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.
After a very slow start to spring, grass growth picked up a bit in May and June but never really took off in our part of west Cornwall. So far this year has been the driest for a good while even though the weather has been somewhat unsettled.
Towards the end of June grass growth at Bojewyan slowed up again and has not really recovered, while at Levant the fields closest to the cliff were burning up. We now seem to be getting some more useful rain which should help the grass recover.
In July we had some dairying friends over from Victoria, Australia, for a few days and they said they had just come out of a 10-year drought. Where they farm cows are spring block calved and rotationally grazed with all paddocks flood irrigated with three inches of water and dirty water from the slurry pit, with only small amounts of AN used.
Cows at Levant are hopefully mostly in-calf after serving for six weeks followed by two young sweeper bulls for three weeks. Levant cows are doing 12 litres a day at 5.8% fat and 4.5% protein on grazed grass and 0.5kg of cake just to carry the minerals. At the moment it looks like they will average 3200 litres on once-a-day milking in their first year using under 300kg of cake per cow. According to other farmers on OAD, the first year is the worst for milk litres-wise, with the second and third year much better. We will see!
At Bojewyan we have more than 80 cows dry at the moment and started calving on August 10. Far off dry cows are being strip grazed on deferred grazing/standing hay (which means stemmy grass to you and me). Close up dry cows are also on standing hay, but we bring them in the yard by day to eat some haylage and dry cow nuts with a calcium binder which has worked very well for us for the last two years.
Heifers due to calve in August are also being brought in with the cows every week now to get them used to the parlour and concrete yards, and to be foot bathed to harden their feet.
For the first time in many years the feeder wagon has been parked up for months with cows grazing day and night. At times when grass has been slow or in rough weather we’ve put out some round bales but have used less than 20 all summer.
Cows at Bojewyan have milked really well this year, with a NMR herd average of 5900 litres and bulk milk averages of 5.82 fat and 4.06 protein on 1.5t of cake. First cut silage was made in two parts this year because of the weather with 50 acres done on May 6 and the rest 10 days later.
Second cut was made in excellent weather and whole-crop and some third cut made on August 4. We have more third cut to make in round bales for youngstock and dry cows. Barley stubble will now be broadcast with winter keep/kale seed and spread with dung and slurry.
This last week we took some soil samples to check for pH and trace elements and were pleased to see an average pH of 6.8 and P and K average 3+. About 15 acres will now be reseeded with long-term grass leys for grazing with cows in late September.
We also met with other local farmers at our local Asda for a supermarket challenge, and bought all the milk on their shelves which we then gave away outside to the public for donations to the Cornwall air ambulance. We were very well supported and pleased by the reaction of the local shoppers and also by the management and staff of Asda. Whether this sort of publicity will make any difference to our milk price time will tell, but at least we have the public on our side and our protest was good natured and positive.
Good luck to our fellow dairy farmers in these difficult times and I realise many of you will be struggling with worse weather and milk prices than us, so I have to recognise we are more fortunate than some!