John Martin

16 April 1999

Program checks pig performance

CHECK pig performance against industry figures using computer programmes PigPlan On-Farm or PigPlan Solutions, says farm business consultants Signet.

Comparing on-farm performance with other units will highlight where output needs improving. Using a Windows-based programme from AgroSoft, producers can enter data manually or remotely using a hand-held terminal, to produce analysis and management reports.

Each month data is sent to Signet for analysis by pig specialists who will interpret results and suggest how performance can be improved. This will be followed up with two visits each year by a Signet consultant.

Offering full telephone support, PigPlan On-farm costs £1100 for the initial year and £600 a year thereafter, or it can be leased for £700 a year. PigPlan Solution prices depend on selected applications (01908-670339, fax 01908-609825).

Two new bulls join breeding outfit stud

TWO bulls – Dixie-Lee Aaron and Glen-D-Haven Lib Jabo – have joined the line-up of breeding company AltaPon.

Dixie-Lee Aaron is a Luke son out of the Mascot daughter Dixie-Lee Aspen EX92 (pictured). He offers 1068kg milk with 20kg (-0.33%) butterfat and 30kg (-0.04%) protein, and with a PLI of £115. Dixie-Lee costs £22 a straw.

Also joining the stud is Glen-D-Haven Lib Jabo sired by Heinz Liberty and out of a Gold medal dam by Blackstar. He offers 1203kg milk, 29kg (-0.12%) protein and 27kg (-0.27%) fat, and with a PLI of £100. His straws cost £18 (0151-355 3666, fax 0151 355 3888).

Cow costings at half the price?

COMPLETE dairy cow costings at a much lower price than other providers, says NMR.

It adds that this service is priced at half the cost of many competitors services.

The service requires producers to complete a monthly data sheet including feed, fertiliser, milk production and milk price.

Reports of margins over purchased feed and fertiliser will be sent out within two days of receiving completed input forms, says the company.

Producers already using a costing service with another company can input 12 months of data to provide rolling average figures free of charge.

The service costs £8.50 a month (01249-462000, fax 01249-462002).

Simple sugar in dairy cow feed

FEED Greenfield Eclipse cake to dairy cows and help improve feed intake and performance from grazed grass and silage, says compounder Hanford Feeds.

Greenfield Eclipse contains Lactofeed 70 – a simple sugar – which should improve the use of degradable proteins found in both grazed grass and silage, says the company. Other ingredients include maize gluten, rapeseed, cottonseed, corn distillers, minerals and flash-dried grass.

Recommended feed rates are between 4kg and 6kg a cow a day throughout lactation. Available direct, it costs about £142/t (01300-348556, fax 01300-348050).

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800 acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The 200

dairy cows average 6500

litres on a simple, high forage

system. They are allocated

25ha (100 acres) of

permanent pasture and 29ha

(110 acres) of short term

leys and maize grown in the

arable rotation

I AM introducing myself as a new writer to the Farmer Focus section. I have been running our dairy for eight years now and am still on a steep learning curve, with there being no shortage of changes going on.

We farm 800 acres in north Norfolk, of which 210 acres is designated to the dairy. Dairy land is made up of 100 acres of heavy grade three clay land, put down to permanent pasture long ago, and 110 acres of medium sandy loam, which is part of the arable rotation, comprising of short term leys and maize.

Over the years, the proportion of maize has steadily risen and is now up to 85 acres. The main arable crops are wheat, sugar beet and potatoes.

We have recently increased our milking cow numbers from 160 to 200 to spread our overhead costs. This was fairly painless, due to BSE cohort compensation and, sadly, the number of dispersal sales in Norfolk last year.

We rear our own heifer replacements for four months before sending them to a farm in Lincolnshire for rearing. This is all run with two cowmen, although the arable staff help with silage feeding in winter.

Our dairy ethos is to run a simple system that produces milk cheaply from forage. We have resisted the temptation to buy a mixer wagon, with silage being easy-fed in bunkers using a shear grab.

Cows are fed two-thirds maize silage and one-third grass silage, with a midday feed of 10kg of either potatoes or sugar beet, depending on price and time of year. Cows are topped up with a 28% protein concentrate in the parlour.

At present yields are running at 6500 litres from 1.3t of concentrate and 3500 litres coming from forage. Our aim is to increase yield a cow and ideally yield from forage.

We calve in two blocks – September/October for the autumn herd and January to March for the spring herd.

Cows have milked well over the winter, which has resulted in us going sailing over quota. We have decided to sit tight regarding buying quota, and it now looks as though our gamble may have paid off. However, we have covered ourselves for the new quota year. &#42

Kevin Daniel

Kevin Daniel has a mixed

lowland holding near

Launceston, Cornwall. The

65ha (160 acres) farm and

20ha (50 acres) of rented

ground supports 70

Simmental cross suckler

cows, 380 Border Leicester

cross Suffolk ewes and has

28ha (70 acres) of arable

THIS months report has been written in the lambing shed, while waiting for a ewe to give birth. Normally we dont give an individual ewe so much attention, but she was scanned as a single and with a pen full of foster lambs, I am keen for her to rear an extra one.

