It’s a wonderful time of year to be farming. We are surrounded by blue skies and luscious green fields. The grass is growing well, and is currently filling up our cows’ stomachs, and our silage clamp simultaneously. The farmyard and surrounding lanes and fields are busy with tractors putting in the last of the maize and getting off the first cut. It all looks pretty idyllic, if you’re a farmer that is, probably not so much if you like your countryside neat and peaceful. Of course there are the usual mechanical issues, with the inevitable machinery break downs and loud, and rather expensive, tyre punctures from time to time, but in the fields it all looks to be going well. We’re also pleased with the results from serving for our spring 2015 block. Some 180 cows have been served so far, and the first PDs have shown a 35% conception rate, which we take as a positive, when we consider that these cows are only eligible because they slipped the autumn block, and are therefore not our best breeders.
Returning to the theme of big shiny machines, we are currently looking into the options for replacing our ailing self-propelled mixer wagon. It would seem that there are two distinct, and rather vocal, camps in this debate. Our current mixer-wagon is in desperate need of replacing, but has been a useful bit of kit, it has allowed the feeding to be a self-contained task, not dependant on a free tractor and JCB to get the job done, unlike the trailed mixer and sheergrab alternative. Self propelled mixer wagons are appealing in terms of the neatness of the silage face, and their accuracy in weighing out ingredients. Of course the other side of the argument is the resounding ker-ching of the bill, which is not a small consideration. We continue to weigh up the options, hoping that a definitive answer will come.
However, we are currently more preoccupied with a dark cloud which is looming on our horizon, the cause of which inspires a pretty united response of exasperation and dread from all farmers. Two of our cows have unfortunately just had inconclusive readings for the second TB test in a row, which means we are now in a 60 day testing regime and cannot move any animals until we have gone clear for two consecutive tests. Our first reaction is to be saddened at the loss of two very good cows who were shortly to be dried off, and our second is to begin to plan for the coming months. The next test will come a few weeks into calving our summer block, and the second will be towards the end, meaning that we have an additional 200 beef calves that will need to reared on farm. We are considering housing options, and staff numbers, and will have to reconsider our latest budget.
We are aware that this is a familiar issue for many others, and that a lot of farmers have devised excellent approaches to the problem. We are encouraged that this is not an insurmountable task, and are resolved to learn what we can from others in order to do the best job we can, while we hope and pray that this will not be a long term arrangement.