Miles Saunders farms in
partnership with his parents
on an organic, mixed 370ha
(915-acre) farm in
Oxfordshire. Main enterprises
are 200 milking cows and
followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50
beef cross stores and 70 beef
cross calves. Winter wheat,
barley, oats and beans are
also grown, and sold on the
IT seems a while ago now that the cows were turned out and able to buck and run with excitement, but it was only May 1. I did get the event on video this year. Looking back at last year, turnout was on April 10.
Now near the end of May, the cows should be finishing their first circuit of the grazing paddocks. As the swards are fairly thick and tall this year, the high yielders have the best of the grass in each paddock, followed by the low yielders, which are then tightly followed by the in-calf heifers, with the aim of eating down the sward as far as possible.
The plan is to start topping any stems after the next time the cows have been through each of the paddocks.
Most of the neighbours seem to have finished first-cut silage and although I aimed to start cutting on the bank holiday Monday, the weather forecast is now not so good until the middle of that week. We would not normally start until then anyway.
Shearing was completed quickly and efficiently on May 18. I am sure the ewes are pleased to be cooler. The lambs were temporarily separated prior to shearing, and were wormed with garlic, and had Vetrazin put on their backs and around the crutch area, to try to avoid any flystrike.
In previous years we have been very prone to flystrike, probably due to the close proximity of the river. If the weather is bad this week and prevents silaging, it will give me a chance to check the feet, udders and teeth of the ewes.
The last group of beef cattle that were sold a few weeks ago, made more than I expected, which is a very pleasant surprise. The Organic Livestock Marketing Co-operative that I belong to, has been able to negotiate a slightly higher price for beef and lambs through to the end of July. Organic steers are now making 230p/kg deadweight for EUR, 2-3L grades, and 225p/kg dw for 0+ 2-3L grades. Organic heifer prices are 5p/kg dw less. *
High yielders are being followed by low yielders and then in-calf heifers to ensure that thick, tall swards are eaten down tightly, says Miles Saunders.