John Davies runs an upland
stock farm in mid-Wales.
The main holding at Pentre
comprises 145ha (360
acres) of grass, with some
short-term grass lets being
taken, and hill rights
extending to 97ha (240
acres). The farm carries 101
suckler cows, 975 ewes,
230 Beulah speckled face
ewe lambs and 35 Welsh
TUP sales seem to occupy every other day at the moment. One of the largest sales was held locally by the NSA at the Royal Welsh Showground. Prices for the best animals in most sales kept up, but second rate ones were much cheaper.
We are busy drawing and tailing ewes ready for tupping. We will be testing new tup arrivals to see whether they produce Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mr Bean offspring!
We must concentrate on efficiently producing what the customer wants, then market it effectively, something that is currently occupying my mind night and day.
As farmers we need to co-operate and get involved on the other side of the farm gate. If present prices dont improve, it could mean a few of us locally getting on our bikes – or hiring a van/lorry – and selling direct to survive.
As mentioned last month, bulls which we housed were being fed on micronised barley. However, due to lack of storage space it was delivered in tonne bags and was either too wet, or sweating, causing it to go mouldy. Half of it was returned to the supplier and bulls went onto a whole-crop diet. But theyre not improving as fast as Id hoped.
We took four cows directly to the slaughterhouse under the OTMS scheme. Normally, I manage to take them just after the price drops. This time I managed to do it a couple of days before the price increased.
We also took 132 Mule ewe lambs to a second sale. They averaged just over £38/head – £27 a head less than last year. The shortfall of income on 250, presented at the first and second sale, is significantly more than the increase in SAPs this year.
Our wool was loaded into a silage trailer, making it easy to transport. A couple of years ago, a friend delivered his wool on a slightly overloaded flat bed trailer and left a trail of wool from Merthyr Cynog to Brecon. He has been reminded ever since of the day hedges turned white over night and all birds from here to Brecon had him to thank for a woollen carpet in their nest.
I attended the NFU Blackpool march. It was good to see all the industry leaders on stage, singing from the same hymn sheet. Like many others, I got to talk to the new minister. I think he met and spoke to more farmers that day than the last one did during the whole of his office.
Now we need some action to go with the sympathy. *
John Geldard and family farm
175ha (430 acres) near
Kendal in the Lake District.
Stock now comprises of 100
suckler cows with progeny
finished alongside 200+
bought in stores, 1000 ewes
– 160 pedigree Charollais
plus Lleyns – and ewe lamb
replacements, with a 25,000
bird poultry enterprise
WITH all our breeding sheep and ram sales over, we can now sit back and assess how well the Lleyns have done. Without a doubt, they have served us well again.
Regardless of the state of the industry, Lleyns have sold well. At the last sale, at Carlisle, our shearlings and two-year-olds made over £80 a head and ewe lambs averaged in the £60 range. To me that was better than last year, considering the way sheep marketing has gone during the last six weeks.
Ram sales averaged about £80 a head down on last year, but we have sold about 12 more.
With the sales behind us, its down to focusing on next years production. In the last week all the Lleyn ewes have been through the turnover crate for dosing, having their feet checked and tailing-out. Then they were split to go to the appropriate rams for tupping.
One daunting task that faces us in the next few weeks is selling our wether lambs. We have been trying to hold them back a little and time will tell if that was rightly or wrongly.
On the cattle front, we have bought in about 90 head of store cattle. Prices seemed to be reasonable, but when you look at the price of finished cattle they have got to be. We are currently housing more cattle after worming and clipping their backs out. We believe clipping cattle helps stop them sweating if the weather turns muggy.
We recently had planning approval for an extra cattle/sheep shed and are now in the process of erecting it, which is keeping us busy.
At the end of September, we went to the NFU march in Blackpool. Rachel, myself and sons Richard and Charles all attended along with thousands of others. The new minister, Nick Brown was certainly listening, lets give him a chance and hope he delivers some help.
