Well what a contrast in weather over the last month. After feeling almost spring like at the end of February, normal service has resumed in the last few weeks with the wind and the rain.

While the weather was good, we did manage to get on with some field work with this year’s spring beans being sown under pretty favourable conditions.

We’re almost finished feeding out last year’s crop which we had crimped and ensiled mixed with Trafford Gold to help exclude air. Overall we’ve been pretty happy with how they’ve fed out with little sign of waste at the face and no discernible impact on the milk. The main benefit is really that it gives us a break crop for the wheat and also in these somewhat uncertain times, a little bit more self-sufficiency doesn’t go wrong.

We also got ahead with our P and K applications; Several years ago we did conductivity mapping on all the fields and together with the soil testing this allows us to spread at variable rates based on the requirements of different parts of each field. On the whole, most of the phosphate requirements are filled by our slurry applications and we normally only need to add potash to a couple the fields.

Our milk contract with Lactalis changes somewhat next month when in addition to the normal sliding scale payment per percent of fat and protein, they are also introducing a tiered additional payment to encourage producers to try and increase milk protein levels, as this is the key component required for cheese manufacture. This means that by passing thresholds at 3.30% and 3.40% the price we are paid per litre of milk increases.

The protein level for our milk tends to sit around the 3.30% mark – slightly higher some months slightly lower others. With that in mind we decided to see if the addition of some methionine to the ration would help lift the milk protein level as this is the amino acid most likely to be limiting in the cows’ ration.

It is very early days but it does appear that the protein level has increased slightly (enough to take us into the 3.30-3.39 band) although it doesn’t look like there has actually been a change in the total amount of protein/cow/day as the milk production has also dipped slightly.

Overall we’re still financially better off as we’ve entered the bonus tier but it does raise the question of whether this is due to the change in ration or just the natural increase we sometimes see as the days lengthen.

The end of February also saw the NMR Herd Competition (Scotland and Northern England) awards dinner and I’d like to thank Davidson’s Animal Feeds for their hospitality in sponsoring the table I was at.

We had quite a successful evening with various awards both for individual cows and the herd as a whole. I just wanted to focus on one of the cows though, Killywhan Jeeves Ina which won the prize for Highest Kg of milk solids (1474kg) at 305 days.

She is an interesting cow as she calved rather prematurely when she was a heifer and consequently didn’t have the best of starts as a milk cow, peaking at barely 30litres in her first lactation. Because of that, we got her back in calf as soon as we could, so her first calving interval was 357days.

And since then she’s gone from strength to strength. In her current lactation, she had pretty much held at 70kg of milk per day for the first 300 days, not surprisingly this meant I had a little trouble getting her back in calf with the calving interval likely to be nearer 600 days this time round but then again she will have given almost two lactations worth of milk in that time. And overall she’ll have given around 90tonnes of milk over her first five lactations.

Just goes to show that sometimes the 'ugly duckling' does become a 'beautiful swan'.


JOHN, his brother Stuart and their mother Margaret, own and manage the National Milk Record’s (NMR’s)

highest yielding Holstein herd at Drum, Beeswing, Dumfries, having won the award for the past three years in succession.

Over the past year, their home-bred herd produced average milk yields of 13,643kg with 945kg of butter fat and protein, with a calving index of 400 days.

They also own nine of the top 15 highest yielding cows.