It is said that a wise man learns from his mistakes but a wiser man learns from someone else’s. In that spirit, I would like to outline four of my recent ‘learning experiences’.

Experience number one

During the week beginning 14 March, I noticed that we had a number of cows who had recently passed our voluntary waiting period of 50 days. Therefore, I thought I would be incredibly foresighted and give these girls a jab of prostaglandin to stimulate a heat and get them served before spring field work began in earnest.

However, I made the basic error of injecting them on the Thursday and not considering that this would mean that the majority of them would come on heat on Sunday.

This meant that the timing of the morning services ensured that I only made it into church during the singing of the first hymn. The evening AI session ensured that my usual Sunday snooze was also curtailed.

A couple of weeks ago we carried out a herd PD session where I found out the full extent of my prostaglandin scheduling. When the cows that were AI’d over this weekend are combined with the maiden heifers that were naturally served at the same time, almost 20% of our herd (albeit not the biggest herd in the country) will calve within the seven days surrounding Christmas.

While this means it will be far from a restful festive period, I am determined to turn this into a positive and make the most of the family labour that will be visiting at the time.

Experience number two

While serving so many cows, my concentration must have slipped with the result that while preparing to inseminate a beautiful Dempsey cow (a cow that I was intending to serve with high type Holstein Rager-Red), I lifted the wrong pot out of the AI flask. Instead, the cow was given Lemonhead, a sexed jersey bull.

Of course, the PD session showed that she is in calf to this service. I await with great interest to see how this unique pedigree develops.

Experience number three

In 2013, we fenced off a section of a field beside the yard to use as a maternity ward for those cows that calve in the early part of the calving season (mid-August to late September).

At the time, we had recently started using posts treated with creosote. I had found them to be of great quality but quite a bit more expensive, and as the fence was only to divide a field (and being of a frugal Ballymoney disposition), we used non-creosote posts.

This has proven to be a false economy. The posts have recently degraded to a terrible degree, but the final straw was reached last month when a batch of heifers managed to break a post which enabled them tramp down a section of fence.

Our fencing contractor has replaced the full length of the fence. I was annoyed to see how extensively rotten the majority of the posts were. I will only be using the creosote variety of posts in the future.

Experience number four

Do not forget, or put off getting the air conditioning fixed in your agricultural vehicles. This is something that I have done for a number of weeks, with the result being that we were at silage with temperatures approaching 30°C. The telehandler was essentially a greenhouse on wheels.

However, I should point out that this discomfort was something I was happy to endure after the rain that surrounded our first cut campaign.

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