Late summer sun means hopefully good tonnage for harvested maize

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WONDERFUL weather as we move into October. The temperatures have been high enough to cause the cows some discomfort, but there is plenty of shade on this farm under the trees.

The grass is still growing strongly, and it is so pleasant to have dry land and cow tracks at this time of year for the cows and staff.

We shall harvest the remaining 300 acres of maize this week, and hopefully the weather will hold until we are finished; the crop looks well and we look forward to a good average tonnage.

We have decided to change all the stock around in the buildings this winter, giving all the milking cows the best of everything during early to mid lactation.

All our young-stock are at home since we reduced the herd, and we will be housing them all at Crouchlands with only heifer calves at Tillington.

It has been quite a puzzle for us to decide which group of cows or heifers go where, and how we organise it so that the feeding is reasonably simple.

Milking cows are on a richer diet for the first 150 days of lactation, which means that there are usually two diets for the herd.

The dry cows on their two month holiday are on a very different ration, which is mainly straw, and of course we now have dairy heifers of various ages which need at least two different rations as well.

This is not as complicated as it sounds because we very often mix more than we need to feed the milkers, adding more straw and silage to dilute it down a bit for heifers.

The other option is to mix more dry cow food than needed, adding extra silage or concentrates for heifers. It’s a case of working out which works best and takes least amount of time.

The barbecue has been in action as we take full advantage of the weather, and I have been processing apples at the weekends; pressing the crushed fruit for juice.

This has been such a success that it is all gone by the following weekend, and so far I have none in storage.

My initial idea was to freeze the apple juice, but I have been reliably informed that I need a pasteuriser, doing away with the need to plan ahead; remembering to thaw out juice in advance. All I need now are instructions on how to make ‘scrumpy’!

Our Australian friends Frank and Barbara Tyndall enjoyed this weather too, although they have missed the best of it.

Frank is very keen and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to plants and wildlife, especially birds.

He was treated to a rare spectacle the other day as we sat chatting in our conservatory; a sparrow-hawk came charging along, very low at high speed from one side of the conservatory, swooping up over the structure, crashing into the bushes on the other side, where some little birds were messing about.

He (or she) was completely unsighted by them, until it was far too late, and we had a fantastic view of this stealth fighter of a bird in action; it was all over in a second or two.

West Sussex County Council Trading Standards came along to the farm in July, to take milk samples.

They do this very occasionally under the ‘Food Safety Act 1990’, at least that is the excuse. I think its more to do with justifying their existence as we already have umpteen farm visits by clip-board jockeys as it is.

However, two and a half months later, I get the results! ‘No antibiotic residue found, but the overall result was unsatisfactory with regard to fat content!’

I was of course not in the least surprised that they found no antibiotic residue, as our milk is sampled and analysed every collection throughout the year.

But the fat? On studying the report that came with the letter, I saw that milk was stamped ‘unsatisfactory’ against the fat analysis, which showed that the figure was too high.

I rang the department in a rage, and was put through to a very nice lady (why do they always do this?), who explained that yes, the fat content was too high for semi-skimmed milk!

‘But I am not selling the milk to consumers’ I protested. It is picked up by a processor, mixed with other farms on the truck, and with many more farms in the silo at the factory; they then process it all, adjusting the fat content depending on which type of milk they were bottling.

She understood all this, and said the letter and result were ‘advisory only’. ‘But you have stated here in black and white that my milk is unsatisfactory’. ‘Take no notice’ she said, it’s just a procedure. ‘Then what is the point of sending it to me?’ ‘Take no notice, it’s just procedure’.

I rang them in a rage, I hung up totally frustrated. Am I alone in thinking that there could be substantial savings made here?

I have found out why I am such a cheerful person! Apparently, following a study of 51,000 female nurses over 14 years by scientists (reported in the journal ‘Archives of Internal Medicine); drinking several cups of coffee a day helps to prevent depression.

Four or more cups of coffee a day will lower your risk of clinical depression by 20 per cent.

The study was carried out on women, but what’s sauce for the goose etc.

And now, for some even better news; red wine can help you lose weight!

Spanish scientists have just finished their trawl through more than 30 studies looking at the effect of drinking alcohol on weight, discovering that wine drinkers are less likely to carry a spare around their waist.

Unfortunately, this only applies for moderate drinkers, and binging on red wine and watching the weight drop off your body doesn’t work; indeed, you risk being fat if you drink too much red wine (I bet you never knew that!).

South Korean scientists apparently found the super-nutrient ‘resveratrol’ in red wine, and this is thought to suppress hormones that trigger fat-storing mechanisms.

Last week saw two incredible events. The first was an element of the Labour Party cheering when Ed Milliband announced that he was not Tony Blair; the most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had by some considerable margin. Ever.

Quite astonishing, and a moment that will come back to haunt Ed I suspect, many times in the future, especially the fact that he let the moment pass without rounding on those who are so obviously detached from reality.

The second incredible event was when a man who is paid a quarter of a million pounds a week for kicking the modern version of a pig’s bladder around a pitch; refused to do so when asked! Can you imagine?

A grossly overpaid and over indulged man refuses to play because he had been kept back as a substitute in the first place; the sort of childish behaviour that would warrant a smacked bottom if such a thing was allowed these days.

The manager said he will never play for this team again, but the other players and the management think otherwise, because when this childish fool does play, he can score goals. Thank goodness I don’t follow football.