Dairy: Having been brought up on a dairy farm in Oxfordshire, where my grandfather and uncles lived, I have found life seems to take you on a journey back to where the heart is.
Now, our farm is driven by grazing. We keep New Zealand cross-bred which converts grass to milk solids very efficiently – kg milk solids from kg liveweight ratio is the target.
Grass: We measure grass on a weekly basis, via farm walks with a plate meter, which assists all key farm decisions on grazing.
We use Agrinet to operate spring and autumn rotation planners which must be kept to. We then stick to a planned rotation over a round length and we can see if deficits or surpluses are coming in the future. We look at how we will manage these by either adding supplement or silaging surpluses.
Our magic day is April 5, when supply overtakes demand. Basically, grass is growing faster than it can be grazed.
Calves: Calving started slower this year than usual, but built up to a crescendo. We set out our calf protocols which have paid off as the health of calves has been great.
In general, calving has gone well, with 137 replacement heifers. We are now onto Herefords with a few more assists and some of the older girls getting milk fevers.
We have only 100 left to calve now from 420, so not far to go.
Conditions: We have faced challenges this year with wetter-than-normal conditions. On-off grazing management has been key to driving costs down by getting cows to grass.
Cows have been out for four hours, morning or night, and if it rained, cows came in straight away.
This week, we have dehorned 68 out of 137 calves. The last calves are now on the milk bar and we have started following cows with fertiliser.
Milk: We milk recorded on Friday afternoon, averaging 24 litres/cow.
The coming year will be challenging and will see us reduce costs in all areas. Efficiency will be a key driver.
Future: Personal targets will be to reduce empty rate to less than 11 per cent and continue my development through learning and guidance.
It would be great if I could set targets and goals to make sure I know where I want to go. But as the Cheshire Cat said, ‘if you do not know where you are going, any road will do’.