Steve Brown farms 200ha
(500 acres) in Co Durham, in
partnership with his parents.
The familys 125-cow herd is
run at Hopper House; with a
200 ewe flock and
replacements on grass at a
separate unit and the
remaining land as arable crops
WHEAT was harvested and straw baled in between downpours; land work, drilling and a third cut of silage depend on whether we can locate one of those redundant cross Channel hovercrafts.
We still have plenty of grass to graze, but access to it is proving a problem, both for the cows and myself. With no purpose-built cow tracks, gateways are a quagmire, and with half of the herd udder-deep in mud, I can appreciate one good reason why so many cattle breeders prefer tall cows.
From a personal point of view, my own trips to and from the fields are a struggle, not because of ATV or even Massey 35 breakdowns, but because Im plodging knee deep in clarts. With many cows needing a thorough clean prior to milking, Im still not convinced about the benefits of extended grazing in County Durham.
With grass quality in mind, however, we are keeping the high yielders in at night with wheat, sugar beet and rape-pro being fed on top of silage. The low yielders task is to clean up as much grass as possible before over-wintered sheep arrive to tackle what is left.
The wet autumn grass led to our first case of grass staggers for many years, but nothing fatal; the onset of housing reminded me that the two cows that reverse into cubicles are still with us, and once again the promise is made not to serve them next time around.
Filling in the registration of older cattle form was an eye opener; of our first 40 double tagged heifers in-milk or in-calf, about half need a replacement tag at this early stage in their lives. Couple with this the number of older cows that will ultimately require a like for like replacement at the end of their productive life and my belief is confirmed that the tag companies have friends in high places in the Ministry; cattle tracing legislation must have boosted their profits tremendously.
At last we have an upturn in the milk price to look forward to; as well as this theres agrimonetary compensation and OTMS slaughter premium due. Who knows, soon it might just be the weather thats worth grumbling about. *
Wheres the hovercraft, wonders Steve Brown, who is beginning to see the advantages of tall cows.