Wednesday, 9 May 2018

April update - Strategic Farm Yorkshire

At the end of March, Yorkshire based Strategic Farmer, Guy Prudom updated us on how the farm had coped with the turbulent winter weather in the lead up to calving. Now Guy has nearly finished calving, he looks back at surprise weather conditions in April and how calving has gone this year.


The weather situation is not helping at the moment in mid-April. However I know that I am in an awfully better position than most, with ample silage, but a rapidly diminishing pile of straw up at the two upland farms where the suckler cows reside. Thankfully High Burrows Farm is an ex-dairy unit so the cows there are on cubicles. It just gets a bit messy when calving starts as everything has to go through the calving pens for 24 hrs to get matched up. Then into a straw yard for a few days, before going out to the great wide world.

With the constantly high humidity, the straw that is put out into the sheds only seems to last half a day. The few cows and calves that we have got out are thriving, which defies belief. I think by early April we have managed to get 35 – 40 cow with calves outside. This has certainly eased the housing situation somewhat, although by the beginning of April a scour problem was starting to rear its ugly head in the sheds. Treatment went along the lines of rehydration therapy and if the calf didn’t respond we administered an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Even so we have lost a few calves to scour which is so infuriating. There also seems to be no pattern to which calf is affected and which calf survives.


Both dad and I are very nervous about turning out anymore, just in case the weather does turn. The ground is still so wet underfoot, that it will not take a lot more water to make things very messy. 23rd of April saw dad and I weighing, vaccinating and bolusing the bulling heifers. The vaccines cover the cows for BVD, leptospirosis and IBR. The bolus is for trace elements mainly copper and selenium which have caused major problems in the past regarding fertility.


The last 10 days of April have seen a remarkable turn around in soil conditions and grass growth. From the ground barely being dry enough to drive on with a tractor on the 19th April, to spring barley and spring beans being by the 26th April. Cows and calf pairs are being let out on a daily basis now as grass growth has speeded up, with only the weaker calves being kept back, the result of the scour outbreak. We even managed to get 23 store heifers turned out to grass, only another 40 or so of them to move to Davison. This must be one of the first years I have managed to get them weighed before turnout.

In the past, I generally have about 10 to 15 cows left to calve at the end of April. This year 25 cows left to calve. At the moment I can’t find a reason for it either. The cows are all from different batches, they all had plenty of grass in front of them and the bulls (all bar one) were fertility tested.
So this year I am going overboard as per usual in giving the cows and bulls a   mineral tub containing orvec stimulus as well as phosphorus, copper, manganese and zinc a month prior to turning in the bulls and also at service. This should make sure the cows are ovulating and help improve conception rates.



We have just had some soil testing/ mapping done for us on some of the arable land. Two of the fields in question are growing red clover, so when we apply P and K for the second cut we will now be able to use variable rate application. In Pedica, which dad has owned for a lot of years, the variation in pH, phosphate and potash across the field is quite remarkable. Although I doubt we will save money, we will be able to target the areas that are quite deficient in lime, P and K. Whilst they were here I also got them to divide up a couple of fields at Davison Farm. This will make it a lot easier when I move forward to splitting them into equal sized grazing paddocks.

Might even get out with the plate meter and start measuring grass in the next few weeks as the work load eases off a little and there is some grass to measure!