Growing number of visitors to Manor Farm

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: A rare frosty morning on Manor Farm A rare frosty morning on Manor Farm

Despite the continuing stormy weather, it has been a busy week here on Manor Farm, writes DENISE PLUMMER.

It started with Richard doing a day’s milking, while Ruth had a well-earned day off. The morning was clear and bright, but it was not long before conditions deteriorated once again.

A routine visit from our vet, to do more pregnancy diagnoses, showed that getting the cows back in calf has so far been reasonably successful.

The following day, a second vet from the practice came out to update our Herd Health Plan, prior to a farm assurance inspection.

The vet indicated we ought to have a focus and, after studying the plan, suggested that the level of mastitis in the herd, although not bad, could be something we try to further reduce.

David, our nutritionist, visited to discuss how we might make a slight alteration to the ration fed to the milking cows, as we have experienced a fall in the level of butterfat in the bulk milk samples.

On a sliding scale, this fall reduces the price we get per litre of milk, so it is important to try to lift the percentage of butterfat by adding more fibre to the diet.

On the subject of cattle feed, a representative of our machinery supplier called to discuss possible options for silage making this year.

Our forage harvester is old and broke down at the end of last season, so it has become necessary to discuss our requirements for the future.

Our agronomist came to look at a field of wheat that has not germinated very well. He thought we could give it a little longer before a decision is made replant part of it.

Our fields of overwintered stubble were also examined, to decide a plan of action for February 15; the date stated for the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme, when we are allowed to cultivate these fields after the winter.

The day dawned for our Red Tractor farm assurance audit. During the inspection, all cattle were checked for cleanliness and mobility.

Management plans and records monitoring herd health, nutrition and manure handling were also inspected.

The inspector asked to see the record of all cattle movements, noting if too many animals were being culled and details of calf mortality.

The medicine store and medicinal use records were checked, as was the milking parlour and equipment.

The milking cow, dry cow and young stock housing was looked over, to make sure the cattle were safe and happy, with no visible signs of skin conditions to cause distress.

The inspector asked to see delivery notes for foodstuffs, where they were stored and that we had a policy for vermin control and waste disposal. Finally, he was shown our isolation box and cattle transport trailer, before checking our crops are assured. We have to have a separate audit for the arable section of the farm, but I am pleased to say that we passed our dairy inspection.

All the liners in the milking clusters were changed. This is done regularly, as worn liners could damage the cows’ teats, leading to an increase in mastitis. While the engineer changed the liners, he checked the units were working properly.

He found one of the clusters of the ADF (automatic dipping and flushing system) was faulty, so it was repaired.

Driving towards Stowell Farm late one evening, I saw a barn owl on the branch of a small tree. I stopped as the owl just stayed there, looking down at me. It is the closest I have ever been to a barn owl in the wild. What a magnificent sight.

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