Giles Henry rents 105ha
(260 acres) on a 10-year
lease and 114ha (280
acres) of heather moorland
near Selkirk in the Scottish
Borders which is in organic
conversion. Cropping is
mainly grass with 14ha (36
acres) of spring barley. The
farm is stocked with 450
breeding ewes, 85 hoggs
and 50 Luing cows with
followers and finishers
IT HAS been nice to have sunny days for the last few weeks. Lambing time could not have been easier and with a good amount of rain yesterday, crops are well established and should move forward quickly.
We sowed our second field of spring barley on May 20, after movement restrictions relaxed and away-wintered cows were able to return home. This field was undersown with a catch crop of ryegrass and red clover the day after it was sown with barley.
Our other field of barley, which was sown 18 days previously, has been slow to get away, mainly because of frosting. However, it is now growing well and tillering out. I will harrow this with a tined weeder and sow a catch crop of ryegrass and clover at the same time. It will be interesting to see which field establishes the best grass.
Dry conditions have led to a few burnt patches in grass fields, but recent rain means grass is growing again, coinciding with lambs starting to eat it. Our field of early lambs are starting to scour a little, so I will take dung samples this week for egg counts to see whether any action is needed.
Calving is finished apart from four two-year-old heifers due in June and three cows which were bulled late and are due to calve in August. If calving of these heifers goes well, I will bull six yearling heifers along with cows in July and August.
This is one way of building numbers up quickly and should not compromise cow size. Cows are recovering well after calving, putting on condition, so hopefully they will come to the bull well in July.
Cows and calves are running in two lots, with one group in a field with a tremendous amount of clover. I have shut off part of it because I felt they were going to waste grass. I will either cut this for silage or allow cows to strip graze it if there are grass shortages later on. *
Bill andJonathan Metcalf
Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
rent 89ha (220 acres) of
grassland, plus moorland
grazing, near Barnard Castle,
and own a further unit 12
miles away, both are
situated in the Less Favoured
Area of Teesdale. The farms
are stocked with 120
sucklers, including 20
pedigree Blonde dAquitaines,
and 1200 ewes with
IT IS no great surprise that Tony Blair is still residing in Downing Street and we read that the Ministry of Agriculture has been dropped in favour of the Department of the Environment, Countryside, Rural Affairs and Food. Reading backwards, FARCE sounds appropriate, given its members apparent lack of interest in the future of farming.
Our vet bill has been high this month, resulting from extra cost associated with inspections to obtain longer distance movement licences for moving bulls and some heifers to grazing.
It took the inspection, three visits to the disinfection centre, being followed by a Ministry official all afternoon and a heap of paperwork to move three breeding bulls separately to three destinations on the same route. One young bull was sold to a close neighbour and a 20-month-old bull of our own will bull the bulk of cows at Barningham. We are lucky, however; at least we are still able to do it.
Our local vets are doing an heroic job dealing with livestock and people caught up in the crisis and coping with things which have nothing to do with why they entered the profession.
We have been spreading muck on some of the barest pastures and catching up on some knapsack spraying of nettles and thistles recently.
We have also started clipping hoggs which remain on lower land and are debating whether to move them onto moorland, which would involve compulsory blood testing.
Rumours abound of mass culls in areas around us. Despite reassurances to the contrary, we wonder what the results of future mass screening of stock may bring. Could antibodies be found in animals, resulting in culling without any sign of disease?
Clipping will be a little more difficult than usual. We do it ourselves, but with sheep near the moorland, at the main farms and on land at Greta Bridge, we may have to resort to a generator to minimise stock movement. After clipping some of the bigger tups, I think age could also be a problem. *
Andrew Groom has managed
Purlieus Farm near Swindon,
Wilts, on contract since
1991. The 138ha (342-acre)
farm, owned by P&A
Crocker, is stocked with
200 dairy cows with
replacements reared on a
separate 26ha (65-acre)
farm. His interests include
whole-crop cereals and
cross-breeding cows using
a Brown Swiss bull
WITH the number of warm, dry and sunny days moving into double figures it almost seems like another world. This helps to remove a little of the depression most of us have felt over the last months.
I am convinced it has had the same effect on cows. Milk production is still running well above prediction and fresh calvers seemed to have settled in smoothly. Feeding a little more at the end of the last milk year to offset poorer quality silage has been an unintentional investment. It has lifted condition score and helped to improve herd health, allowing a better transition into the new lactation.
Like maize drilling, first cut was split. First, we cut 13ha (32 acres) of Italian ryegrass and red clover, along with a new ley of 10ha (24 acres) which followed last years whole-crop wheat. They produced a good yield with ideal wilt.
Ten days later, at the end of May, we took the bulk first cut of 60ha (150 acres). Due to a slightly reduced yield and the fact that Russel, our contractor, has invested in a large mower conditioner and new Jaguar 900 self-propelled forager, we harvested the whole acreage in one day.
Conditioning, combined with warm, breezy conditions kept the wilt down to 24 hours, which should produce some top quality silage.
At a recent NFU milk committee meeting, we were discussing the future of milk purchasers and looking at the way their shares are performing. For two in particular, whose shares seems to be at differing ends of the scale, return to the producer is no different and neither is their attitude.
I am further convinced the only way forward is to produce and process our own product at a lower cost and better long term return to the producer, where we would also retain market place flexibility.
Since de-merging, Express seems to have lost its commodity edge in what must be the most expandable sector of the market. If my shares were at the high some processors are, I would sell and capitalise on the chance to buy a bigger share in a wholly producer-owned processing business that could control production costs, passing back a better return. *
Mike Allwood is owner-
occupier of 82ha (200-
acres) near Nantwich,
Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy
herd block calves during
May and June. Besides
converting to organic
production, he is also
planning to produce
ANIMALS seem to be moving around again in this area. We, like many others, are desperate to sell calves and barreners.
However, premature cattle movements may prolong the foot-and-mouth outbreak, which appears to have been caused mainly by direct animal-to-animal contact.
When we started organic conversion, one of our main worries was mastitis – partly because dry cow therapy is ruled out and partly due to the cost of a two week withdrawal period after antibiotic use.
Until recently, mastitis had not been a problem for us, despite higher cell counts than before conversion. But this spring, the combination of awful weather and lack of barren sales have hit us badly and we have experienced high cell counts and a rash of cases. Ironically, we have thrown little milk away because of all the calves clogging up buildings, but we need to do something.
The first step is to establish individual cow cell counts. We have been putting this off so far because everybody hates taking the samples. Also, I am not sure what to do with the information once we have it. I am told cell counts fluctuate so much that we need several consecutive tests before taking any drastic action such as culling. We also have the option of using dry cow therapy on problem cases.
Alternatively, maybe it is time to put homeopathy to the test. Our suppliers are confident that if we treat all high cell count cows with their potions, we will sort out the problem. We shall see.
So far, we have made silage in dry weather, so I am optimistic about quality. However, I am worried about the effect of soil contamination on fermentation.
We were unable to roll fields this spring because grass got away before ground dried up and I refuse to flatten good stands of grass. I am not a big fan of rolling and chain harrowing. Chain harrowing is cosmetic and a waste of time and energy and when a roller is heavy enough to flatten ruts, it is likely to turn a partly squashed field into a fully squashed field. *