Farmer Focus: Shed build allows more cows on sand bedding

In early December we hosted a benchmarking group I’m involved with through our milk buyer. We had a farm walk in the morning and an afternoon of discussion based around what the group had seen.

Although it’s a little unnerving to hear the opinion of 20 of your peers, it was a very useful exercise.

We picked up various pointers from the group, who had ideas on all aspects of how we farm, and it was particularly interesting to hear their opinions on how we move the business forward.

See also: Should you convert to sand bedding on your dairy?

About the author

Tom Stable
Tom Stable and family, Ulverston, Cumbria, milk 300 Holsteins twice a day, producing milk for Arla and ice cream for their Cumbrian Cow brand. The 215ha operation, of which half is rented, grows grass, maize, and winter wheat. Cows average 10,800 litres.
Read more articles by Tom Stable

The year 2021, on the whole, has been a very positive one for us here, despite the chaos in the world caused by Covid.

Our new cubicle shed was completed at the start of December. This has allowed us to move another 125 animals on to sand cubicles.

Our original sand shed was completed in autumn 2018, and it has delivered most of the benefits you hear and read about – more milk, less lameness, improved cow longevity and reduced somatic cell count.

However, it has not decreased our clinical mastitis from its level of around 25 cases per 100, which has been the only real disappointment.

We believe the other benefits well outweigh the additional workload created by the sand, which I appreciate varies massively depending on the rest of the setup.

It has also been a good year for the farm crops, and I think this will prove very valuable going into 2022. Any forage carried over will be worth its weight in gold with the way the price of inputs has rocketed.

I haven’t been farming for that long, but one thing I have learned is not to waste too much time predicting what’s going to happen. We have seen a swing of more than 8p/litre in milk price during the course of this year.

Moving into next year we can only really hope for some stability – although I wouldn’t put money on us getting any.

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope those of you looking after livestock haven’t had too many issues during Christmas!

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