Dominic Naylor: Christmas shut down even spread to the cubicle and parlour equipment

BEFORE I launch into the litany of problems the freezing weather has brought this last month, a happy New Year to you all!

The first snow fell the week before Christmas, a time traditionally when I like to get all those jobs done that might in any way hinder a problem-free Christmas.

I must confess to initially being chuffed at the possibility of a white Christmas, but this was short-lived when the reality of temperatures at -12degC was only the basics of milking, feeding and mucking out could be achieved.

The hydraulic automatic scrapers in the cubicle shed, a necessity in the narrow passageways, decided a festive break was in order and the vacuum line froze in the parlour and even lagged water pipes turned to ice.

The pigs fared no better. We decided to abandon steam cleaning the arcs on the principle that any bug surviving this cold was a ‘special forces’ variety and would have survived in any case. Hopefully disease levels will remain low and litter sizes won’t be affected.

On the sheep front, I was keen not to house them until the New Year, particularly as I need to apply foot rot vaccine a week before housing them. Feeding haylage outside, however, was taking three hours a day so I reluctantly brought them inside.

The upside is it now takes 10 minutes to feed 625 ewes using the mixer wagon. Maize silage is now going into the ration, which will hopefully improve condition scores.

Our scanner man, John Barnes, came on Tuesday. I had sleepless nights about the day, worrying whether the new tups have worked or not. The results are pleasing with a scanning percentage of 185 per cent and 70 per cent of ewes bearing twins. John makes it look easy.

The next decade is set to be a much better one than the Noughties, with its dark days of foot-and-mouth and that really low period when Margaret Beckett toured the country in her caravan, casting fire and damnation on all things agricultural.

Hilary Benn’s announcement this week that UK agriculture must produce more in the next 20 years is excellent for this one remaining primary industry.

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