The new year literally started with a bang. As we started milking on 1 January, the milk pump burnt out. Unfortunately the current one had only been in situ two months and had cost over £1,000. We hope this doesn’t set the standard for the current year.
On the plus side, the autumn-calving group is bulling brilliantly. Of the 80 cows in the first six weeks of AI, 70 have been served – we've only had 10 repeats so far and 10 we have not seen bulling. One of the factors that may have influenced this bulling session is the fact that I put a 1t bag of Himalayan rock salt in the corner of the yard with the cows.
Now, the newly purchased Aberdeen Angus bull will be turned in to sweep and anything that subsequently isn’t in-calf will be moved into the spring group or be culled. Although we have a monthly vet visit, I am trying to reduce fertility drug interference as I feel we are breeding all the time from shy breeders, thus increasing the problem.
For the last three years lameness has been a problem which baffled me. This in a herd which has been bred for good feet and in which lameness was previously a rarity. We eventually identified that the initial problem occurred when we moved into the new collecting yard and milking parlour where the method used for texturing the concrete was two electric fence reels in a frame with a long handle which was rolled across the concrete in opposite directions to create a grid pattern as the concrete went off.
This looked like a very good finish as it had very deep grooves which looked like they would last forever but, unfortunately unknown to us, little pieces of aggregate were sticking up which we should have struck off with the front end loader bucket.
This started our lameness issue, but it has continued for the last two years and we have now discovered that when a cow goes lame, she is most likely to go lame again because the foot paring for sole ulcer creates a weakness in the hoof which causes a sometimes spiky deformity on the pedal bone which continually acerbates the lameness problem.
So we are stuck with this, until these cows wear out their usefulness – although I am sure their lameness will reduce their lactations and profitably. An expensive learning curve.
Trump losing was good news for British farmers as we hope Biden hadn’t forgotten his Irish roots. He was not prepared to do a food trade deal with Britain that would disadvantage Irish farmers. In the final two months of 2020, Boris Johnson had been proclaiming that he “had an oven ready deal” for Brexit.
Unfortunately by Christmas, it appeared to be an unpalatable, cold turkey that needed a lot of microwaving to make it acceptable.
I haven’t the time, energy or inclination to devour the 2,000 pages of the trade agreement but it would appear for farming it could have been worse and it also it could have been better.
For the Brexiteers, i.e. the majority of Welsh sheep farmers, they now realise the majority of their lamb goes into Europe and if they want that market, they still have to produce to European standards. If we take back 80% of our fishing rights the French fishermen have already stated they will throw it back into the sea if we try and land it in France. The administration of paperwork and health certificates to the meat and dairy industry will mean a large number of vets enrolled for the purpose, the cost of which will no doubt fall back on us producers.
No doubt farms will cope with this extra further financial burden, but it is alarming that last year, one dairy farmer a day packed up milking.