My Farming Week: Alan Fisher, Cumbria

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Field work: The end of April provided us with a short spell of good weather, which allowed us to get the spring barley sown.

We are now in to May and the days are starting to get a little warmer, with the barley through the grass starting to grow.

With the field work out of the way, it is time for the herd’s annual vaccination boosters, IBR, BVD and lepto.

We also need to freeze brand the youngstock and turnout to grass.

Milking: Last year we switched from milking two times a day to three times a day. Heifers entering the herd seem to settle in better, reach peak yield sooner and hold yield longer without compromising body condition.

As well as the extra milk, we are finding lower cell counts, less mastitis and healthier productive cows under less stress.

This year, after much deliberation, we have decided to keep the cows indoors and fetch the fresh cut grass to them.

After 4.30am milking they get TMR, followed by fresh grass after the midday milking at 1pm and then the night milking at 8pm.

Grazing: Ten days into the zero grazing and we have gained one-litre per cow extra milk and cut feed costs by 2.5ppl.

The cows are split into highs and lows, which gives us more control over feeding. It also allows flexibility.

The last 12 months have been challenging, and with no signs of a quick recovery the next 12 months will be more so.

Along with our monthly costing, we also do our cost of production and benchmark with similar business, as we try to pull back on costs.

Costs: Knowing your costs and having everything broken down to a pence per litre allows you to pin point areas which require attention.

We are running at a cost of production of 22ppl and with a little more fine-tuning I am sure we will get this down further without compressing cow health and production.

We are lucky as a family farm, the only employed labour is a relief milker for some of the night milkings.

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