Mark Osman is herd
manager for the 300ha (750-
acre) Berks farm owned by
Zeneca. It is two-thirds
owned, and 154ha (380
acres) is cropped with 17ha
(290 acres) of grass and
12ha (30 acres) of maize.
Stocking is 150 Friesian
Holstein cows, 100 finished
beef, 80 replacements, 10
sucklers and 330 ewe lambs
THE end of October saw the finish of calving and on the whole it has been better than 1996 and 1997, with calf mortality 4% down from a high in 1996 of 10%.
We think that this is due to letting most cows and heifers calve outside in one of the few fields not overlooked by the research buildings. In past years if a cow had started to calve we would receive a number of phone calls within minutes from worried chemists, and others, expressing views from "I thought I would just let you know" to "I think that she needs urgent assistance."
We found that it was easier to calve indoors, but the cows didnt find it so easy coping with a change of diet, being housed in hot sheds and then being moved into calving boxes.
Other benefits of outdoor calving have been zero navel infections and fewer retained cleansings, just 4%.
There were no twins out of 104 calvings in September and October compared with 20% in the 40 February and March calvers. This high percentage of twins is not a benefit as some would consider it to be. We have seen cows lose a condition score pre-calving when carrying twins which has had a major impact on subsequent conception rates of these cows and heifers.
The 24% empty from the spring group this year consisted almost entirely of cows which had had twins; a figure we are far from happy about but I am not sure how to overcome the flushing effect of spring grass.
Housing occurred at night on Oct 14 for the fresh calvers, earlier than expected and due not to ground conditions but a shortfall in grass. By housing at night it should allow us to graze days until the third week of November at 6-9kg DM a cow.
On a different note, the parlour is running to expectations; throughput is 80 cows an hour with average Bactoscans of two and three, and the cell count has dropped to below 60. But we are not complacent and Axient are due to test the plant during November.