Calving off to a racing start – Graham Smith

As I write this on the 30/7/19 I have just over half the herd in. The girls certainly have been keen to go as I had 25% of the herd in by due start date! This has convinced me to push back my start date to the 25th July. This is particularly relevant when it is considered I am milking OAD this season and therefore the girls should be more fertile, and calving will be more compressed next season. OAD has so far been smooth and it has been noticeable that the girls are keen to be milked, especially the heifers.

There has been a good run of heifer calves, so that enables me to keep higher BW types and to make a bit of extra income from sales of the surplus. This year’s sires were all crossbred and so the black calves have been easy to sell. But due to OAD, and the desire to chase higher BWs, all but one of my selected sires for this spring will be Jersey. This will give me a higher proportion of brown calves and there may be a bit of buyer resistance to their colour, even if their BWs will be higher. Time will tell.

During the winter, my vet (VetEnt) had a social function and Emma Cuttance presented on her studies into calf dehorning. She showed how calves react to the dehorning and made recommendations on how they should be treated afterwards. I followed up on this and got my dehorner to apply Tri-Solfen to the horns after the procedure. This worked very well, and the calves have showed no aftereffects with this new treatment.

Feed supplies have held up well, with plenty of cover ahead and quite a bit of supplement ready to go if needed.

Due to the amount of time I had off over autumn, the winter has been very active work-wise. I have done quite a bit of fencing repairs and some new fences as well. The back of the farm has always been a bit of a conundrum as to how to subdivide the hills. I’ve bit the bullet, and made a decision on where the permanent fences will go, and have made a start. Some parts have been partitioned with portable fences for the last 30 years and I thought I had it sussed until I did my tree harvest. I then realised my crossings, tracks and races were in the wrong place or not wide enough. This has been rectified and now I am proceeding with confidence. I have been making all the new races 5 metres wide instead of 4 metres. Four metres was okay when I had my old small tractors, but with a new, larger tractor and the need to cater for logging trucks and forwarders, width has become important. If I get this right the next harvest should be a lot more straightforward with better infrastructure.

Further to the fencing, I only had a temporary fence around some of last year’s paulownia plantings. Well, I paid the price for my slackness and during break feeding the cows broke into the block and ring barked all 37 trees. Once the bark is damaged the tree can continue to grow but the timber will rot from the inside out. So, the only thing to do is cut them all down. Fortunately, they have the ability to grow from the stump again. Growth will be a year behind, but the established root system will enable them to make compensatory growth and the end result will not be so bad. Still, all my plantings this year are fully fenced, as I don’t wish to see that again.