January 2015 Gold Cup comment: Eventful start to 2014/15

This month John Taylor, herd manager at 2014 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winners Worthy Farm in Somerset, reports on an eventful run up to Christmas and start to the new year.

After saying what a fantastic year 2014 had been I suppose I should have kept quiet until it had actually finished.

I’d been getting quite a lot of what I thought was stomach cramps so at the end of November I ended up visiting a doctor who suspected a hernia.  She then went on to tell me it was a six to eight week waiting list to see a consultant as she thought I needed an operation—with a four to six month waiting list for surgery on the NHS.  Luckily I had a private critical illness policy so I got to see a consultant within one week, who confirmed it was a double hernia.

By this time after contacting my private healthcare company, who will remain nameless, they informed me a double hernia was not a critical illness and my policy did not cover the cost of going private.  By this time my blood was boiling and the cost of a private operation had gone from £2,100 to £3,500 because it was a double hernia.  Reluctantly I agreed to this and was told I would get sorted early in the New Year.  Fortunately I got a phone call the next morning to say somebody had cancelled an operation on the 17th of December and did I want mine done?

Keyhole surgery

I jumped at the chance mainly because it had become so painful it was starting to restrict my movement.  I’ve been lucky I suppose to have never needed any surgery but they assured me keyhole surgery was less painful and would heal quicker.

I was told to do nothing for two weeks and then only light duties until I revisit the hospital on January 14th, 2015.  I shall certainly have a bit more sympathy with the cows we perform endoscopy on and I should say the last cow treated has fully recovered and has been PD+, seeing as I seem to have upset our vets by criticising their endoscopy method.

The only good thing about this is I got to spend quite a lot of time with my family over Christmas, and we had a grandson born on December 23rd.  That makes eight now and the last I think, the next stage I suppose is great granddad.  Our oldest grandson is 14 now and nearly as tall as me.


John Taylor and Michael Eavis.

John Taylor and Michael Eavis.

Visit of Father Christmas

I must thank all my staff for all their extra efforts over Christmas, especially my wife Pam who never moans and sets a fantastic example to the rest of the team.  I must also thank Father Christmas (Mr Eavis) who came to visit me on Christmas Eve, and kindly paid for my operation saying it was probably his fault for working me too hard for the last 15 years!

I’d also like to thank Ian of Alta for doing all my AI’ing for three weeks.  We’ll see if he’s any good over the next month or two!

As a nice start to the New Year, on Monday morning January 5th, at 7.30am, a Food Standards Agency inspector turned up unannounced to do an audit.  With the dairy having been run by a skeleton staff over Christmas, the place certainly wasn’t looking at its best.  The only good thing was that my paperwork was more up to date than usual and he seemed more interested in that.  I think he got a cold reception when announcing who he was when he entered the parlour.

He was promptly sent to find me, so I gave him a sob story about my operation, being short staffed over Christmas and that morning was the first morning we’d been fully staffed for three weeks.

He had a quick look around the place while I fed the calves and then spent about 30 minutes going through the paperwork.  He seemed quite sensible and thankfully gave us a clean bill of health, although gave us a few stern words as well.  Hopefully next time they’ll turn up at a more sensible time of year.

Another interesting morning was just before Christmas when our feeder wagon jammed breaking the shear bolt.  Steve, our farm manager, feeds the cows 365 days of the year.  After getting in the wagon, Steve could see a wad of big bale silage had jammed behind one of the paddles.  He thought if he got a chain he could reverse the paddles and it would fall out.  Unfortunately however, it wasn’t that simple and the harder he pulled, the wagon just tipped up. 

Steven had to find a sharp saw and cut the big bale silage out and eventually started feeding the cows two hours later than usual.  I don’t think our Keenan is chopping the big bale silage up as much as it used to, and I would like to know Keenan’s advice on whether the knives or blades need changing.

We certainly seem to be getting a few more digestive upsets than usual—although the odd bale is a bit mouldy and we try to avoid putting anything in the wagon that is poor.

We are also feeding a mycotoxin binder and since we have included that about 18 months ago we have had a lot less digestive upsets.

Heifer calvings start

We have just started calving the first batch of heifers that have never left Worthy Farm.  The first two calved yesterday and I am pleased with their size and strength, especially as one is under 23 months old.  We have about 60 to calve over the next four months.  The pleasing thing to me is they calve so easily with the sexed semen and have all been cubicle trained from six months of age, hopefully making them a lot less likely to develop sole ulcers.  Bad feet have been a problem over the last 18 months with heifers not cubicle trained before calving.

We fitted 72 cubicles for six to 12 month old heifers in the summer of 2012 and these have worked really well.  We move the calves into these at about four to five months and every calf has used them for the last 15 months.

One or two have laid in the passageways for a few days but they have all trained themselves.  This without doubt will help the heifers settle into the milking herd a lot easier.  Hopefully a little investment on cubicles will pay us back well over the next few years.

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


Heifers at Worthy Farm are cubicle trained before they join the herd.

Heifers at Worthy Farm are cubicle trained before they join the herd.