Feb 2016 - Bored of Winter now

touched on the mighty Leicester City last month; I’m not a huge football fan but I did have a Leicester City season ticket for five seasons "when I were a lad" (a point I like to make as often as possible at this moment in time).  So how are they doing it with a measly £22 million squad?  Well I would like to quote the great philosopher Alan Shearer who at the start of the month said Leicester’s success was down to 'desire, hunger, determination and, team work'.  If I could come up with four qualities that I believe are essential for a team of staff then they would be it with the most likely addition of passion.  Leicester is literally the 'dream team' right now, how a farming business like ourselves can emulate their success is another story but one that I am keen to continue learning.  I have been trying to get hold of Claudio but strangely he is unavailable to discuss cows and their management. 

 

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Remember this? Sun, warmth, green stuff. 

My annual vacation plan didn’t quite unfold as hoped.  The plan being that on my return I would be embraced by warm sunshine and much grass.  Instead, quite the reverse appeared before me.  On the up side the ground had dried enough to be able to get the umbilical and fertiliser spreaders out and about.  On the down side, it was cold and the grass had finally decided to stop growing and turn a miserable brown wintery colour.  Not what you want when the planned turn out date is 16 days away.  The cows are still hanging in there, continuing a good spell of milk production although it’s only a matter of time before we reach the last of our quality silage.  The remaining third cut will mean taking quite a hit in quality if the analyses are to be believed. 

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Indonesian goat looking cow

The highly anticipated milk production and concentrates fed figures for January came through this month, which are part of a little pet project of mine.  That is, keeping track of milk produced from forage and, improving it.  The first part is easy!  I set a preliminary target of 2500lt/cow/year, with a second target of 3,000lt, targets which were set around two years ago.  Our 2014 silage wasn’t as good as hoped and as a result a lot of concentrate was fed and milk from forage flat lined.  2015 however, produced higher quality silage and we also took a bold step by cutting out TMR altogether for the low yielding cows during the spring and early summer.  As a result the cows have finally broken through the 2000lt mark, putting on almost 1000lt (from forage) in twelve months.  This makes me very happy!  One could argue that these figures are nothing too special but they are an improving set of figures and, one high profile farm that springs to mind isn’t achieving anything near.  The link between milk from forage and profitability is quite astonishing in my opinion and, is a positive something that has definitely showed up in our accounts over the past twelve months.  So why are so many people still not taking it seriously in UK dairying?

 

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Lambing marquees for the early batch of fluffy rodents

 

Over the past six weeks or so we have been treated to what one of the Estate ladies would describe as a ‘jolly’, or as our Directors would prefer, ‘an educational off-farm experience’.  The first of note was a trip to London town to visit our milk buyer.  This was the second of a two-leg affair as we had already hosted our hosts with a day of on-farm excitement.  Being a bit of a budding Human Resources geek, I loved all the protocols, organisational charts and, targets pinned up all around the place which may help to explain why something with relatively few staff can be so efficient.  It’s a memory I now hold on to when I’m locked away in the office trying to compile up-to-date job descriptions, responsibility flow charts and, numerous protocols covering everything from calf feeding, to parlour wash routines, to calving and fresh cow management.

Another stand out trip was a tour of the Bridgwater College Farm as part of our quarterly management meetings.  College and University farms are without fail always interesting and always lead to a healthy discussion with the boss on the drive home.  There is always a heap of research, experience and, a range of facilities to accommodate cows and students but implementing it all on a fully operational dairy farm is easier said than done.  For those who like a challenge and enjoy being around people it must be great fun and definitely offers a different experience of dairy farm management.

Must go, Mr Ranieri has called back after all!