Cereals one possibility
DRILLING cereals is the route chosen by one Devon producer to reduce the impact of losing cows in the selective cull.
Neil Thorne, who farms 79ha (195 acres) in partnership at Bampfield Farm, Goodleigh near Barnstaple, is concerned that he may lose all his third and fourth lactation cows – a total of 31 out of his 116-head herd – in the cull.
"We have not been visited yet, but have sown 23 acres of spring wheat to reduce the impact on profits. That means I will have a crop to sell, and if fewer animals are culled, we can whole-crop the wheat."
Plans are afoot to sow a further 6ha (15 acres) of spring barley, explains his consultant, Tony Evans. "The herd is loose yarded and is fed using a TMR system. Growing more barley will provide more straw and home-grown corn to use in rations, reducing overheads."
But Mr Thornes key concern is for herd replacements. His herd block-calves from June onwards, with all the cows which are in-calf to a Friesian calving within the first month. If these cows are culled before calving there will be a reduced number of herd replacements in two years time, he says.
"We run a closed herd and I am obviously very reluctant to buy-in replacements, but I may have to consider that option to maintain cashflow. The best solution would be to delay slaughter until after the cows have calved, but I am not sure whether MAFF will agree."
According to a MAFF spokes-man, producers facing this dilemma should contact their divisional vet manager as soon as possible.
"We will be flexible as far as possible to fit in with normal farm operations, and will look at each case individually." *
Neil Thorne (right) and father-in-law David Bleloch will lose over a third of their dairy herd in the cull.