Gold Cup Comment: Preparing for open day

This month John Taylor, herd manager at 2014 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winners Worthy Farm in Somerset, updates us on the latest news from the farm and open day preparations.

Well at last the weather seems to have turned a bit spring like.  It certainly makes you feel good—a bit of sun on your back. Unfortunately, that means we’re even busier, all our slurry has been applied using a umbilical system but it still made a bit of a mess as our ground is pretty heavy in places.

It’s only in the last couple of days that we have started chain harrowing, and then we run over all festival fields with a large tractor mounted magnet.  It’s always surprising what gets picked up by the magnet even on the second or third pass over.  Then finally we gave it a good roll with a very heavy roller.  We now have two tractor mounted magnets and since we have ‘magneted’ the fields a lot more, it has virtually done away with hardware disease in the cows.  We also put two further magnets in all young stock when these are vaccinated at 12 to 13 months of age for service.

The next job will be to put all the dung on the maize ground.  Unfortunately we have had to reduce our maize average because of the three crops rule.  Usually we grow around 90 acres but we have had to reduce it to 75 acres.  As a third crop we planted 15 acres of red clover which we will big bale and then to feed one to two kg per day per cow next winter instead of hay.  This means we shall probably have to buy an extra 20 to 25 acres of maize as hopefully cow numbers will be getting towards 450 by spring 2016, plus 350 youngstock. 

We thought we had acquired another set of buildings for our youngstock but it fell through at the last minute.  This means we are bursting at the seams with young stock which is not ideal, as you know what happens when you overstock sheds.  We have had quite a bit of pneumonia, and tried vaccinating a couple of groups, but the calves are getting it at a very young age so vaccinating didn’t really help. 

  

  The Worthy Farm dairy unit seen from the air during the Glastonbury Festival.

The Worthy Farm dairy unit seen from the air during the Glastonbury Festival.

2015 certainly hasn’t been such a good year for us as 2014.  The plan was to sell some youngstock if we got overstocked, but then fate stepped in. I’ve never been a superstitious person so when the vets wanted to do the TB test on Friday 13th, I said no problem.  We have never had a problem with TB, only a few bought in cows about  five years ago.  We tested 730 cattle over two days—all the youngstock on the first day were perfectly clear.  We got the first batch of cows in the race on the second day and low and behold one cow had a lump like an eggcup.  All the rest were perfectly clear—not a pimple anywhere.

This was a cow that had been at Worthy all her life and did not go out to graze at all last year.  We have three setts of badgers on the farm, but these have never caused us a problem before.  We have been a closed herd for two years now so where does it come from?

The one thing that bugs me is when we had bought in cows with it—they didn’t look right—whereas this cow was 100% healthy.  We will have to wait until the next test I suppose.  So just when we’re busting at the seams, we have now been placed under movement restrictions, just what we need before our open day!

The cows seem to have settled down again after their slight blip last month and are currently 37 to 38 litres.  We have had a couple of mad days with nine calvings which produced only two Friesian heifers, one of which was twin to a bull.  We can’t moan really as we have had a lot of heifers calve over the last eight months.  We have enough maize to feed at 20kg per day all the way through the summer so hopefully this will help keep our milk more level throughout the year as we get a good bonus for staying within 10% of our base.

Fertility has been really good this winter although we seem to be getting a few more cystic cows that show up as non-bulling not the usual nympho cystic cows.  The bulling heifers seem the opposite, they are not bulling nowhere near as strongly as last winter even though they are getting 10kg maize and 2.0kg of concentrates.  It seems to me that the Angus bull is sweeping up too many.  We’ll find out in the next week when we PD the next group of 40. 

We have had a meeting this month with NMR and RABDF planning for the Gold Cup Open Day on Wednesday May 6th.  I can’t believe the planning that goes into this and all I hope is that the sun shines on us.  They have decided to change the format of the day from two hours of speeches in a marquee to a basic introduction and then have five speaker stations based around the farm.  

We have decided to put up the Pyramid Stage a few weeks early so you can walk on the famous Pyramid Stage and there are going to be a lot more food stations. 

Unfortunately Dolly Parton was not available so I understand NMR’s jazz band will be making an appearance.  We also suggested the Cider Bus makes an appearance but they did not seem too keen on that, worried about drink driving!

We look forward to welcoming you all to Worthy Farm and hope you enjoy the day. Please don’t be afraid to ask me any questions, I’m not a speaker, but I do not mind answering questions.  We certainly have unique challenges here at Worthy, but we all face challenges every day of our lives.

Reprinted from the April 2015 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website