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My Farming Week - Martin Drake, South Yorkshire

Martin Drake runs the family farm at Ladythorpe, north of Doncaster. It is home to a 150-head Blanray herd and followers, which includes some Brown Swiss crosses and 130 Texel cross Berrichon ewes.

Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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Estate: My dad passed away earlier this year which has been a steep learning curve. Not in terms of running the farm, but in the amount of time spent sorting out the estate.

 

My advice to anyone is to plan inheritance details with intricate care. I spend far too much time talking to the solicitor, accountant and bank manager. Although last week my NatWest manager phoned to say he had rearranged a loan, saving me £100 a month.

 

It is not often I put the phone down on the bank manager with a smile on my face.

 

Dairy: This all-year-round calving herd is milking far better than last year when the silage was very poor. The feed rate has been halved and the yield is 2.5 litres up on last winter.

 

It helps that this grazing season was the best since my dad came here in 1952 – not bad for heavy clay only 3 metres (10ft) above sea level.

 

My home-bred red and white Friesian bull has left me with a headache. After being used as sweeper bull last autumn, 23 of 30 calves are heifers. We are using a lot of beef semen now.

 

We have had health issues with the dairy herd over the last five years. A bad IBR outbreak left 25 cows with mastitis in 2011 then followed up with Neospora. Not good in a closed dairy herd. The IBR vaccine is due early December.

 

Sheep: The sheep are under-performing. The price this year was dreadful, especially for January lambs. The price does not justify the hard graft put in over the early months of the year.

 

They are currently moving over the dairy grazing land, cleaning out the pasture, and will be housed between Christmas and New Year.

 

Lambing next year will be horrendous as a major orf outbreak in the flock mid-August has really messed up the ewes’ fertility. A vast percentage of the flock were injected with Pen and Strep, plus an anti-inflammatory. Some ewes are only coming on heat now.

 

Future: The last eight years has seen the farm transformed as buildings have been knocked down and new feeding passages installed. This has led to a great increase in efficiency.

 

The aim is to install a new parlour next spring. A Fullwood 20:20 with crystal software will vastly improve herd performance as animals currently stand on concrete for too long before being milked.

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