The second installment in our new series of blogs from McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers comes from Alice Partridge, who is based on an Arla dairy farm in Staffordshire
McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer programme is a pioneering, year-long training scheme which offers young people a unique opportunity to experience the farming and food supply chain.
From land management to marketing and IT skills, the farmers will get the opportunity to explore today’s modern farming sector at all levels.
Here, Alice tells us about her time on an Arla dairy farm.
I am currently gaining experience on an Arla dairy farm in Staffordshire which is Red Tractor and Arlagården assured, milking 450 pedigree Holsteins twice daily. Arla milk helps create McDonald’s milkshakes, along with my favourite, the McFlurry! Arla also supply McDonald’s with organic semi-skimmed milk for tea, coffee, porridge and Happy Meal milk bottles.
The farm is run on a high input, high output system with cows fed a total mixed ration, comprising of grass silage, wholecrop, maize, lucerne and a dairy blend with a 33%protein content. The cows are also fed concentrates in the parlour according to their yield and stage of lactation.
One of my main responsibilities whilst on farm has been helping to rear the calves. The herd calves all year round, so there’s always something for me to do. I was surprised to learn that all the colostrum is tested with a densimeter which measures antibody levels to ensure the calves receive the best possible quality colostrum for the first twenty four hours.
Animal health and welfare is vitally important, especially for new born calves. We feed them from a teat rather than a bucket, allowing the calf to simulate drinking from its mother to help full closure of the oesophageal canal, reducing issues with scour and helping growth and development. I haven’t just been working with the calves though, I’ve been able to get involved with all aspects of the farm including milking, calving, post natal checks, drying off and vet days.
I have just attended a farm workshop run by Arla, with a group of local dairy farmers where we discussed selective dry cow therapy. This is when rather than using a preventative antibiotic for all cows at drying off, the farmer selects only those cows they feel require treatment. The amount of antibiotics used in farming will continue to come under ever greater scrutiny from the public, so it was great to learn how simple management changes can reduce antibiotic use, as well as saving money.
In addition to spending time on farm, I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural RABDF Women in Dairy Conference. This was an interesting day and a great opportunity to hear from some inspirational women within the dairy industry.
Having learnt so much on farm in these past few weeks, I am looking forward to following the milk through the food chain, when I spend time with the Arla business in Leeds.