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 Llyens – and ewe lamb
replacements, with a 25,000
bird poultry enterprise
LAST month I refrained from discussing the weather, but after what must have been one of the wettest Junes on record it cant go unmentioned this month.
After three weeks of lovely warm weather in May the rain started on June 1, two days before our big event, North Sheep. On June 2 we had 24 hours continuous rain and temperatures reduced by several degrees.
At 5.30am on June 3 – the day of the event – I went round the farm to check the stock. The sheep looked miserable as they came from behind the hedges, the cows and calves looked much the same, and to be perfectly honest I personally didnt feel much different.
But by 9am all 192 trade stands were in place, most of them of a very high standard, and visitors were pouring through the gates – somewhere in the region of 10,000, which believe me is a lot of people to have on your farm in one day. Despite the weather, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and most of the trade stands that I spoke to said they had a good day, which was very satisfying after 12 months of preparation and hard work by all the farm staff and the NSA committee.
With North Sheep out of the way we were ready for silage, but the weather was still not favourable. With a struggle we were able to get the silage between June 14-20 with no wilt and some a little on the damp side. It certainly put the effluent system on the new silage pit to the test, I am pleased to say it seems to work very well.
We are now into the show season and the sheep have just left the farm today to go to the Highland Show. *
John Geldard and family have been busy preparing for the show season.
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
HAVING spent all night in the maternity wing of the local hospital, I went to Brecon market to sell cattle, proud father of a baby daughter.
The body clock was a bit confused, but thankfully brother and dad had got the cattle in on time but I had forgotten that the steers not only needed CIDs but passports too! After a bit of panic, everything was put right. The sooner these documents are combined, the better. We sold 23 steers to average 99p/kg.
We shore the ground ewes – a late start due to rain but it was good to get them all done. The lambs were wormed, drenched, sprayed with Vetrazin and run over the formalin foot-rot bath.
I was extremely tired eating supper, and when I popped out to check the calving cows afterwards, a Belgian blue cross heifer needed assistance calving. I managed to pull a large Charolais bull calf, but disappointment in not getting him live turned into frustration when she decided to throw her bed out immediately after.
It was now approaching midnight, and I had managed to push it back in about half way when brother arrived and together we got the job done. She is now fine and very proud of her adopted calf.
The progeny of the Belgian Blue we hired last year are turning out very well. No calving difficulties yet and with good confirmation.
The silage season is proving extremely difficult with the main additive being H20. It is once more a case of snatch and grab. The weather forecasters who get it wrong are even worse than ones who get it right! At least the muck spread on the aftermath is being well washed in.
It was good to go to Cardiff Castle to a reception hosted by the Secretary of State with Prince Charles and the Emperor of Japan. People from all over Wales enjoyed an excellent banquet of top quality Welsh food. It was interesting to meet people from other professions.
The YFC rallies are in full swing and I havent been able to attend as many as I would have liked due to family and silage commitments. The ones I have attended have been excellent.
I was one of the 10,000 people who attended the rally in Cardiff. Lets hope we get the message across to Mr Blair that he and other European leaders should care. However, the Secretary of State visited the farm last Friday and met with officers of Wales YFC- he knows the agricultural portfolio well and we had a good discussion. *
Silaging is proving difficult, says proud new father John Davies, with H2O being the main additive.
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
AS I mentioned in an earlier article, we have renovated the main cow track running away from the buildings. Stone seems expensive when the loads are tipped and spread, but the track was in need of serious repair.
Having had the constant wet weather throughout June, it soon became apparent that it was money well spent. To make walking easier, I have also placed 5ft rubber mats along the length of the track, which the cows do seem to use to walk on.
The milking cows were doing well throughout May and early June, averaging 21.5 litres/day. At that time the cows were in two groups according to yield. It seemed sensible, for ease of management, to combine them into one group, splitting temporarily when leaving the parlour to allow the high yielders to receive their concentrate, then going out to paddocks in one group.
The milk dropped like a stone. It may have been because of the weather of course, but since splitting them again, the milk yields have recovered. It did seem odd that the yields should drop so significantly as the cows have plenty of grass in front of them.
All the calves are outside now. A small group are still on milk, using any waste from the dairy. All the feeding equipment, gates etc have been moved out of the calf house, enabling us to clean and disinfect completely. The older calves are away from the main grass/clover leys, on some permanent pasture.
The protein level is relatively low at 10% crude protein, so the concentrate protein level has been increased to 25% to balance the total ration. A small amount of chopped barley straw has been added to help the digestion and add fibre during the wet spell.
The whole farm is covered by an electric fencing system. The power unit always seems to struggle with extra growth in the spring, so one of the staff has been busy strimming for the past week. The time may come when I have to look at a more powerful fencing unit.
Hay making is only just around the corner. The equipment is being put through its pre-season check by one of the staff, who we had trained up specifically last year – hopefully he can remember all the points. *
Miles Saunderscows did well in May and early June, but combining the two yield groups proved disastrous initially, although yields have recovered.
Christian Fox milks 270
autumn calving cows plus
followers and manages
146ha (360 acres) at
Crouchlands Farm near
Billingshurst in West
Sussex. The system is
geared to profit and lower
production costs, so grazed
grass and grass silage are
the main feeds. Average
yield is 5600 litres
SILAGE making this year has been like a Shakespearean play – a cross between The Comedy of Errors and The Tempest. I dont know anyone in this area who didnt end up with some sort of tragedy in at least two acts!
Despite the unfortunate weather conspiracy, we have already provided most of the winter ration for 1998 and are now looking for places to stash what promises to be a huge second cut, as growth far exceeds cow requirements.
Across the farm, growth is still 95 kg DM/ha. With a herd intake requirement of only 60kg DM/ha, we have no option but to close off a number of paddocks for second cut and are grazing about 51 ha with 270 cows on a 12 day rotation. Long may it last.
The flies are back, as if on cue. Every year at Crouchlands you can almost set your calendar by them. I have squirted Spot-on at everything, which seems to have done the trick. The cows will need another dose during their dry period.
July marks the start of drying off. As an autumn calving herd we dry off all the cows during July, taking holidays in August and doing chores around the parlour and cubicles. Having a mob of dry cows to whip the paddocks into shape over the late summer is a great advantage, ensuring we have first class food for the autumn.
Now is the time to set up the farm for the autumn. Quality is the key to extending the season as far into the winter as we can. Grass must be green right down to the ground. The use of dry cows or putting a mower in an wilting stale paddocks will ensure clean, green regrowth when milking cows go in. We will also aim to maintain average farm cover at about 2,500kg DM/ha.
All this will push grass volume into the slower growth months of late October and November and ensure sufficient quality to allow cows to express their potential from grazed grass.
I have been out with BGS grazing consultant Paul Bird to some of his discussion groups recently. I am amazed by the very low covers carried on some farms. These are generally the farmers who will say that extended grazing does not produce results and cows do not milk well.
Anyhow, I dont want to get on my soap box again. Most people say I make "much ado about nothing" as it is! *
July marks the start of drying off and doing chores around the parlour and cubicles for Christian Fox.