Okay there have been dry days but they’ve tended to be in isolation and with little by way of drying.

And, the weather forecasters haven’t helped - seems like the good spell is always just a couple of days away except that it never gets here. I suppose the only consolation is that at least it is better than last year!

With hindsight we’re definitely glad we took the gamble in the first weekend of May – a full three weeks earlier than 2021 – and got the first cut done. It wasn’t overly dry even after a full 24hr wilt but not sure we’d have got it any better had we waited longer. The grass has fairly come on in the interim so hopefully we’ll get a decent second cut in a few weeks’ time.

The late lactation cows are now out grazing through the day, but overall, the cows seem pretty oblivious to the weather with overall production looking pretty good at just over 40 litres sold with 4.2%BF and 3.4%P which is about 3.1kg of solids/cow/day.

The milk price also thankfully remains fairly buoyant – our processor’s price maybe isn’t quite at the level seen by some but we should be looking at around 42.5p/litre for May which is almost exactly 150% of the price seen in May last year. Although I think we might need every penny of that given that feed prices look like being up to 100% higher going into this autumn/winter than last year.

We’ve been using the old version of the Dairymaster collar for heat detection for about 15 years now and they have done a terrific job but unfortunately, they don’t make them any more so for a while now we’ve been thinking of what to replace them with? There really is quite a range of options: collars, pedometers, tags, boluses. With some measuring not just activity but also temperature and rumination, with the aim of helping not just with heat detection but also identifying ill cows.

So, we had the option to trial some of boluses which sit in the reticulum and measure rumination, temperature and activity of the cow. Although they have only been in for a fortnight it is surprising how much of a difference they have made already. I’ll discuss the heat detection and ill cows next time when I’ve more data but what has struck me so far is how well they detect the onset of calving.

Our normal routine for cows close to calving is to house them in cubicles and then move them to the calving pen when we think that calving is imminent usually based on them 'dropping' – that is the area around the tail head sinking as the pelvic muscles slacken. To be honest though it is as much an art as a science and sometimes cows end up in the calving pen for days, or worse sometimes don’t make it there at all which isn’t great for the calf as it doesn’t get a nice, soft sand bed as its first experience of the outside world!

However, the activity boluses detect a drop in body temperature at the early onset of calving and this is converted to an alert on the app. For all the bolused cows we’ve had an alert 10-12 hours before calving – giving plenty of time to move the cow without risking affecting the calving progression, which can be a problem if you wait for the calving itself to begin.

The only exception to this was one cow that wasn’t really showing much evidence of calving after 12 hours. A quick examination showed the calf was 'engaged' (front feet up ready to come through the cervix) but the cow wasn’t pushing. Worried that she was suffering hypocalcemia, I gave the cow a calcium bolus and she had calved herself within the hour. I’m pretty sure if she hadn’t had the activity bolus then I’d have been much slower on identifying the issue and sorting it out.

Speaking of cow health problems, sometimes we have cows that get a bacterial infection in the cleft where the udder meets its belly (presumably caused by the cow lying with her foot there). Normally we’ll give it a clean and disinfection with dilute iodine solution which clears it up. But very occasionally the infection goes unnoticed and progresses and in extreme cases can 'eat' away at the skin and damage the milk vein which lies just under the surface.

If this then starts to bleed it can be a major problem as the tissue is usually so damaged that it precludes the vet stitching to stem the bleeding. Also, the normal first aid treatment for bleeds – applying direct pressure with a gauze – is fine apart from the fact you either stand for a long time holding the gauze in place until the bleeding stops or use and enormous bandage to go all the way round the cow’s belly to hold it in place. I'm actually not convinced you could apply enough pressure this way but anyway…

There is, however, an alternative that we used for the first time at the weekend. Celox™ granules were developed for stopping bleeding in the battlefield but are commercially available with a small sachet only costing around £20. Putting a small heap of the granules in a gauze and pressing it on the cow’s bleed had the whole job done in under 2 minutes, which I thought was pretty incredible. Certainly, given how cheap they are I’d recommend people have a sachet in their first aid kit as hopefully you’d never need them but they could be life-saving, as farms can be dangerous places.