Classical music proves to be preference for cows

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Our daughter Elin (amongst others) had her Australian passport ceremony in Sydney last week. She was presented with a certificate by the Lord Mayor whilst a band played and they had to sing the National Anthem and pledge their alliance!

A wonderful tea was then tucked into, with sandwiches, Pavlova cake and sparkling wine. It was very nice, friends turned up to watch, and a good time was had by all. It’s winter in Sydney at the moment, but it was 24 degrees the other day and everyone was on the beach; not bad.

Harvest up and down the country is a bit patchy as rain and drizzly showers interfere. Yields are surprisingly good I am told, considering the cold and wet spring which hampered growth.

I believe that there is quite a variance on yield, but overall the position is better than expected. I hope that will be the case when we harvest our maize, but it could do with a good drink again in order to fill the cobs.

We have grass everywhere at Crouchlands, but again it could do with some rain to freshen it up and at Tillington it is only just holding its own on the dry sand.

We successfully Ag-Bagged the silage from our clamp last week, and it turned out to be a relatively easy if slow operation.

We had two machines in the clamp, one tearing the silage out and shaking it up to get it light and fluffy, the other machine loading it into trailers which delivered it to the bagging machine.

Getting all the lumps out before loading into trailers meant that there were no blockages and an even feed into the bag. It’s a bit lumpier than when we bag grass, but now that it is all sealed up it should be fine. We netted all the bags again just in case the dreaded crows start pecking at the plastic and ruining our efforts.

The Cabbage White caterpillars are devouring my broccoli at an alarming rate despite my throwing them off the plants on a regular basis. I have left the broccoli in place specifically for this reason; it has finished flowering and my cabbages are left alone as the broccoli is favourite.

The speed and the consumption of these caterpillars is incredible, and when you need help from little birds, it seems that now the chicks are reared they are all quiet and busy moulting.

My niece Alaw Jones has now discovered that cows prefer classical music which she plays through the milking parlour sound system from her ‘iPod’. It’s easier on the ear and as cows have much better hearing than we do, that is a serious disadvantage when listening to Radio 1.

We were disappointed the other day to find that 7 out of 35 heifers were not in calf after running with the bull for several weeks. Not sure what went wrong, but they were certainly in good condition and no real reason for it, fortunately we have bought another bull since but is he working?

The one problem with bulls is that you can’t really tell if they are working, other than monitor the activity and if heifers are still coming on heat there must be something wrong.

We did not see any activity amongst these heifers and yet they are empty. I hope to start artificially inseminating heifers this winter which will not only give us more control, but we can breed them to Holstein which will give us more replacements. We shall still keep the bull for ‘sweeping’ afterwards and catch any we have not got in calf, but bulls are a bit of a pain to have around and at least we only have one these days.

As all the cows are kept in this summer due to all the building activity; a good move given that we chased heifers in the woods for three hours the other day as we tried to get them in, only to find that we have few gates and fences left in strategic areas, and umpteen builders in ‘hi-viz’ yellow jackets came to ‘help’!

Housing this summer has been an interesting exercise with the cows certainly happier in the hot weather, and as a gang of them escaped into a grass field the other day after milking due to a gate being opened, we were really surprised to find how easy they were to bring back in. The work load is similar, so the only issue is cost of feed and extra silage and despite producing more milk, the costs are very high.

When we made our first cut silage back in May, we had no option but to feed the grass immediately and as soon as fresh grass went into the ration (rather than grass silage), the milk jumped by a litre a cow.

Now this has got me thinking; if we brought fresh grass in for the cows every day, we would increase production and cut costs. This is known as ‘Zero-Grazing’ a term that is confused with ‘fully housed cows’ which is totally different.

Zero Grazing was popular in some parts 40 years ago, but did not catch on at the time, but today with bigger flotation tyres and a single machine to do the job, it is far more efficient.

It would be really interesting to see how much grass the cows would eat, grazing is very hard work indeed, and I believe that we could see big intakes of fresh grass if it was brought into the cows twice a day.

Sir Jim Paice, former Minister of Agriculture who is standing down from Parliament, has been appointed Chairman of First Milk Co-op. I am surprised by this, as it seems that the Co-op thinks the answer to its needs for the future are political.

I would have thought that the Chairmanship might have gone to someone from the business world, as the future of all dairy companies rests in running a tight ship and accessing markets. Jim will be very good with farmers and has good contacts and political connections, but was this a wise move for him? Time will tell.

The Liberal Democrats want to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040, all in the name of a low carbon economy. Not only has the share of alternatively fuelled cars dropped in the last year, but sales of conventional cars in the UK grew by 12.7% year to July. Experts predict that a myriad of fuel types will be used in the future as technology moves apace.

This is not an area for legislation, we need to see the economy recover and this is not helpful, and to make presumptuous policy statements on the future based on a nascent technology is preposterous.