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 28ha
(70 acres) arable.
The effects of the extremely wet autumn (November rainfall 11 in) have been highlighted by the drop in lambing percentage when the flock was scanned at the end of January.
Ewes are carrying 194%, a reduction of 5% on last year. Ewe lambs only scanned at a disappointing 110% with 16 out of the 80 hoggs proving to be empty. Scanning has also revealed a wide range of lambing dates, which will give an extended lambing instead of the usual fast and furious three weeks.
With the potential for less lambs and a need to increase output to maintain margins, rearing the maximum lambs possible will be more essential than ever before. Post natal losses at Trebusye are usually around 15%, most occurring in the first 48 hours, and it is in this area we must improve.
Small lambs and a lack of colostrum are the main reasons, suggesting inadequate feeding but blood profiles consistently show normal levels of energy and protein. Discussing this problem with two or three winter shearing enthusiasts during the autumn has convinced me that shearing ewes at housing can lead to bigger lambs and more milk. So as an experiment we have shorn half of the ewes and these are now housed alongside the unshorn ewes. They will receive exactly the same rations so that we will have a direct comparison at lambing time of the benefits of winter shearing.
Calving should be under way as you read this article. Preparations started in mid-December when all cows and heifers received a routine potassium iodide drench to counteract iodine deficiency on the farm.
January 14 saw them in the crush again to receive a second iodine drench and two Agrimin all trace boluses to correct a copper and cobalt shortage. The Rotavec vaccine was administered at the same time to protect the calf against rotavirus and E coli scours. Cost of this days work was £1113 (£15.90/cow) or about two-thirds of the total annual spent on Vet & Med for the cows. The need to cut inputs to the suckler cows in these difficult times is obvious, but I feel to neglect routine vaccines and trace elements would be suicidal. *
Calving should now be under-way – with routine vaccinations completed.