Dominic Naylor: Freeze wrought havoc in the pig unit and the milking parlour

CHRISTMAS and New Year seem a distant memory now, but happy New Year to you. The team worked hard to ensure the festive period was trouble free despite the frozen weather.

The pig unit suffered the worst with the nipple drinkers in the farrowing arcs all freezing up. Piglet mortality for one batch was up to 50 per cent but fertility in the served sows appears to have been unaffected.

Despite a hot air blower in the milking parlour it also froze. In the end, I covered it with a silage sheet, which did the trick. I always have that sinking feeling when the parlour freezes – what if we can’t get the parlour going? I came to the conclusion that if I milk the cows and the supermarket milks me, I should cut out the middleman and dump the herd at my local Asda and see how they get on.

I pulled the tups out on Christmas Eve having left them in for an extra cycle in case the snow had dampened their ardour. I had 15 to pick up from various fields and had loaded all but the last two into the trailer when I pull up at my mate’s arable farm where the last 100 ewes were residing.

Until then the task had been like a ballet with the dogs driving the flock towards me as I grabbed each tup with my crook. My mate comes out of the house offering his help and complains the snow had stopped him doing any work since the beginning of December.

Anyway, you know what’s coming. I grab the last tup and rather than waiting for me to get to the trailer door, he flings it open and they all burst out. I grab one with my crook and the end snaps off. Needless to say the atmosphere was a little tense after that.

We scanned the flock today and I’m delighted with 196 per cent. Carting haylage and feed blocks through the snow seems to have paid off. Interestingly, a third of the geld ewes had dead lambs in them so I wonder whether that was a result of the snow. I’ve left the singles but decided to house the twins and triplets as I have very little grass. Silage stocks will be tight but I think we’ll manage.  

The Oxford Farming Conference passed me by for another year but I read with interest Caroline Spelman describing subsidies as morally wrong. If she’s going to spend her tenure improving morality, she should look no further than produce being sold below the cost of production.

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