It’s been a struggle in the heat for both bovines and humans at the dairy. Record high temperatures meant we had to ensure the cows had access to plenty of shade and weren’t out in the blistering heat during the day. Milk yields decreased as it was too hot for them to spend several hours eating the pasture, so we supplemented their diet with some hay laid out on the ground near the trees. Cattle have a higher body temperature than people, and consequently a cow out in the sun during temperatures of 37-38 degrees Celsius is the equivalent of us being out in a temperature closer to 50! So, it was really important they had plenty of water and weren’t overworked during the heatwave. These increasingly higher midsummer temperatures and punishing lack of rain show every sign of being an enduring part of the calendar, and it looks as if we must prepare for a drop in production during the summer months as part of the natural yearly fluctuation in the cow’s milk cycles going forward.
The grass stopped growing several weeks ago. In 2018 we had quite a severe drought, the grass showed no signs of life for weeks on end and we fed the cows silage throughout the month of August. But it’s looking like this year will top that. Large cracks had appeared in the soil and the pasture looked lethargic and straw-coloured by early July. As pasture farmers maybe we need to christen July and August as the second winter from now on. We do have another two weeks of pasture left for the dairy herd, but this is simply because they have more land to graze now compared to what there was four years ago, and we have been able to rotate the girls across the fields at a slower rate this time. We’ve already started supplementing their diet with silage during the night, feeding it to them in a ring feeder at the back of the parlour. But with no substantial rain forecast, it won’t be long until there’s no fresh pasture left and we are feeding them (what is supposed to be) their winter feed throughout the day and night.
On the bright side, there is plenty of silage available which was mown, dried and bailed from fields on the farm in early June. If we do end up feeding the cows silage bails for a couple of months, it shouldn’t mean we run out in March or April next year, which was a real concern in the winter of ‘18/’19. Unfortunately, however good the silage is, it won’t be quite as nutritious as fresh pasture, which means the cows aren’t able to produce as much milk as we would like at the moment. Historically this is the time when the cows are producing excess milk (whilst many of the regular dairy orders are reduced due to summer holiday absentees) which we then transform into ice cream. We’re already in the second week of the school holidays and we haven’t been able to produce any new batches of ice cream just yet but we’re optimistic for next week. It’s looking like there may just be enough spare for a batch of raspberry ice cream. Fingers crossed!
The milking herd have a summer visitor staying with them. She’s a South Devonshire cow from the farm’s beef herd. Sadly, she lost her calf during a difficult calving. When this has happened in the past, what usually happens is for another calf to be given to the cow to foster, as she is still producing milk and needs a calf to suckle to provide some relief to her bulging udder. There have been no calves born at the dairy for a few months, they’re all a bit too old to relearn how to suckle, so she’s joined the milkers and is being milked in the parlour. She’s a big girl but just about fits in the stalls. She was a little apprehensive about the whole situation at first but now seems to be enjoying the routine of twice-daily milking and comes in on her own accord. We’re getting about four or five litres from her a day - hardly worth our effort you might think? But we want to keep her lactating until Holly calves in a couple of weeks’ time. We can then foster her calf onto the South Devonshire…. a beneficial arrangement for all, as the calf will have milk on tap from its foster-mother.
Our oat milk batches have been going well and we think we’ve settled on a method and recipe that produces a very tasty oat milk. We need to get the product approved by our environmental health officers before we can go any further with it and have a product available for sale. And it would seem we need their approval before we can hand out any free samples to try too! If you’ve registered your interest in the oat milk, we’ll keep you updated on the progress when we know more.