Much like everyone else, our days are very much shaped by this season. The winter is typified by chilly mornings, muddy days, and evenings cut short by early darkness. The average working day seems shorter, as most outdoor jobs need to be sorted before dusk sets in, but all this feels like a natural progression. Our movements, like our days, are more restricted at this time of year, surrounded by muddy fields, our work revolves almost exclusively around the farm yard. The flurry of activity which characterises the months of calving and harvesting is behind us, routines and maintenance jobs take to the fore once more.
The winter routine is currently in place, which includes scraping out and feeding during the morning and afternoon milkings. For most of the staff this means a few earlier mornings a week, as they take it in turns to do the early routine, but strangely it means a slightly later start for our herdsman, who has conceded to start milking at 3am to accommodate other staff members.
The tractor team spend a lot of time repairing and maintaining machinery, and John takes this opportunity to take stock of the gear, and to weigh up the options of repair or replacement; some might call this a dangerous pastime! However it is under general consensus that we will replace the JCB forklift this winter, as it plays a central role in most jobs, clocking up about 1,500 hours per year.
For the management, the office becomes more of a hub than ever at this time of year. Many hours are spent indoors poring over figures and a lot of time is given over to thought, as well as to action. Matt has been monitoring herd fertility closely and there has been an encouraging improvement on last year. The latest vet session showed us we have just over 200 cows and heifers due to calve in the first three weeks of our block, with conception rates running at around 45%. Our November milk recording was pretty chilly, but we’re pleased with the results, the cows are milking well, with the summer calvers averaging about 35 litres. Matt has also joined a benchmarking group, and recently had a visit from a Milk Bench representative, who took records to calculate a comparable cost of production.
As it comes around to that time of year again, we’re already looking forward to the days getting longer and lighter, if colder. Meanwhile, we enjoy the festivities of this precious season. Apparently we’re a family of simple tastes, with everyone’s Christmas list mainly comprising of some snug socks, though I think an honest list might also include some big shiny machinery (John), underfloor heating in the parlour (for the wives who help with milk recording), and a brand new, greenfield dairy unit, built on the flat (Matt)!
May we take this opportunity to wish our fellow farmers a very Merry and Blessed Christmas. And here’s to socks!