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 January/February.
WHEN we drew up the farm budget last March we made a resolution or a conscious decision, call it what you like, not to do any major structural improvements this year. But with the best will in the world, this has not quite worked out, so we have ended up doing two relatively small projects. One was as a result of our ministry dairy inspection when it was pointed out that the ceiling in the parlour was not up to present day standards. The plaster board was breaking up, as a result a few small holes had appeared and the paint was also peeling off. We bit the bullet and put a new white plastic board over what was already there. It was a job that didnt look too difficult, but in the end took three times as long as I thought – it was a good job we used our own labour.
The second project was a result of our annual review with our vet, dealing with all aspects of herd health and fertility. On the agenda I put "must reduce vet bills"; it is there every year but this year it was the only item. Michael Thorp our vet said he could reduce time costs by half if we did our fortnightly routine line-up not in the parlour but in a line of proper cow stalls where a number of cows could be examined together.
After analysing our vet bill we estimated that over £1000 went on time cost for the 18 routine visits, so reducing that by half looked quite attractive. By removing a dividing wall we have erected 10 stalls with quick release gates, one stall also acting as a foot trimming crush as our old one is 15 years old and gradually falling apart. Material cost, excluding the foot crush which cost £460, was £500. Labour has again been done by ourselves, so if our vet is right the project could pay for itself in one year. It looks like the new stalls will be put to use quickly as 60 cows will be served in the next three weeks.n
John Helliar hopes that new cow stalls will cut the vets bill by £500 a year as less time will be required for each of the 18 routine visits.