So much for the summer! The last eight weeks have been a bit of a battle to get field work done in the short windows between the periods of very wet unsettled weather.

We eventually managed to get our winter wheat combined and crimped in the second half of August. This entailed the panic purchase of several drums of propionic acid as we were rather worried that, being so mature, it would come in too dry for the chemical additive we normally use.

In the end though it was 30% moisture, which is almost perfect for the Crimpsafe 300, with a yield (adjusted to 15%) of 3.5tonnes/acre. Unfortunately we didn’t fare quite so well with the straw which didn’t get quite as dry as we’d have liked before we had to bale it. That said. it should still be fine for bedding.

The field beans also did quite well. Brian Templeton combined them (photo was in last week’s Scottish Farmer) for us on what would now appear to have been the last day of summer. They actually came in a bit drier than last year but seemed to crimp okay. The problem we had was that when we went to mix them with the Trafford Gold before ensiling – being drier – there was clearly a bit more friction against the side walls of the feed wagon which in turn took its toll on the shear bolt on the PTO shaft. Thankfully as we’ve got a twin tub mixer we could run the front auger on its own to clear the blockage rather than have to dig it all out!!

This was also the year for the biennial removal of the sand from under the slatted cow shed. In total there was probably about 1000 cubic metres of material to remove but with three spreaders running we managed it within two days. Given there are problems no matter what material is used for bedding, this whole operation seems a relatively small price to pay for giving the cows the “gold standard”.

Certainly after a small blip in mastitis in the dry cows in July and August things seem to have quietened down again on the mastitis front with no cases in either the dry or milking cows in September.

What is interesting is that although the AHDB genomic report, which uses parent averages to calculate the genetic merit of the herd, has our herd in the bottom decile (10%) our annual mastitis rate is well below industry average at around 9%. This would suggest that environmental factors experienced by the cows are far outweighing any genetic predisposition to mastitis.

Certainly this has been the focus of a lot of effort by us in the last few years as our mastitis rate used to be just over 20% and a lot of those were severe, acute E. Coli cases which often required treatment with HP-CIA antibiotics, the use of which is now quite rightly frowned upon, and in some cases the cows would still lose a quarter.

The use of the mastitis vaccine, although not cheap, certainly helped us along the right track. But I’m convinced that reducing the use of tubes at drying off is also helping the general udder health of the herd too.

And the benefits extend beyond just reducing antibiotic use. Typically a mastitis case will cost around £100 in unsaleable milk alone plus, even if the cow doesn’t lose a quarter, chances are that she’ll never fully recover her milking potential so there are further lost litres there. Not only that, but if a cow becomes chronic with mastitis she’ll end up as an involuntary cull and there is the opportunity cost of replacing her. So maybe the vaccine isn’t so expensive after all…

Away from the farm we’ve also had a successful month as we were honoured to be crowned overall winners at Premier Nutrition’s TMS awards evening. It is great to be recognised for all the effort we put into trying to give the cows as smooth a transition as possible into each lactation. I’d certainly recommend the TMS service as a way of benchmarking and monitoring how cows are doing during the critical period around calving. After all if you want to improve you need to measure first.

Finally just a quick thank you to Holly Dyer, nutritionist at Tarff Valley, who was our advocate during the judging process. So dedicated was she that she Skyped in to give her presentation from her holiday in the Med.