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My Farming Week - Jonathan Stanley, Dorset

Jonathan Stanley runs a dairy farm in Shaftesbury, near Gold Hill, which was made famous by the 1973 ’Boy on Bike’ Hovis advert.


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Jonathan and Clea Stanley
Jonathan and Clea Stanley

Tenancy: Next March I will have been a dairy farmer for five years. We took on a Dorset Council starter dairy farm of 44 hectares (108 acres) in March 2011. We started with 70 cows and have expanded to 170 cows with home-bred heifers and purchased cattle.

 

My parents and grandparents farmed in Yorkshire where I grew up but sadly due to the untimely death of my grandfather the farm had to be handed back.

 

I always wanted to farm on my own and early on saw a county council farm was the best way to achieve this. We are very lucky Dorset County Council has strategically managed its farm estate asset over the years. This has helped to make the estate financially viable and has safeguarded an essential gateway for new entrants to the industry.

 

Cows: We run a pedigree Jersey herd and the breed really suits this farm. We sell our milk on a solids based contract to farmhouse cheese makers Barbers, so we are all about grazing and milk solids produced per cow and per hectare.

 

Coming from a black and white background, some people showed surprise when we started with Jerseys. They are great economic and efficient little cows. Their increasing popularity both pure and crossing is nice to see. I think we have cracked rearing the calves which have been a challenge at times.

 

Grass: Thankfully over the last five years we have re-seeded nearly the whole farm which has enabled us to have a higher stocking rate on the home grazing platform.

 

The power of re-seeds and liming is plain to see in the grass we can now grow and the stock we can carry. We have some light greensand soil and we can turn out very early, usually in February as the spring calving herd calves down, subject to weather.

 

Christmas: We are in the middle of breeding the autumn calvers, which seems to be going okay. This last week has been somewhat hectic trying to fit in school nativity play, carol service, milk recording, a trip up north along with the day to day routine.

 

I am trying to gear everything up for an easier time over Christmas.

 

I am just finally drying off the remainder of the late spring calving cows so milking over the holidays will be a little quicker. We also have our annual TB test this week which has added to the workload, but I wanted to get it out the way before the turn of the New Year.

 

Christmas will be fun due to the enjoyment and pleasure of a six-year-old on Christmas day, which I suspect will involve a lot of Lego building. Next year will also start with a bang with the spring calving block and a new arrival.

 

I would like to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a more prosperous 2016.

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