Monday, 26 April 2010

Visit to Brookfield Farm, known farm in England

It's a lovely sunny warm spring day & the grass is growing on Brookfield Farm in Ambridge. The dairy cows are out grazing pastures & David is right up with the play.....he platemeters grass, Autumn block calves, uses cross beeding & has a very good farm layout with concrete railway sleepers on the is a very modern farm using the latest pasture grazing technologies which are environmentally friendly & kind to the welfare of the dairy cows. Grass fed milk is healthy with high levels of Omega 3s. Beneath those lush green pastures with the attractive cross bred dairy cows....carbon is being sequested in the top soil under permanent pastures.
PS The photo at the top of this blog is NOT of Brookfield Farm but rather real live pasture grazing action from the Ankle Deep Discussion Group in Gloucestershire....just like in "The Archers".

I've just visited the best known dairy farm in England.....Brookfield Farm, Ambridge. Millions of listeners to BBC Radio 4 "The Archers" tune in either to the daily broadcast or online across the world to listen to what David & Ruth Archer are doing on their dairy farm.

"The Archers" first broadcast on 1st January 1951 is now the longest running radio soap in the world (over 16000 episodes). "The Archers" was created from radio programs during the WW2 that were broadcast to help farmers to produce food both during & post war.
I had the privilege to meet Tim Bentinck the actor who plays David Archer.

Tim I can tell you is a great guy with a quick wit & good humour. He has a genuine interest in farming firstly being born on a sheep station in Tasmania & secondly having family faming interests & connections in England.

I work with Graham Harvey who is the Agricultural editor for "The Archers", we are keen to include pasture grazing excellence into the program & highlight some of the innovative on farm practices from the Discussion Groups. Graham has also written "The Carbon Fields" book which is about the benefits of grass fed food & to the environment of pasture based farming.

Working with Graham (& ofcourse David Archer) is a unique opportunity to speak to a much broader audience. Approximately 5 million people tune into the BBC Radio 4 each evening.....not only farmers but people who live in villages, towns & cities all over the the online listeners. Every one given the opportunity needs to become an ambassador for their industry & profession. Grass fed milk farmers need to all become ambassadors for grass fed milk & the way in which you very efficiently farm.....if you don't or won't......then who will?Graham kindly arranged the visit to the BBC studios at Birmingham. It was very interesting to watch Kate the producer, the technical staff & actors rehearse & record another episode to go to air shortly. Thank you Kate.
One of the current story lines is related to the use of dairy bred calves being used for beef. The day after I visited Brookfield Farm I made a visit to Cheshire with the Turf Accountants Discussion Group to see a young farmer rearing dairy bred beef on a grass based system. It was very successful efficient production of healthy beef. So the Archers really are up with the game!

As to "The Archers" episode we watched being recorded...

what happened?.................You may ask that .........I could'nt possibly comment!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Launching My Very Own Manifesto.....Just for Fun

I've decided to run for President of the United Kingdom. Yes I know there isn't a vacancy but I'm proposing to have a chat with the Queen......maybe she would be happy to be the 'Monarch of the Glen' after I take office?

To revive interest in Westminster I propose bringing back public executions....starting with MPs who fiddled their expenses, then say past PMs & Business Secretaries. These events could be sold to TV & perhaps auctioned off.....I feel this could be bigger than Ben Hur.....& will probably solve our national debt problems.

At a local level.......I'd like to see the "Stocks" re built in all villages.........this could smarten up the performance of your local MP & would almost certainly ensure that MPs didnt seek a second term.

I'd abolish the House of Lords & replace with the "House of Comedians"

I want to make some real changes to the political landscape. Firstly I'm prepared to offer the three main parties each 50 seats. The total number of parlimentarians will be halved with the remaining seats offered to a wide range of independents. This will I imagine avoid a hung parliment.

I want to allow some sectors of the population extra if you live in rural GB you would get 2 votes, farmers who produce food will be given the right to have 3 votes. If you produce grass fed milk or beef this would allow you a further 3 votes i.e. 8 votes in total. This should even up the political power in GB.

I would halve the number of public servants in Year 1 & in Year 2. These fine people would be re allocated work to fix the pot holes in English roads. Starting with country roads & lanes.

This will keep them very busy (especially in rural England) at least until the economy improves. Once they have fixed the millions of pot holes they can start on broken drains & ragwort pulling. (This is part of my environmental manifesto....the photo below is of a broken water pipe in my county that has been in this state for months..lets assume the leak is flowing at 10 litres/minute then the losses of water amount to 14,400litres per day & over 400,000 per month.....outrageous in a world that has insufficient fresh water!)

