By John Harvey

Starting to feel a lot like 2017 again! With the current run of wet days, we had to make the decision last week, when we finally had a couple of dry days in a row, whether to do the last of our planned grass reseeds or get our field beans combined and ensiled.

Discretion being the better part of valour we went for harvesting the beans. We had been a little worried that the prolonged dry spell would have hit the yield quite badly but in the end we got a reasonable crop at 1.75tonnes/acre.

We crimped the beans and added a neutral – not propanoic acid – chemical preservative. Then, because the disc-like shape of the squashed beans doesn’t really lend itself to excluding the air when ensiled, mixed it in the feedwagon with a 1/2 part of Trafford Gold.

The resulting mixture was then put in the pit and then covered with salt for good measure before sheeting. I’ll let you know how it feeds out in a couple of months...

Last week also saw me take a trip south of the Border for an enjoyable couple of days in Telford.

On the Tuesday night I attended the annual Premier Nutrition TMS awards dinner and I’d like to thank them again for their hospitality, and also for choosing us as the winner of the “Newcomer” award.

It was a pretty successful night for Scottish farms with Millar of Newlands and Stephens of Inch of Arnhall also picking up awards.

The overall winner was Wills Bros of Pawton Dairies who milk 1500 cows down in Cornwall. No doubt they would be unfairly demonised by some pressure groups as “factory farmers”, but I think their success goes to show that it really is the management system rather than the size of herd that is important for the welfare of the cows.

The following day I got to spend a few hours at the UK Dairy Day which is a pretty impressive event. It was a great opportunity to see some of the technology advances that are being made.

It was also quite timely as with Brexit seemingly fast approaching and with it the likelihood that staff recruitment/retention becoming more difficult, we’re having a serious look at where it might be possible to automate some of the work we get our farmworkers to do.

One of the most important but tedious jobs is probably pushing the food forward to the cows. Currently this gets done before and after every milking, with the added advantage if we did get a robotic pusher that we’d be able to do it easily between milkings too.

Looking at the figures purely from the point of view of replacing cost of the wages, there probably isn’t too much to call between what we do now and automation: but labour scarcity not to mention the rapidly rising minimum wage would certainly swing it.

The other bit of kit we’re considering is a robotic scraper for our slatted cow shed. This is much more of a no brainer as the less time the scraper tractor is in action the less chance there is of something else getting damaged! Not only that but I’m sure the cows feet would benefit from having the floors cleaned more often.

The only concern I do have is that the slats might get slippy through slow build-up of dung through the summer hopefully though getting a scraper that sprays water as it goes will keep everything moist enough to get it cleaned properly.

Anyway apparently a cow has just calved, so better be off and give her her post-calving drink if I’m to have any hope of getting invited back to the TMS awards next year!

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.

Their 309-cow home-bred herd has won the award winning spot for two years in succession and also increased production by 15kg of fat and protein to give an average of 961kg and 583kg of milk to 13,662kg on a three times daily milking regime.