“I think the people in this country have had enough of experts” – a quote from Michael Gove that came to mind last week while we were doing our first cut silage.

The weather forecasts had seemed quite consistent for a few days indicating that the weather would be cool but dry for four days – plenty of time to get the silage done, before turning more changeable.

In the end, pretty much as soon as we’d got the fields mowed and tedded out, the rains started with several periods of heavy rain and even hail as we tried to get the crop in the pit. So suffice to say that it probably isn’t going to be the best silage we’ve ever made. But then again, it is always good to give our nutritionist a challenge every once in a while.

The cows as always were blissfully unaware of our stress in trying to secure them food for next winter. They are currently on last year’s second cut and are producing just over 41litres at 3.88% butterfat and 3.29% protein.

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we get a bonus for getting the protein above 3.30% and consequently we had started adding the amino acid methionine to the ration in an attempt to boost the protein level. On the whole this appeared to be working with the milk protein lifting from 3.28% in March when we added the supplement to a consistent 3.32% for the whole of April.

Just recently, since we changed to our summer meal contract, it has dipped again below the threshold so we’re making a few tweaks to try and get it up again.

On a more positive note, most of our youngstock have been out at grass since Easter when we had that spell of glorious weather. They are somewhat lighter on the ground this year as we try and get nearer the balance between heifers entering the herd and cows leaving.

In previous years we’ve had a large surplus of heifers which we sold in milk post calving. But really the margins don’t make sense given the labour involved in getting them to that stage. Not only that, but inevitably there will be heifers with blind quarters or slow milkers that just aren’t sellable and these become a larger percentage of the heifer cohort if you sell the middle ranking females.

Another avenue we’re investigating is to try and optimise our flow of dairy youngstock is genomic testing. Previously we’ve kind of baulked at the cost but with the increasing cost of sexed semen hopefully we’ll be able to find some synergies by identifying heifers to be bred directly to beef.

Interestingly, the Limousin-cross bulling heifers which we consigned to the beef breeding sale at Dumfries Market last week sold well. And especially given that they were out-wintered seem to present a much more sensible enterprise as far as rearing heifers for sale.

Could it be that suckler farmers have a much longer strategic view when buying heifers – looking for animals that will last the course? While flying dairy herds are only expecting a couple of lactations out of their cows?

Speaking of cows lasting the course, we had an interesting time calving one of our sixth lactation cows on Wednesday. Her calf had somehow turned so it was lying transversely with its spine presenting towards the cervix and jammed in such a way that we were unable to get it to turn. In the end the vet had to perform a caesarean section to get it out – Thanks to Paula for her efforts. Unfortunately we weren’t able to save the calf but hopefully the mother will make a full recovery.

FACT file:

JOHN, his brother Stuart and their mother Margaret, own and manage one of the National Milk Record’s (NMR’s) top Holstein production herds 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