

I believe there is more value in feeding grass directly instead of making more fourth-cut, which is more expensive and fermentation can always be variable, never mind trying to find some consecutive dry days.

The cows have performed all summer, but we have seen cell counts rise, so we decided to treat some of our subclinical mastitis cows by going through our milk records, picking out cows with constantly high cell counts.

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

We then stripped each teat through our mastitis detector and treated individual teats. It will be interesting to see what the cure rate is.

We have not found any Staph aureus in the herd, so that should hopefully increase success.

The next cost I have been focusing on is machinery repairs, which we are well over budget for this year. We are running older machines across the farm, mainly due to the past two years of low milk price, so reliability deteriorates with age and workload.

We took the plunge and bought a telehandler with a 4,000-hour warranty and auto-lube, which should bring one less headache.

Two other areas of improvement are staff training and routine maintenance.

Last week BBC Scotland decided to broadcast Dark side of dairy, where reporter Sam Poling tried to highlight the plight of dairy bull calves travelling from Stranraer to Spain.

I thought the programme was really one-sided and they couldn’t even prove that the Scottish calves made it to the horrendous abattoir in North Africa.

Only 5,000 calves are exported a year from Scotland’s 175,000-cow industry. This is a very small proportion, but I hope Brexit will provide a home market for them all.

Gary Mitchell is a Farmer Focus writer from South West Scotland. Read his biography.