Mike Allwood is owner-
occupier of a 82ha
(200-acre) farm near
Nantwich, Cheshire. The
175-cow dairy herd block
calves during May and June.
Mike is also director of Farm
Produce Marketing which
manufactures Orchard Maid
frozen yogurt, and puts
Cheshire milk onto airline
SINCE we re-stocked in May 1984 following a brucellosis outbreak, we have maintained a summer block calving herd. But in keeping with our approach of producing for the market, we have decided to move to all-year-round calving.
This has enabled us to re-think fertility management, resulting in a slightly more laissez faire approach with less use of hormones and, I hope, better conception rates.
We spend a lot of time trying to catch bullers, visiting the herd at midday and at night, as well as watching closely at milking times, so we see most heats – and some more besides.
Our problem has been getting cows to hold to service. Stalking a shy breeder at night and serving her with an expensive bull only to see her repeat in three weeks time is no joke. This year none of the cows will be served before 50 days after calving and those considered unlikely to conceive at this stage will be left for another three weeks.
Cows not seen bulling by day 50 will be examined at the next fortnightly vet visit and treated for any abnormality. Any cow still unserved at day 92 will be re-examined and only then will they be treated with prostaglandin, when its thought necessary. The vet will PD cows manually at seven to nine weeks. Any negatives will be closely observed for the next four weeks, before prostaglandin treatment is considered.
We are gradually trying to reduce our dependence on conventional medicines as we approach the time when cows must be managed organically, six months before the land becomes organic. I am starting to consider options which in the past I would have dismissed.
We had an interesting meeting with homeopathic vet Chris Day recently. I was impressed, not only by his confidence that many common conditions can be successfully treated homoeopathically, but also by his refreshing approach to herd management. For example, when a cow is giving too much milk to be dried off, perhaps she should be milked for longer and the next year perhaps she should be served later. Food for thought when one cant use dry cow tubes. *
David Maughan farms with
his brother, Peter, on two
farms totalling 272ha (425
acres) in Co.Durham on the
Raby Estate. The 40ha (100
acres) grass supports an
18-month and a silage beef
system. Cattle for the 18-
month system are reared
from purchased Continental
bull calves, with Continental
bull and heifer calves for the
silage beef system
AUGUST has proved an extremely busy month with arable work occupying much of our efforts. Oilseed rape has been both harvested and sown – with an increased area being sown this year as our grass area is reduced and an additional break crop area is needed to replace it.
New grass leys have been sown using a combi-drill fitted with special coulter attachments to give increased seed spread. Seedlings have emerged, with the benefit of early rainfall, in eight days and look well.
With two tremendous grass growth years almost behind us, we find the silage clamps are accumulating an increasing surplus, therefore we need to sow less acreage. In the current stringent climate, cattle ration costs have to be closely checked. With cheap energy and protein available, grass silage is under tremendous competition to provide the most cost-effective ration.
In terms of variable costs of silage production an acre, high yielding grass crops will bring back forage variables/t of silage produced. The less obvious cost of silage production, when making your own, is its share of fixed costs, as it does involve a high number of machinery hours for crop gathering.
Our permanent grass acreage is important to our 18-month beef enterprise. We have a 27-acre field split into four paddocks which we shall start to reseed this autumn. Reseeds on some other smaller paddocks have proved very successful in recent years, improving both output and more importantly palatability of grazing.
We normally plough grass fields before reseeding, but this year we are direct drilling into the ridge and furrow using an Aichison drill.
We sprayed off grass with glyphosate, adding an insecticide to help avoid any frit problems. However, there is some sward rejection from the last grazing so we shall tidy up with the topper, apply a little lime and drill in mid-September.
Wheat harvest has come to a sudden halt with current unsettled weather. Apart from our first crop, which was Take-all affected, it looks as though yields may turn out better than was earlier feared. Interestingly the Take-all crop, a second Brigadier crop, tipped the scales at only 53cwts/acre, whereas its sister crop in the same field, only a first wheat after set-aside, yielded 82.5cwts/acre. This graphically highlighted the effect of Take-all on yield. *
Ewan Brewis 700ha(1750-
acre) farm is split into two
units. Lempitlaw, the main
420ha (1037 acre) holding
near Kelso, Scottish Borders
and Gattonside Mains with
180ha (455 acre) grass
(LFA). Stocking is 340
sucklers, a 40-cow pedigree
Aberdeen-Angus herd, 20-
cow pedigree Charolais herd,
60 pedigree Suffolk and 960
THIS month we have only had 64mm of rain and at the moment we are enduring one of the hottest and driest spells this summer.
