Calving: The whole point of running a mixed farm is to spread the workload throughout the year, but by luck or misfortune we managed to have eight cows calve within five days of each other this week.
That is nearly 1 per cent of the herd, to put it in context. Each is milked for four days on a portable milker before going back on the robot, and that’s a lot of cows to milk by hand each day.
Milking: We hve had a good share of Brown Swiss heifers though. Already we have had more girls born this year than we had in the whole of last year, when we had just eight. My cousin David, who manages the cows, puts a noticeable increase in fertility down to our Fullwood Merlin milking robot meaning the cows are more relaxed now.
Feeding: They are certainly not as composed now we’ve started buffer feeding again - the feeder wagon soon brings them all charging back in from the meadow.
We don’t have the ideal buildings for feeding TMR, especially on a robot system, but the investment to simplify the whole layout looks increasingly unlikely as Arla has dropped the milk price again from next week.
Milk prices: The mixed messages in our industry at the moment are confusing to say the least. For example, the recent RADBF Gold Cup lauded expanding herd sizes as a measure of success, yet we constantly lament the number of dairy farmers leaving the industry. Nationally the number of cows stays roughly the same, so who is to blame?
Are bigger farmers squeezing out the small ones, or are the better business managers surviving and the poor ones failing? To counteract the volatility in the price paid for our surplus milk by Arla, we continue to focus on minimising costs through our mixed family farming system and to maximising returns by adding value on-farm.
Cheese: Markets and events throughout summer means this is a hectic time for cheese sales and even more so with the holiday season upon us (for staff and customers).
On top of this, I have been trialling a new variety of my cheese flavoured with strawberries this week. An unusual combination perhaps, inspired by a conversation with some gentlemens’ perfumers at a recent farmers’ market.
However, the outcome strongly resembles cheesecake, which I adore, and so I hope it will be a winner.