At scanning we identified 51 trebles and 52 singles, so in theory every ewe can rear two lambs. In practice, a lot of singles lambed at the start when we had no spare lambs, leaving a surplus of triplets.

Fostering lambs at birth is the easiest and most successful method, especially when a triplet is lambing at the same time, when we take the biggest lamb to match with the single. If we have an older dry lamb to foster, the legs are tied and the lamb is immersed in warm water before assisting with the birth of the single lamb and then covering the foster lamb with birth fluids. We find wet fostering to be 90-95% successful. But once a ewe has licked her lamb, it is nearly impossible to get her to accept a second one.

With the peak of ewes lambing over Easter, mild conditions proved ideal for turning ewes with lambs out when 24 to 36 hours old. Temperatures were three times higher than the same time last year, and unlike last year we have recorded no weather related losses.

We have, once again, been assisted with lambing by Steven Goodenough, now in his middle year of an HND course at the local Duchy College. Steven is a hard-working and competent shepherd. I am sure British agriculture has a secure future if all new entrants are of his calibre. He has taken responsibility for lambing during the day, allowing me to spread fertiliser on the silage area and winter cereals, and spray a first fungicide on the wheat and barley.

Provided ground conditions allow we hope to have turned out most of the cattle by the time you read this article. This years grazing has been supplemented, as last year, with 40 acres of grass keep because the farm is once again over stocked because of TB restrictions, preventing sale of store cattle. &#42

John Glover

John Glover currently milks

65 Holstein Friesian cows

plus followers on a 40ha

(100 acre) county council

holding near Lutterworth,

Leicestershire, having

moved from another 20ha

(51 acre) holding

county council farm

WHEN are we going to turn the cows out?" my seven-year-old son keeps asking. The answer is, soon. We are actually waiting for the ground round gateways and water troughs to dry up because we had youngstock out until January and fields were heavily poached.

We only need about seven acres to turn the cows onto, but it has to be close to the yard as we feed the cows a total mixed ration 365 days a year.

We are just starting the third year of our tenancy here and we are just about getting straight. But it is surprising how long things take. In the first winter, youngstock were housed away and the milking herd moved here as soon as the parlour was finished in October.

The youngstock were then housed all the second summer to use up silage stocks so we could empty the silage clamp. Then last autumn and winter the remaining building work was finished but, because things take longer than expected, youngstock were kept out longer than intended. We may, therefore, be later turning out and excessive poaching may reduce silage yields.

After two full years of the tenancy we are getting there, although the parlour still has some odds and ends to finish when the landlords start the new financial year.

The other matters not settled are the end of tenancy valuations. This is when the costs of improvements we made to the old farm are calculated and set against the dilapidation of the landlords property. Added to this is the cost to the new tenant of silage stocks and certain items of tenants fixtures – such as milking equipment, yard gates, cubicles and feed barriers.

We are pig in the middle here, as we shall receive a payment from valuation of the old farm but will have to pay on the valuation on this new tenancy.

So was it worth moving? We are now in a better position to face CAP reforms, as we have a dairy herd of 80 cows and the yields are back around 8000 litres and we can house up to 100 cows in the future. &#42

John Martin

John Martin farms with his

parents on the Ards Peninsula

south of Belfast. The 65ha

(160-acre) Gordonall Farm

and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown

A SHORTAGE of hours in the day indicate that it must be spring at last. A bit of grass growth is welcome because silage is disappearing fast.

Cows began calving in early March, with 44 by the end of the month. Five sets of twins will help to make up for a couple of stillborn calves, but we find the 23 heifers very slow – normally they calve before the bulk of the cows.

Only a few ewes are left to lamb. With a lambing percentage of 168% for this batch we are reasonably happy, as it includes 39 ewe lambs and 32 purchased hoggets.

These ewe lambs produced the first offspring from a Beltex ram bought last year, and were easier to lamb than expected.

Half the early lambers were weaned a couple of weeks ago, and the same fate awaits the rest in the coming days. We sold nine spring lambs on Mar 23, to begin our 26th year supplying a local, butcher.

The heaviest lamb, graded U3, killed out at 24.7kg coldweight, and at £3.25/kg realised over £80. The group averaged 21.7kg and £70.47 each. There are less spring lambs about this year and with little sign of the much talked about carry-over of lambs from 1998, prospects look reasonable.

We have also sold some store cattle to boost cash flow. The market has been somewhat lower than last year and the first day saw single punched, home produced and mainly Limousin bullocks average only 96p/kg liveweight. The second outing after the Agenda 2000 proposals were agreed by the EU saw things improve with the average for similar stock rising to 104p/kg. Perhaps buyers saw that the beef base price was only to fall by 20%, instead of the 30% originally proposed.

The subsequent Berlin agreement by the heads of government was not as bad as we expected. But it will cause us to look seriously at our systems. The most obvious concern, beside the reduction in prices, is that of stocking rate limitations. We currently claim up to two livestock units/hectare. Now that all stock on the holding count towards the 1.8 LSU maximum we are way overstocked in EU terms. Already the word inefficiency springs to mind, if we have to reduce numbers. &#42

See more