“The course of farm life never did run smooth”. This phrase (borrowed from Shakespeare and slightly adapted) sums up the season we currently find ourselves in. Across the board our plans are having to be constantly updated, adapted, put on hold or sped up, our minds and our to do lists constantly full to bursting.
There has been a somewhat stop-start pace to the first cut of silage this year. The weather hasn’t been terrible but patches of intermittent, yet heavy, rain have checked our momentum. We’ve finally finished this first stage, a little later than expected. Also as we look to the progress of the maize, there is debate among the team about the drill that was used to sow it, we are by no means convinced by its performance.
In the comparative quiet before the storm, otherwise known as the calving season, preparations are under-way to give us the best start we can hope for. All are aware that this will be a challenging year, with over twice the calves to rear, until we can achieve two clear TB tests. We have been interviewing for a summer worker to join the calf rearing team, in addition to another Plumpton student who will begin her gap year with us in July. A meeting with the vet to refresh our minds on calving and calf-care procedures has been booked in, and we are preparing our existing buildings for the impending influx.
We await planning permission for some more housing at our calf rearing unit, where the heifers are based. We had intended to do this since last year, but upon learning that we will soon lose some calf-housing on another site, and as we are expecting more calves than ever this year, this plan has become more of a priority. We are also in the process of devising a strategy for housing our bull calves. Another building, usually used for dry cows in the winter, will probably have to be updated for this purpose. However until any of these plans have been confirmed, and permission granted for building, progress is on hold, and the construction team are tidying up, and repairing feed passageways back at the main farm.
June saw the most disrupted milk recording we have had in some time. For some reason the automatic identification programme was not playing ball, and we had just installed a weighing system on the exit of the parlour, which caused enormous confusion and suspicion amongst the cows, who had to be individually escorted away from the parlour. This weighing system should help us to more effectively keep an eye on the condition of our cows. We also put down some rubber matting to protect their feet as they exit the parlour.
Another blip in our progress became evident during a recent scanning session with the vet. Over a period of a month we seem to have had a conception rate of less than 3% compared to over 30% with the preceding batch. This points to an apparently defective batch of semen; an expensive oversight for us at a time where unforeseen expenses are rife.
Unfortunately, frustrating seems to be the word of the day, but what can we do but concentrate on the areas that we can control, and leave the rest in the hands of the one who is far more capable than us.