John Alpe

14 November 1997

John Alpe

John Alpe farms in

partnership with his parents

at New Laund Farm at

Whitewell near Clitheroe in

Lancashire. Besides the

tenanted 80ha (200 acres),

the family own a

neighbouring farm of 36ha

(90 acres), and rent a further

40ha (100 acres). About 60

dairy cows and 60 followers,

500 Swaledale and Mule

ewes and 250 store lambs

are run on the farms. Bacon

pigs are also fed on contract

A RELATIVELY pleasant and calm October has ended our autumn season with some good grazing.

But despite the almost perfect conditions for this area, our lambs have not fed well.

Lambs are weaned in early August, drenched with a trace element suspension and wormer, and then allowed into clean aftermaths. After 10 days or so they usually start to thrive, but this year, though they have grown, they certainly have not gained condition.

After a spell of four to five weeks we sought the vets advice. He strongly suspected a copper deficiency, which is apparently a new concern for us and I have no explanation as to why it has become so evident over this year.

We re-treated the lambs with a secondary trace element drench, comprising a different set of components, including copper. We also gave them an additional supplement of slow release copper capsules. With this intervention there has been a marked improvement in their performance. Since I have been told my performance could also be improved, I wonder if copper supplements could help me!

We have been feeding round silage bales ad lib to the dairy cows since they have been lying in overnight, purely because we find it easier to manage while the cows are at grass in the day. But the last week of October was the dairy cows last week of grazing, now they are housed 24 hours and the silage clamp has been opened.

We are having an unlucky run with the dairy cows at the moment. Last week a cow suddenly dropped dead while in a cubicle, just at milking time. Knowing it was due to go on the slaughter scheme four days later made matters worse.

This was followed by another incident where a cow slipped on a concrete yard and, being unable to stand again, was taken by the casualty scheme. To cap it all, while using our four-wheel drive tractor to load it the front wheel inadvertently caught the casualty wagon, slashing the tyre. Words cant express my thoughts at the time, but eventually after the heat of the moment, Labours slogan came to mind: "Things can only get better".n

Drenching lambs which failed to gain condition with trace elements to combat a copper deficiency proved effective, says John Alpe.

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