9 August 2002


Sue and Andy Guy

Sue and Andy Guy farm

79ha (196 acres) on an

FBT in Notts. They are

expanding their 76-cow

pedigree high health status

Holstein herd which

averages 6900 litres

SUMMERTIME and living is easy. With that in mind, we took an afternoon off to attend an MDC meeting about cow fertility.

A fascinating Dutchman discussed and demonstrated body condition and its impact on conception rates. We assessed rumen fill in a herd of cows and ended the day discovering many things you can tell about a cows diet from the consistency of her dung. Thankfully, they provided free gloves.

Inspired, we decided to take more care managing our dry cows, instead of using them to clean up pastures after milkers. If we get it right, we should see improvements in conception to first service, which is currently 56%.

We have just had our farm assurance audit and we did not find it a very valuable exercise. The standards set by the National Dairy Farm Assurance Scheme seemed to be a basic minimum, which only the very worst farms should fail to attain.

The standard should not be easy to meet, so producers can be proud of achieving them. Unless compliance with the scheme adds value and improves standards, it is just a waste of time.

Our problem lies in the fact that our produce is perceived to be indistinguishable from imported commodities. We need to identify the quality of the home produced food and separate it from the rest.

The oil companies all produce similar petrol, but few feature fuel directly in their advertisements. Instead marketing is based around the rolling British countryside, wildlife and corn fields. Have we missed a trick here? These feel-good factors are the result of British agriculture.

The environment is still thriving outside the ring roads, but we need to tell people its there and that we are looking after it. Once they believe we produce wholesome food and care for the environment and animals, they will ask for our products in the shops. All of a sudden we are no longer selling world traded commodities, we have a brand.

It is not good enough to say "we are dairy farmers, so we want to advertise milk". This needs to be bigger. "We are farmers and we want to advertise British farming". &#42

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