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Henry Gent: 'We are remaining optimistic our current good circumstances continue'

We are currently in the middle of our calving window and, from the official start date of February 1, it has, so far, gone smoothly. With about half of the spring-calvers now in milk, I am feeling quite pleased.

We are currently in the middle of our calving window and, from the official start date of February 1, it has, so far, gone smoothly. With about half of the spring-calvers now in milk, I am feeling quite pleased.

 

We always prepare for calving to get off to a rocky start and this year has been typical in that respect. As we limbered up to start, we were buffeted by inauspicious and depressing portents: abortions caused by Neospora, followed by premature twins.

 

I am conscious calving can sometimes seem to end badly; only a handful of cows calve in the last week and the tail-end calves are often unsatisfactory. But we are remaining optimistic our current good circumstances continue.

 

We tend to bunch calves in groups of about 35, which is enough for the milk bar, especially when they get bigger, even though there are 50 teats.

 

The first bunch has been out on reseed pasture for about a week, enjoying good weather and looking good.

In recent years, we have tended to see diarrhoea in spring-born calves, not usually at the start, but certainly in calves born in the second half of the block, such as those in March and April.

 

Every test has pointed towards cryptosporidium and, while we have worked quite hard to disinfect calf pens, there does seem to have been some sort of build-up of the bug over the period.

 

Organic certification allows the use of some preventative or therapeutic pharmaceutical products to treat existing problems where all other parameters have been unsuccessful.

 

Organic farmers must have a livestock management plan in place which sets out what we might use, when and why.

 

This plan must be approved by both our vet and certifier (in our case Soil Association) whose role it is to review whether treatments and products detailed within the health plan can be permitted within the remit of organic regulations.

 

When I first went into conversion to become organic nearly 20 years ago, the requirement to have a herd management plan was slightly off-putting.

 

Now, of course, everyone must have one for Red Tractor Assurance and, importantly if used effectively, the plan is a key tool in ensuring everyone on-farm is working with the same principles to achieve specific objectives.

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