Farmer Focus: Lowland sheep shrink as dairy expands

We have taken the plunge to expand our dairy enterprise by roughly 160 head to total about 410 head and reduce our in-bye sheep, which is a big change for us.

As long as I can remember the dairy/sheep split has been fairly similar.

We have spent numerous days away researching milking parlours and layouts because it is paramount to get the cow flow and comfort right to have healthy, happy and productive cows.

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We went down to the UK Dairy Day at Telford at the beginning of September and spent the day mainly talking to milking equipment suppliers, but also getting some new ideas.

The main milking herd has now been housed for more than five weeks. They haven’t settled properly on the diet so far, but we are getting there with small tweaks to improve the ration.

It didn’t help when we looked inside the feeder wagon and saw it was missing a blade, with a few others damaged or out of place. Obviously the mix quality and consistency was causing problems for the cows.

As soon as we fixed that issue, the cows started to settle much better.

We sent a couple more loads of lambs to the abattoir through September. Grades were a bit below par earlier in the year at 70% R3L and R2, but this has increased to 85% and we hope we can get towards 95% with the next batch.

With the expansion, we sold 350 of the in-bye ewes privately off farm, with only a couple of small batches left to go.

We have been very happy with the prices we achieved off farm, because breeding sales seem to be hugely variable this year.

However, tup sales seem to have been as strong as ever for good, strong, commercial animals.

Later in September we tried to focus on compaction in the pasture before it got too wet and used a pan buster on some of the fields.

We hope this will help grass and soil health and drainage as we head into winter.

Patrick Morris-Eyton is a new Farmer Focus writer. Read his biography.