From the start I have been crowing on about Redpoll cows to all and sundry and then ... 2 Jersey cows turn up on Maple Field. Whats happening? I wobbled violently over whether or not the gene pool of the ‘dairy’ side of the Redpoll breed had become an oxbow lake. Had the influence of ‘beef’ and breeding for a good carcass not a good udder, since the 1960s, turned them into sucklers, not milkers?
I puzzled over this problem until last Saturday. Over a delicious bacon roll at the nearby Bowerchalke Market, I met Quentin Edwards who keeps Redpolls on his farm at East Knoyle (www.boxbeef.com). He is an evangelist for the breed and since his herd comes from a dairy background, he can (and frequently does) sell milk-producing heifers. We are off to East Knoyle next weekend for an udder viewing. My late uncle –John Ironmonger – kept a pedigree herd of Redpolls for milking in the 1960s on the Shaftesbury Estate, Dorset until the fashion changed to Fresian herds with separate beef enterprises. Don’t forget that beef production was always a by-product of the dairy herd. Only quite recently have specialized herds of single-suckler cows ranged over our lowland farms.
Fitting out the Dairy room has slowed to a snail’s pace as my builder friend has become ill. It's not a bad thing for we have changed the position of the cold room to the opposite corner of the room, which means there is no door to the outside. Better security in all respects and easier to ‘cool’. This has got to be right, and time spent now may save us in the long run ... and this is for the long run don’t forget.
The tractor hitch is too high for the bail. When hitched on to the International Harvester 574 the floor of the bail slopes backwards at an alarming degree; we don’t want to make the girls work too hard. We want them to enjoy their milking. Who wants their horizon upset in the early morning? So I tried to reverse the hitch. The nuts and bolts were welded tight with iron age rust. I called in Chris –the 6th emergency service - and so easily, with heat and moderate violence he took the hitch apart. Is this thing ‘over built’? Do I need the power of 64 horses?
If each horse requires 1 acre of pasture to survive the year, I would need to rent 64 extra acres at £100 each = £ 6,400. If they eat through a 20-week winter like my Jersey cows, then 2 horses will eat one bale of haylage per week; 64 horses will need 640 bales at £30 each for a 20-week winter, which gives a feed bill of £19,200. That means that my energy bill for a year would be £25,600. We’ll see how much diesel the International uses in a year. I feel a savings coming on!