REPORTS FROM THE SHARP END…
The real world of dairy
farming is reflected in the
experiences of our
contributors. Heres the
latest news from our four
busy producers. Their
reports are from Berkshire,
Stephen Brandon farms
100ha (250 acres) at New
Buildings Farm, Stafford, in
a ring fence, with another
30ha (73 acres) of grazing
taken annually five miles
away. He has 170 pedigree
Holstein Friesians and 110
dairy replacements. About
28ha (70 acres) of cereals
are grown each year
WHAT a difference two weeks can make. Unfortunately, I have never measured rainfall, so I cant tell you how much we have had in the first half of August.
However, on Aug 1 our 10.5ha (26 acres) of wheat was 15% moisture and contained a few soft green grains, so I decided to let the forecast showers pass before combining, but suffice to say over two weeks later the wheat crop has yet to be combined.
Although the outlook for a quick, easy harvest is now very slim, grass growth rates have quadrupled in the same two weeks. Growth rates fell to a low of 18kg DM/ha but are now 79kg/ha, and in the same time we have gone from a period of near shortage to one of surplus and the frustration that there may be some more grass silage to be made.
We are now beginning to plan our autumn grazing rotation with a view to extending the season for cows at the end of their lactation: Keeping them on a grass only diet. At the same time as planning grazing for the next three months we are also setting grazing up for an early turnout next spring.
We shall continue to spread some nitrogen this autumn as paddocks are grazed, but from early September it will be small doses of urea instead of ammonium nitrate.
Following winter barley, we have 5ha (12 acres) of grass seed to be sown. Over the last three years, I have been trying various seed mixtures of my own concoction to try and come up with the ideal grass ley.
Last year the mixture was based on all late perennial ryegrasses, but a mixture of tetraploids and diploids. This year the tetraploids have been dropped as an experiment to see if the quantity of grass that goes to seed in mid season can be reduced. This may help to maintain mid season grass quality.
Three years ago we changed the clover varieties used in reseeds and doubled the seed rate. This has been a big success and some fields now have a good clover content. *
John Round farms 134ha
(330 acres) in the
Gloucestershire Severn Vale.
It is home to his 180-cow
Roundelm herd of Holstein
Friesians and 180 followers.
Cows average 10,000 litres
on twice-a-day milking. Maize
and cereals are also grown
THANKS to rain in early August, I have written to the Minister of Agriculture, Prime Minister and our local MP expressing my anger and disgust at the plight of dairy bull calves. My letter also pleaded for a reopening of calf exports to Holland and France.
I dont know whether my letter will help, but I felt I was doing something positive, next Ill be dumping carcasses at local government offices or 10 Downing Street.
These are my reactions from recently delivering a calf to a local marketing group, and being paid nothing for it. Now bull calves are being shot and taken away for nothing by our local hunt, thus saving tagging, feeding and hauling costs. However, it still sickens me and contradicts everything I believe in as a farmer and producer of food.
At least our heifer calves are giving us something to smile about, with several PINs up around £100. Two notable calves are daughters of Wilpe Dennis, a young Genus bull whos a Celsius out of a Mascot: One has a PIN of £112, she is out of a 13,000 kg Tesk, the others dam is a Labelle daughter out of a VG Cleitus and her PIN is £116.
Although youngsters indexes are only predicted, several of our Celsius daughters have come out with higher actuals than their predictions. As we have several full sister calves to these, and pregnant cows as well as semen in the flask, I reckon weve taken much of the guesswork out of breeding.
As well as Celsius, we are still using Convincer, Winchester and Manfred, who are still in the US top 10 TPI listing.
Although some heifers have exciting indexes, some older animals have impressive production records. A fifth calved F16 daughter has just completed a 305-day lactation of 15,000kg, even though it was semi-skimmed milk. The highest heifer, so far this year, has given 12,500kg in 305 days, and surprise, surprise shes a Celsius out of a Sunny Boy.
With these yields in mind, I now have some benchmarks set for the next five years, if these two animals can produce these yields then why cant they become the average of the herd? *
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 117ha
(290 acres) of grass and
12ha (30 acres) of maize.
Stocking is 150 Friesian
Holstein cows, 100 finished
beef, 80 replacements,
and 330 ewe lambs
WITH the autumn calving group just completing 12 months physical results since changing calving pattern from July/August to September/October, it has surprised me that the technical performance of the herd is very similar to a year ago.
I expected milk produced to fall nearer 6000 litres a cow as we reduced reliance on conserved feed and concentrated on grazed grass. But it has stayed at 6400 litres, with 2950 litres coming from grazing, 2050 litres from conserved forages and 1400 litres from feeding 650kg of concentrate a cow.
The financial results from our dairy costings have seen margin a litre drop below 20p. It now stands at 19.62p, from an average milk price of 20.74 p. Therefore, we spent just 1.12p a litre on concentrates and minerals, including magnesium supplements.
Cow condition is generally good with half a dozen exceptions as usual. One cow 409, seems to defy logic. She always seems to be the first to sit down and last to get up when any form of food is offered, be it grazing or a forage box mix.
She has consistently produced over 8000 litres in each of her four completed lactations, within 305 days. I dont wish to create the impression that she is a show cow, and I am quite relieved that she remains lying down when we have visitors. You may think because of her apparent lack of interest in food that she is a bovine supermodel and that every rib is protruding, but fortunately we have had to rewrite the condition scoring chart, as she remains at condition score four to five throughout the year.
Add the facts that she receives a pedicure every three months, due to having the worst shaped feet in the herd, and although she has four teats, when you look in the normal place for them they are not there – the two front ones are found nearer her head than her tail. She can only be termed as a character, and not a cull as our herdman, Peter, would prefer. *
George Holmes farms with
his brother David, on two
rented units totalling 144ha
(360 acres) in Sussex. They
are currently stocked with
145 dairy cows, block
calved in the autumn, and
100 followers. His objective
is to decrease costs,
particularly by increasing
use of grazed grass
SINCE it is only three weeks since I last wrote, and during that time I have spent two weeks on holiday, I havent got a whole lot to tell you about our farm.
Instead I will tell you about the small bit of my holiday relevant to my fellow milk producers. We went to visit some of my wifes family in Switzerland and were fortunate enough to be lent a small apartment at Ovronnaz in the Alps. While close to Basel, I was able to visit a small organic dairy farmer with 12 cows, he also had 700 organic hens. His main problems were milk quotas which were fairly recently imposed, new welfare regulations and a recent price reduction of 25%, so I soon started to feel at home.
The standard milk price is 32p a litre and he received a 6p a litre premium for organic milk. The bit that really surprised me was that my wifes relations were buying organic milk, delivered to the door, for 67p litre or 39p a pint. I also found that although milk in supermarkets cost more than in the UK, the supermarket and processors margin was definitely less.
In addition, when we travelled through France, and also visited Germany for a day, I found that pasteurised full-fat milk retails for 35p a litre or 20p a pint in supermarkets. In other words, less than in the UK despite a higher producer price.
So while I have to agree with the MMC that the consumer is being ripped off, I dont think you will be surprised to know that I totally disagree with the MMCs view of who is doing the ripping off.
While in the mountains, we visited a couple of fromageries where cheese and butter are made by the farmer from cows grazing on alpine pasture. One we visited was at 1800m (6000ft) and had just over 100 cows. Cows were milked in two 6:6 herringbone parlours, side by side, and seeing the herd being driven down the mountain, each cows bell ringing violently, by three herdsmen was quite a sight. There seemed to be six staff to milk cows, make cheese and butter and feed pigs the whey/skin. *