Although it has only lasted five days, it has enabled us to clash on with harvest for what its worth, and also make second cut silage at Gattonside Mains last week.
The quantity of grass for this time of year was phenomenal. We ended up making over 1500 bales in total. This will enable us to cut down on purchased straw and to a certain extent reduce concentrate.
Presently, we have all our second cut lying ready to lift at Lempitlaw. Again, there is a tremendous quantity of what looks to be surprisingly high quality grass as well. None of the grasses have headed out and sward thickness is unbelievable. Having topped set-aside grass twice at the beginning of August, it also looks to have tillered and thickened.
Today sees the start of dressing tups for Kelso. They continue to look well, but we are struggling to keep them all sound. We are feeding them draff and pea waste in place of their beloved cabbages which now seem to have succumbed to a late germination of weeds. However, I have promised them a few cabbages for the week before sale.
To continue on the fodder theme, we sowed stubble turnips after winter barley into a superb seed bed. The only problem is that cooler weather is now slowing progress. Fodder beet on the other hand, having looked fairly mediocre, has now transformed and looks as if it will produce a very acceptable yield.
Bulls have been entered for Perth and at present there are six, although one has been provisionally spoken for to join Genuss stud. We have also entered four heifers and are waiting for the vet to scan them.
Calving continues at Gattonside and again John reckons that quality is improved. However, we have had a lot of heifer calves and an unprecedented number of twins. So far, we have six sets of twins and we are not even a third of the way through calving. I dont suppose we should complain too much considering the current state of the arable enterprises.
By this time next month, tup sales will be past and hopefully harvest will be finished. *
John Helliar has a 130ha
(320-acre) farm on the
Longleat Estate, near
Warminster, Wilts. He milks
180 cows, rears his own
replacements and grows
45ha (110 acres) of maize,
which comprises 70% of the
winter ration. 1500 store
lambs are put out on winter
grass keep in October for
sale as fat lambs in
THE one big question I will have to answer in the next few weeks is – do I buy in store lamb for fattening this winter or not?
If we knew the likely end price the answer would be easy. The improbables are the strength of sterling affecting lamb exports, how much New Zealand lamb is likely to arrive next January, and the possibility of some boffin in an ivory tower saying lamb is unhealthy to eat.
If we go ahead we will buy fewer than last year, because one farmer with whom we have placed 600 lambs is retiring in September.
Cow-wise things are going along quite nicely – thats the kiss of death. Milk yield held steady through June and July with 40 new heifers averaging 26 litres and 100 cows averaging 35 litres, while protein is holding at 3.3%.
But now is the most critical time, as serving started on September 1. Tail painting commenced three weeks ago to record all heats before service, along with a blood profile to check the ration energy status.
Blood tests showed one area of concern. Globulin levels were high in all cows and heifers which may indicate infections. For one cow its possible, but not all eight.
The other possibility is a lack of dietary fibre, and with so much lush grass, maize and corn it might be worth further investigation. In the meantime 0.5kg a cow of barley straw is being mixed in the ration. Another blood test will take place in two weeks time to confirm any response.
Another area of concern has been abortions in the last six months – 10 in total. All these were checked for contagious abortions and all were clear. Further tests showed no firm conclusions, but one possibility is bovine viral diarrhoea. A milk sample showed some signs of a herd BVD infection, but whether this is the main cause will only be confirmed after more tests. If we do have to vaccinate, it will cost £11 a cow in the first year, £2,500 for the herd – a cost we can do without.
Maize has grown in the last few weeks, but the area where there was compaction is still looking poor. To make sure this problem is addressed we subsoiled 25 acres of wheat stubble where maize will be grown next year. Ryegrass undersown in the maize looks encouraging. It has grown better than last year, mainly due to a lower maize yield. *