Staffing issues have been troublesome for Ian Ratcliffe

We’re calving steadily now with 143 in milk averaging 25 litres. Yields are limited by such a high proportion of fresh heifers, but we’re confident this average will increase as more cows calve in through September and the heifers head towards peak, to capitalise on positive seasonality.

I was fortunate enough to buy an autumn calving herd of Ayrshires and Friesians. They arrived in June and have since been out summered on our far off dry’s regime of stubble turnips, haylage and a little grazed grass. Looking back, growing turnips has been one of our better decisions since grass growth has been poor. We’re trying to farm a beach and the reseeds have been a saving grace, but we’ve still been forced to bring the cows in on two occasions when grass growth fell well below demand.

Calves have been troublesome. We started well, but following 30 calvings in a week, E coli and cryptosporidium became an issue despite good immunoglubulin results. We seem to be getting on top of it though and there’s no better sight than turning them out at 10-14 days.

Staffing has also been a challenge. Unfortunately our student left unexpectedly after a few weeks, so it’s been all hands on deck, with my right-hand man, Andrew, stepping up, and the family pulling rank, with dad taking charge of dry cows and re-seeding and mum helping my girlfriend, Cath, with calves. One of the biggest life-savers has been my uni friend, Will, a trained farm manager who’s been in New Zealand for the last year, and lucky for us happened to be in the UK until the end of August before returning to NZ. It’s such a shame that such a skilled and driven young farmer has no opportunities in the UK to get on the farming ladder, and has to go half way around the world to have a chance of owning his own cows.

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