Farmer Focus: Lucky escape with tractor fire

We’ve had some heat in more ways than one over the past month.

First cut was gathered in on 19 May, only five days later than last year. Quality should be good, even although quantity is about 2.4t/ha (1t/acre) lower, at 18.5t/ha (7.5t/acre).

We’ve carried surplus silage from last year as we continue to learn and adjust practices with the Jerseys, which meant we were able to cut quite promptly. 

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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See also: Pink silage trailer raises cash for cancer charity

We’re lucky to have a fantastic contractor with a team that makes everything go like clockwork.

The race to get slurry back on was going well until the tractor on the mixer pump went up in a cloud of black smoke and flames. 

It was frightening to see how fast it happened, but thanks to the local fire service and our neighbour for attending so quickly we were able to make sure the cows were safe, and there was only superficial damage to the shed.  

I dread to think what would have happened if the wind had been blowing the other way.

Do check your insurance schedules – apparently the price of second-hand tractors is well up! 

We’ve added a couple of new members to the team recently.

Alison has swapped from high fashion to farming. Going from wedding dress-making and studying textiles to wellies and a milking apron is quite a change, but she’s doing great and learning fast. 

Our other new arrival is an automatic feed pusher christened “Caroline” because Neil Diamond was playing on the radio when she was unloaded. 

After a few teething problems as a result of not following directions, she’s settling into her role pushing in silage – and she doesn’t talk back. Intakes have increased, gaining us an extra 1.2 litres a cow, to average almost 26 litres.  

The welcome sunshine has meant grass growth has taken off; let’s hope summer has finally arrived.

Taking advantage of the weather, we baled 6ha (15 acres) of surplus last week. June is always a hard month for keeping the balance with the zero grazer – the cows soon tell you when digestibility drops.  

We’ve lifted grass in the diet to 50kg freshweight and saved 0.5kg of concentrates to manage growth. Milk solids are holding at 6.1% butterfat and 4.4% protein.    

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