It feels like yesterday that spring had just sprung and the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown. Fast forward five very long months, the leaves have turned, and we appear to have arrived in Autumn.
A good start to the new season
The warm and dry weather we experienced almost consistently since spring meant harvest came early and plentiful. We are fortunate that the silage pits are full, the bale stacks are high, and the cows continue to graze. As our 93-year-old grandad says ‘if you can make plenty in summer, you are going to need plenty in winter’.
Reflecting on the wet and cold September and October that we experienced last year, it is a real novelty to still have a group of milkers and all youngstock out in the fields. Not only is it less manual labour for everyone working on the farm, but it is also far more enjoyable for the stock. We will continue to keep the animals out for as long as they are happy and the weather allows. The high yielders remain housed to ensure their lifestyle and diet remains consistent and that they are still fed fresh, zero grazed grass throughout the seasons
Although the animals are still happily grazing, there is no denying that the weather will turn, and they will inevitably have to come in until next spring.
Housing livestock ready for the winter
The low yielders will return to their cubicles in the sheds with the high yielders. For dairy cows, the choice of bedding is of the utmost importance. Cows can spend more than 10 hours a day lying down in the resting position. This is when they ruminate and make their milk. Having a quality place to rest can reduce injuries in cows, such cases of lameness, which would then result in a drop in milk production.
While most of you will associate sand with the golden beaches that we are so lucky to be surrounded by here in the South West, we choose to use sand as our cow bedding. Sand is proven to be comfortable to lie on, free-draining in case any milk is leaked when the cow laydown and, most importantly, it does not support bacterial growth. There is also a lesser chance of infection and disease being spread among the cows that are kept on sand. Comfortable cows equal happy cows which equals consistent milk production.
Missing out on the agricultural shows
Finally, with all national and local agricultural shows cancelled this year, this summer has been strangely quiet on the social front for us all as a family. With a herd of pedigree Ayrshire cows, we would usually attend up to 10 shows per year, all over the country.
Training, clipping, washing and presenting the animals to the highest of standards, creates a tough few days and sleepless nights ahead of the big day in the ring. However, the friends that are made the experience we have and, most importantly, the recognition of the animals bred on the farm, makes it all worthwhile. The farming community has sorely missed the shows this year, but fingers crossed we will one day reach a time where it is safe enough to attend agricultural events again.