All MPS would also serve in the armed services. This should reduce the number of armed conflicts our elected MPs vote for in the future.

My main Manifesto platform is to 'Ban Road Cones'......yes that's right.....those little orange critters are a public menace.....that come out onto the Motorways in England during the night. They apparently indicate that speed cameras are now in operation & also that the proposed roadworks haven't started yet & no one has any idea of when they will be completed! Once some Road Cones are out on the road they very successfully multiply out of control.....they have to be stopped!
Speed cameras would be eliminated immediately I took office.

I would replace all current motorcars with modernised Morris Minor & Austen Mini s.....this would regenerate British manufacturing & lower the Carbon Footprint.

While I'm ranting about my motorway policies.....I would ban all current drivers of black BMWs for life to make roads a much safer place for Dairy Consultants!

Aaaarh!.... What it is to be bored by endless hours on the motorway & listening to an extremely boring election. I was going to sort the airline business & food security but it seems the Icelandic volcano has beaten me to it. Mind you if I ever meet the bosses of the guys with the white paint brushes!!!??!??
If I haven't won you over yet I'm proposing that 'Joanna' succeed me (after I've gotten rid of the Road a succession understand!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Arrest, Search, Treat & Regain Cow Condition Score (BCS) early like NOW

If you put a Grass based Dairy Discussion Group in front of a herd of dairy cows & ask them about the Cow Condition Score (BCS) they will usually respond by saying that "they're okay!"
Why? Why wont they be more objective & more critical of the thinner cows? As Dr Clive Dalton recently wrote in NZ..."A culture has developed over years that if you are ever asked to score someone else's cow always say she's CS 4.5 (NZ) & you won't get into any trouble"
A condition score was never meant as an average. It's a target ALL cows in the herd must reach. Cow Condition Score (BSC) is a visual assessment (reasonably accurate too) of a cows "energy reserves". There are a number of critical points in the year where these target BSC are very important to milk production, fertility & maybe some animal health issues. The most important of these "criticals" is the Condition Score at calving. Given that most spring cows have now calved we need to look at the next two critical points for BSC.

Firstly there is the minimum BSC (sometimes referred to as the nadir BSC) this occurs 50 to 100 days after calving or about 70 days on average. The minimum BSC & the loss of condition post calving varies considerably between cows in the same herd for lots of different reasons. However the BSC at calving is the single most important factor & has a big influence on both the minimum BSC & the loss of Condition post calving. (Extensive review by John Roche et al).
If you can reduce the Condition Score loss postcalving you reduce the postcalving anestrus.

The lower the minimum BSC & the greater loss of Condition (postcalving) both have a negative effect on conception, pregnancy to 1st service & 6-12 week incalf rates.

Low BSC & greater BSC loss are risk factors for uterine infections especially in younger cows.
I have been working with three grass based dairy farmers in England since October 2009...we have been condition scoring every cow thru out the late lactation, dry period over winter, at calving & now 70 days after PSC.
Since calving we have measured a little over one NZ Condition Score loss (av for each herd). That sounds okay as it is within the recommended CS loss range.
However when you look at the data in more detail it reveals that some cows have lost a lot of condition since calving. The risk of these cows NOT conceiving in the 1st 6 weeks is very high.
On closer examination some of these cows had difficult calvings, uterine infections, lameness, some are Holsteins in a XBred herd & a disproportionate number are heifers. Some we just can't explain why they are in this "SAD" group.
We need to sort this asap. Isolate this "sad" group & call the vet. Discuss with your vet possible reasons....which might include eg liver fluke,wasting diseases or mineral deficiencies????
We have to get this group of cows back on track ASAP.

Act NOW pull out the worst 10% cows with low Condition Scores. ARREST any further loss of condition score. SEARCH for reasons why they are so thin compared to the rest of the herd. TREAT any sick cows asap & seek vet help for the cows with unknown reasons for big losses in condition since calving. Finally decide how you might best regain the lost it best to reduce milk production (OAD) or can you feed this group of cows separately to rapidly regain condition pre PSM.
I'd like to thank Tom Malleson, John Millington & Rupert Major for their patience & active participation in this important Condition Score project.
We hope to produce a really useful set of 'decision support tools' for Cow Condition Scoring so we can identify thin cows early & act early to improve milk production & fertility & to reduce losses of valuable cows from the herd.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below to add to the discussion.