Tom Stable farms with his wife Anna and parents Mike and Denise in Ulverston, Cumbria. They milk the 250 strong Bolton Manor herd of pedigree Holsteins on 200ha (494 acres) and have just opened ’Cumbrian Cow’ Ice Cream.
Farming: We managed to get our second cut of silage in a great, although brief, spell of weather. Quantity was up on first cut with half as many loads again off the same acreage.
We have stopped using additive on all silage this year as a cost-cutting measure – time will tell if this was a wise move.
This year we are trying to improve milk from grazing. Weekly plate meter readings and splitting large areas into paddocks has helped management.
The entire herd is currently doing more than 12.5 litres from forage/grass.
Milk: The continually reducing milk price has been mirrored here in a steady reduction in concentrate fed, which has seen little, if any, decline in yield. It is surprising what cows can do.
Friday saw our usual fortnightly vet visit. Cow health and vet work is an area we have not cut costs in as we see this as a slippery slope.
Challenges: I want my long-term future to be in dairying but I feel our business has become too narrow and reliant on world markets.
I feel many farms will need an income source unaffected by global farming markets in the future, whether this be renewable energy, a second job or some other diversification.
Ice cream: It is just three weeks since we opened our on-farm ice-cream parlour, which has been 12 months in the making.
I have long resisted the idea of investing in diversification, believing I was a farmer and should be able to make a living from this alone. But a sub-20ppl milk price has a way of putting principles to one side.
The shop is a simple affair and very much my mum’s project.
It is an old dairy at our youngstock farm and contains a kitchen with ice cream machines, a sales area and a small seating space.
Dairy: We expected a steady start and were cautious of bringing the public onto the farm, dreading comments along the lines of ‘why does it smell’ etc.
But we were wrong on both counts.
The response has been overwhelming and we had more than 3,000 visitors in our first week which has presented a number of problems, but these have been eased by the positive attitude of the customers.
Dairying in this world of low prices is hard on everyone; man, machine and beast. Let us hope things really are taking a turn for the better.