March 2016 Gold Cup Comment: Lots to do before Gold Cup Open Day

2015 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winner Neil Baker from Haselbury Plucknett in Somerset updates us on the work that needs to be done before the Gold Cup Open Day on May 25th.

I promise no more film references in my comments this year—my fingers are crossed by the way!  I did actually get one answer on a postcard as well as a phone call and a few tweets about my February British Dairying comments.  To be fair I wasn’t expecting a radical change in our industry to be born, as far as I can see UK dairy operates with its head in the sand and arse in the air. This was one of our rugby coaches favourite sayings and I’ve used it extensively since.

After all, if you can’t see where you’re going and make yourself an easy target, winning rugby games and getting UK milk producers a fair slice of the UK dairy profit pie are both rather unlikely.  Until we swap our heads and our arses around I fear our industry direction is set.

As the farmer who actually sent me an answer on a post card said, farmers do indeed act just like they did in The Magnificent 7—I’ve never seen that film before but I have to admit UK dairy farmers have been type cast!  The quote from the film goes “If God hadn’t wanted them to be sheared he wouldn’t have made them like sheep”.  Pretty telling, maybe it’s just a farmer’s personality trait to follow the crowd, keep your head down and get on with it.

A good past month

So another month goes by and I have to say it’s been quite a good one, with day length increasing and slightly less rain, things are greening up out there.  I’ve been spending quite a bit of time planning our forage cropping plan for this season.  Although as previously mentioned sugar beet has been a great success I am struggling to summon enthusiasm among the team and myself frankly to grow it again. 

Our focus this year more than ever is going to be on maximising our manures to grow good yields of good quality forage—but with a very critical eye on what each crop costs us to put in front of the cows, right down to the field it was grown in.  This will require us to be more accurate with harvest yields and dry matters.  Hopefully we’ll have a weigh bridge installed and working for the main harvests this season.  Alongside this our record keeping of operations, harvest tons and dry matter is going to need to come up to the same standard as our cow health recording.

Our winter building projects are finally coming together.  We opened our hospital pen a month or so ago which is working really nicely.  The major benefit of this is that the space we were using around our 1992 parlour for our hospital, trimming and maternity has now been revamped and now exclusively used for maternity which has made the whole thing much more labour efficient.  I’ve got early anecdotal evidence that both hospital recovery rates are faster and fresh cows are also freshening a little better.

On further projects before our Gold Cup Open Day (on the 25th of May, everyone welcome, go to for details) we are fixing our main drive, installing a few new beds in our dry cow barn, resetting the bed widths in our fresh barn, moving water troughs in pen three and six, building a road to our silage clamps, site our weigh bridge, clear two barns ready for presentations on the day, move the molasses tank and fix a water leak underneath the entry bridge to the rotary—it’s going to be a busy couple of months!

 Zero grazing is about to start to get some greenery in the ration and reduce the use of maize silage.

Zero grazing is about to start to get some greenery in the ration and reduce the use of maize silage.

The cows performance is just about holding in there, milk quality is very good as is fertility with on average six confirmed pregnancies every day in cows and maidens.  Let’s hope the milk price is starting to recover by the time they calve down.  We are planning on dusting off the zero grazer next week to start getting some greenery in the ration.  This will give us an opportunity to slow up our maize silage which is going back plenty fast enough.  I feel there is another litre in the cows and am about to rejig our concentrate blend in order to try and boost production.  We are currently averaging 2.55kg milk solids a day, our best ever month was 2.7kg.  Hopefully a slight tweak will pop us back on track.

TB test results

In other news we TB tested the whole herd last week and found six IRs.  We’ll have to wait until next week to see how our Animal Health department are going to view us now.  Hopefully we can keep our clear status if all six go clear in 60 days.

Right, I’m off to rejig some barns, have a tidy up, spread some manure (artificial and real) and start cultivations—a busy week ahead!  But at the end of it, England verses Wales in the Six Nations awaits #excited #lovecow