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 organic market.
JANUARY started with temperatures down to -9C, which, with the wind chill factor, brought freezing pipes for a number of days. But we were able to thaw each pipe to allow water to flow, avoiding the need to move water manually.
Usually with this cold weather I would expect milk yields to drop, but they did not, and we continued to produce more a day than forecast. After Christmas we had moved on to alternate-day collection, and the bulk tank capacity of 9500 litres is now being maximised.
The herd is predominantly late-autumn calving, and consists of a high proportion of heifers. Decembers dairy costings showed we were producing 19.04 litres a cow a day, with a rolling average yield of 6100 litres a cow. Our forecast for milk production predicts we will be 3% over quota, but I feel this will not be a problem, as within our milk group there appears to be a large enough threshold to leave us safe from super-levy.
Throughout this season our milk quality has continued to be good, with butterfat averaging 4.2%, protein 3.47% and SSC at 143. I would like to get the butterfat down to nearer the 3.7% required by our milk buyers – the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative – as we are paid a standard price a litre for milk that meets the minimum standards of 3.7% butterfat and 3.2% protein.
The current high butterfat level is wasting litres of quota, as our butterfat base is only 3.9%. This month saw a rise in our net milk price to 28.2p/litre after all deductions.
The cows are being fed a ration made up of 1kg organic beans, 3.5kg wheat which is under conversion, 2.5kg linseed expeller, 1kg prairie meal, 30kg organic grass/red clover silage (DM 40%) and 8kg organic whole-crop silage (DM 33%). This keeps us within the organic standards.
After a couple of cows slipped over in the yards, I felt it necessary to get the surface regrooved, as it has not been done for many years. I decided to use our own staff and hire in a concrete groover from a local contractor. Our relief milker has been doing this over the past two weeks and the results are good.
At the beginning of the month the ewes were scanned, as lambing is due to start on Mar 20. The results were nothing special, with a 174% overall expected lambing including empty ewes, but 24 ewes are expecting triplets or quads and will be drafted out in the next week for extra care.
We have just sold 70 finished lambs and five finished beef cattle direct to the abattoir. Prices should be good, with organic produce receiving a 20p/kg premium over the Standard Quality Quotation prices for that week. The lamb gradings were pleasing, with most at U3L. *
Miles Saunders (right) runs an organic mixed farm in Oxfordshire. One task this month has been to re-groove the yards to prevent cows slipping.