April brought warmer weather,
which was much needed. The grass really began to grow well and we were able to turn the cows out full time, and cut silage out of the diet altogether.
In early April we turned out the first group of heifer calves. First they were weighed, and then we had a fun half hour herding them down to their new field. When we first let them out of the shed, the freedom is too
exciting and they sometimes run in all directions. Eventually though, they settle down and follow the trailer feeder down to the field, with the help of the rest of the team and Tiff the dog behind to make sure they all come the right way.
The trailer feeder is a fabulous tool. It has 50 teats around the outside and holds about 800 litres of milk. This enables us to feed large groups of calves, inside or outside. We group the calves into batches of between 30 and 40 according to age and size, and put them in a large shed. This gives them chance to learn about the trailer feeder before they head out to the fields. This is also where they first meet Tiff. She's a valuable member of the team here at Proper Good Dairy.
It can be quite tricky getting in and out of a shed or field full of calves with the trailer, so she acts as bouncer, and keeps them back from the gate. It's important that the calves respect her, as she is used to round them up, and move them around from paddock to paddock as they get older. She is eight years old, so a lot of the cows here have grown up being used to the dog.
The older heifers, which were born in Spring 2019 have headed off to their summer grazing at Betton Farm. Tristan's father Richard looks after them up there, and they will be joined by this year's heifers later on.
With lockdown continuing, we started doing Collection Points in Clun and Craven Arms so that customers who were missing the vending machine at the Discovery Centre could still get their Proper Good Dairy. We also distributed Veg boxes, Eggs, Cheese, Coffee and other essentials. The vending machines at the farm continue to be busy, and we are stocking those essentials here too.
We also drilled about 20 acres of grass seeds. Our grass fields don't need renewing every year, like wheat, barley or maize, but every so often we find that the weed grasses have crept in and the grass doesn't yield as well on certain fields. We had lovely warm dry weather when we ploughed and drilled, and then we had to pray for rain to make them grow. Thankfully we had several heavy downpours in the following week, and the grass, and clover are poking their heads through now.
By the end of April, nearly all the the cows had calved, meaning the herd is back up to full strength, at just over 300 cows. Most of the beef calves have been sold too, meaning the workload on the calf rearing side has reduced a lot.