This Sunday sees a pleasant duty for Rachel and I. We will be attending the christening of Ellis Jane, baby daughter of my brother and sister-in-law and we will become her godparents. *
Christian Fox has taken over
management of 100 cows
and followers on a 200ha
(500 acre) mixed farm in
West Sussex, with 150ha
(380 acres) of arable crops.
The plan is to increase profits
and lower costs by producing
more milk from grazing
WHAT a fantastic month we have had for cheap milk production. Cows have really got the hang of grazing paddocks tightly and are bragging by producing 22.5 litres of milk from 5kg of 21% protein concentrate and grazed grass.
Grass growth has slowed, but still continues. Soil temperature and moisture are such that we are still seeing a good response from nitrogen, so we are trickling-on doses of about 25 units at a time.
With cow intake greater than grass growth, I will be opening the maize clamp to feed 5kg a head from a trough-trailer out in a paddock at night. I dont know how to make sure each cow gets 5kg rather than 20 fat bullies scoff the lot.
I am also grazing shorter covers now, to make sure paddocks are well cleaned-out. Spring cleaning starts in October on a grassland farm! I must do a feed budget, to establish what grass cover I want to leave while there is no growth, so that I can turn out again as early as possible next year.
The maize yield has been higher than previous years at about 12t an acre. But I feel that this still makes it an expensive feed. You could grow more kg of dry matter/ha if you grew grass and probably make more money if you grew wheat.
Another consideration is the location of the maize clamp which is away from winter housing, so it is costly to feed. We will have to consider the future of maize on this farm.
The big unresolved question is that of calving pattern. I have always felt that spring – mid-February – calving would suit this farm well, with good land for out-wintering dry cows and limited winter housing facilities.
I had thought that autumn calving should be considered as the existing calving pattern – all year but with a peak from July to September – would adapt very easily. However, a recent discussion group meeting on the farm seemed to favour spring calving – and most of them are ardent autumn calvers.
Changing to spring calving without selling cows would mean running cows round for some time and must be carefully-planned. I will take advice from fellow grazers, who have already changed to spring calving, and prepare some figures on the cost of change. Anyone got a spare crystal ball? *
Miles Saunders farms in
partnership with his parents
on an organic, mixed 370ha
(915-acre) farm in
Oxfordshire. Main enterprises
are 200 milking cows and
followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50
beef cross stores and 70 beef
cross calves. Winter wheat,
barley, oats and beans are
also grown, and sold on the
LAMBS have grown well this summer because they have always had plenty of grass/clover in front of them. They were weaned at the end of August, once we had some wheat stubble to put the ewes onto.
So far this season we have finished 150 lambs with the majority marketed through the Organic Livestock Marketing Co-op (OLMC). Of the sheep sold, 24 graded E, 60 U, 64 R and two 0.
None of the lambs were drenched with any anthelmintic, but they were drenched with my own mixture of garlic. I am sure it helps keep the worm burden low because I find it difficult to maintain a clean grazing system.
On the subject of sheep, I feel I must praise the directors of OLMC and meat buyers for having enough confidence in the market to break the link between the conventional and organic lamb prices. In the past, organic lamb only received a 10% premium. The forward prices agreed are sustainable and should promote organic lamb production to satisfy increasing demand.
Our ewes are about to be moved back to the dairy unit, where 60 acres of white clover and perennial ryegrass have been saved for tupping time. In the past this has worked very well, providing high quality forage on which to flush ewes.
It is essential to keep ewes away from red clover leys for six weeks before and six weeks post-tupping because high oestrogen levels in clover can cause infertility. Red clover leys will be grazed by finishing lambs over the next few months.
All milking cows have been housed, so that we have more control over their diet. It was becoming difficult to get enough dry matter into high yielding cows and sward quality was deteriorating.
The remaining red clover leys, which were not cut for third-cut silage, are now over 30cm tall. These are being grazed by dry cows and a proportion is being zero grazed.
One problem we have started to encounter is a drop in milk protein %. To counteract this, we have increased organic barley, reduced the protein level and included the now accessible whole-crop in cow rations. It is essential that we keep milk protein over 3.2%, as this is whats stipulated in our contract with the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative. *