September 2016 Gold Cup Comment: Dealing with business challenges and achieving a work/life balance

In his first column 2016 NMR/RABDF Gold Cup winner Simon Bugler from Pilsdon in Dorset explains the latest herd problems and his aspirations for family life on the farm.

Within a week of learning we were finalists for the Gold Cup, we went down with one TB reactor in a group of in calf heifers.  We were only pre-movement testing 30 in-calf heifers and around 70 yearlings for movement purposes.  All the others we tested that day went through with no problems.

The individual that went positive had no lesions at slaughter and no cultures were done as it was deemed unnecessary—so I suppose you could say that’s a good thing.  That is until we were informed that everything that wasn’t pre-movement tested needed a check test ASAP.  We would also need two clear tests under severe interpretation (that’s the key word with TB testing, ‘interpretation’).

So we proceeded with testing just over 1,200 animals at the end of May.  Great timing for an extra four days work, dairy cows one day, then young stock the next, in the same week, we hoped to get the last first cut done, spread slurry, do the ground work and drill maize.  End results were three ‘inconclusives’, under severe interpretation.

So no major outbreaks just the usual inconclusive hold ups common to our area.  We have now completed the second full test of over 1,400 head with just four ‘inconclusives’ so fingers crossed for the end of September.

The knock on effect of this is that our in-calf heifer number is currently around 270 so at 30% replacement rate for 600 cows—but we only need around 200 heifers max every year or 50 every quarter.  So with 270 in the next three quarters that leaves us with 130 surplus for sale, under normal circumstances.

In terms of housing we renovated the old dairy unit adjacent to the new buildings 18 months ago for in-calf heifers.  So if we go up beyond 600 cows we can start to use these buildings and move the in-calf heifers elsewhere if we are still tied up in late autumn.

Feed stocks are good with good volumes of four cuts all clamped down and none started yet.  We are still feeding first and second cut silage from 2015 and maize should last until the new year, which has helped us build up stocks.  This is ideal with stock numbers rising and likely to rise faster until TB is hopefully resolved.

This has given us the confidence to crimp our wheat this year.  It wasn’t an exceptional yield but will help replace some bought in concentrate and straw.  We like to have around 100 acres of wheat that we can crimp or wholecrop.  The wholecrop option when forage stocks are looking low is a good insurance policy for us.  No matter which decision we make the wheat provides useful stubble for reducing slurry stocks onto dry ground through August.

The final place for wheat in our rotation is that we can reseed with Italians well before maize harvest and get a well established grass ley ready for the following spring.  On a number of occasions when we have had a dry autumn we have also been able to graze these leys with youngstock.

With July and August weather being so good, it’s made all this work a lot easier but very busy.  There are not many things you can’t do when you get good weather apart from sitting down to write an article for British Dairying!  So the rain this weekend before my first deadline of August 26th is welcome, not just because it will benefit the farm!

   Simon Bugler pictured in a field of Italian ryegrass on July 27th.  Three cuts of silage had already been taken, the latest on July 10th.  The field was cut again for a fourth cut on August 10th.  There is a good regrowth and it will be used to graze in-calf heifers in September.


Simon Bugler pictured in a field of Italian ryegrass on July 27th.  Three cuts of silage had already been taken, the latest on July 10th.  The field was cut again for a fourth cut on August 10th.  There is a good regrowth and it will be used to graze in-calf heifers in September.

After exceptional recent weather and no shortage of work I’m always conscious of the work/life balance and what that really is.  My dad also has difficulty understanding this, but in recent years has made lots of trips abroad with mum, thanks to my three siblings all living abroad—which is great and always does them the world of good.  I think farming is sometimes a bit like Marmite—you either love it or hate it.  I clearly love it but my siblings have all left the country.  It has proved to be a brilliant way of getting mum and dad away from the farm for a well deserved break.

There is no lack of enthusiasm and drive from dad though and when my sister Sarah, who lives in Houston (USA) was booking flights for their trip in late November to meet their new grandchild, dad had two conditions: the return flight needed to get him back in time for his local discussion club silage competition and the December Christmas Cracker sale at Sedgemore Market.

I’d like to conclude by congratulating Neil (Baker) for an excellent year of thought provoking articles.  Also a very successful open day and a lesson to us all of how well cows can be managed on a large scale.  Excellent job!

Another big thank you to all my family and workforce for all their support and collective efforts that have contributed towards our Gold Cup win.  It really is a massive honour to put RE Bugler and partners on the Gold Cup!

As this year’s Gold Cup winner I have landed two extra months of articles so there is still plenty of time for cow chat!  Hope you have enjoyed the intro to the family and business situation at present.

Reprinted from the September 2016 edition of British Dairying. To see the original article please visit the British Dairying website.