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Cowmen Comment: Christopher Murley - new year new milk prices?

Christopher Murley farms in partnership with his parents and two brothers at Higher Bojewyan Farm, Pendeen, on the extreme west tip of Cornwall, where they run 310 pedigree Jerseys and 140 youngstock.

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This month's Cowmen Comment from Christopher Murley looks at the ever hopeful prospect of rising #milk prices

Winter started properly at Bojewyan on November 20, when the cows were kept in day and night. Until then they had been out by day and in by night since November 6. Down here we have had a very open autumn with lots of good quality grass and cows have milked well with good fat and protein. The cows at Levant were out by night until November 24 and by day till the end of the month.

 

They moved on to haylage and were all dry by Christmas. Now they are dry, we can see how well they did on once-a-day milking and spring calving. For the first year on the system we are very pleased with lactation at 3200 litres, fat 6.2%, protein 4.4% and concentrate at 300kg/cow. In addition, our 100-strong once-a-day herd only had nine cases of mastitis in the year, and we only foot trimmed four cows which were lame.

 

As far as the work goes it has been easier milking OAD, but also not having to make as much silage or spread lots of slurry is a big saving of time and money. Our fertiliser use has gone up slightly compared to previous years in an attempt to grow more grass for grazing cows as our grazing platform has doubled. Also we don’t have as much slurry to grow the grass, although cows will not graze very well after slurry spreading even with our trailing shoe applicator.

 

At the moment we’re in a fairly quiet spell, as all cows are dry at Levant and most cows at Bojewyan are back in-calf and running with our sweeper bull Sam. All bulling heifers were AI’d for six weeks to Jersey and are now with another bull called Josh. This year we made some fermented wholecrop barley for the autumn-calved cows instead of alkalage because we found the alkalage difficult to store in an outside clamp without it going off.

 

Because we have high rainfall, the crop wasn’t heavy enough to stop the rain which fell on the sheet from finding its way between the side sheets and the bank, and this resulted in big wet patches throughout the clamp. Settled Having fed wholecrop since late October the cows seem extremely settled, although a bit more milk would be nice. Once again I don’t trust the silage analysis, with second and third cut both showing 12.2ME, with second cut showing 12% protein and third cut 19.9%.

 

To read this month’s digital edition of Dairy Farmer Magazine click here

 

 

Farm Facts

  • Farm size: 140 ha (350 acres), mainly grass with 16 ha (40 acres) spring barley for wholecrop
  • Herd size: 310 pedigree Jerseys milking and 140 youngstock
  • Yield: 5300 litres at 5.75% butterfat and 3.97% protein
  • Rainfall: 1400mm (55 inches)
  • Milk buyer: Arla Milk Link.

I think the only thing the analysis is good for is entering silage competitions. All youngstock have been out-wintered on kale and haylage again this winter and it’s working well. Most heifers stayed on grass well into December, but we will put the in-calf Levant group on kale for about six weeks before bringing them indoors with the dry cows to get them accustomed to the parlour and concrete. This should make our life easier when they do calve and will also reduce the stress on them.

 

Now we are into a new year and ever hopeful the milk price will pick up, although it looks like it might go the opposite way which isn’t good for any of us. At the moment it still looks a slow road to recovery but at least having cows on two farms, block calving and grazing for nearly 10 months has helped reduce our costs and going forward we will try to fine tune this so we are more able to survive low prices. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before cows will be going out to grass again and we will be putting on a first application of fertiliser in the form of urea to all grass, including that for silage. Following some soil testing late last summer, we can do without P and K for first and second cut if we use some slurry between cuts.

 

We booked our fertiliser back in October which has saved some money but we were more concerned with not being able to get transport for delivery in February/March. There’s nothing worse than when you need to be spreading having to wait a week or two for delivery. Last summer we laid some cow tracks to our farthest fields and are now waiting for some good weather to finish the top surface and complete the fencing ready for turn out. We’re looking forward to the year ahead and we will be happy with a repeat of the physical performance of this past year but hopefully with a much better milk price!

 

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