'It's been a good spring even if we seem to be perpetually busy'
IT'S 37 years since Johnny Logan won the Eurovision, singing 'What's Another Year?'. For dairy farmers 'another year' seems to mean more expansion. There is a continuous year-on-year increase in scale occurring on most dairy farms.
This, combined with the ongoing move to spring calving along with the focus on increasing the six-week calving rates, is increasing the workload.
This spring was good weather wise and price wise and yet I have a feeling of perpetual business.
There is no doubt that expansion is leading to a more profitable and viable farm business but we must learn to manage it. Sometimes in the middle of the calving it can be difficult to look at the bigger picture. Now is the time to pause a little and take stock.
Where were the bottlenecks this spring? Was it the calf shed, the milking parlour, the winter housing or the farm roadways? Now is the time to take note of issues while they are fresh in the mind and put a plan in place as to when it will be fixed.
For us, the 16-unit milking parlour continues to come under pressure with 19 lines of cows now being milked.
We have spent some time over the last few weeks considering our options. We have visited and milked in a number of parlours and involved our discussion group in debate on the subject. We are looking to have a parlour operated by just one milker.
The consensus with almost everyone we talk to is that between 20 and 26 units is the maximum one person can manage. If we build a 26-unit parlour with automatic cluster removers (ACRs) and automatic washing etc, it will significantly shorten milking times but the point was well put to me that at today's herd size we would still have 12 lines of cows the first day we start milking.