Day 2: Settling into farm routine (… despacito)

Tuesday morning began slowly and as forecasted rainy. Rich, who celebrated his 40th today, had already left and i prepared breakfast for jan and myself. 8am we started. Richard went through the key tasks of the day with us.

  • Get info on where different cow groups (fresh, high, etc) are stationed in the new farm from the deputy manager irina
  • Assess ketosis issues (fat vs protein content of milk) and check up outliers. This happens mostly with fresh cows (up to 21d after calving) who as a group showed a ratio of 1.42 vs 1.2-1.3 desired level
  • Sample silage for dry matter/content

While milking cows springs first to most peoples minds when it comes to dairy farming, it is actually the easy bit. Getting there is key and requires a well managed/monitored process. It’s like thinking climbing is just about the summit. Its not.

We started off with the dry matter testing. You basically weigh the wet silage, dry it in a heater and compare to whats left once water has evaporated. The silage was pretty wet to start with and hence we ended up with 20%-26% readings. 20%+ is what you should look for though ideally closer to 28%.

From the farms’ IT system we got the milk mix readings once we sorted out the location of cows. Most were classified as high cows even well after the typical 120d in-milk period. Needs some fine tuning though is more a classification issue than anything. Then it got more hands on. We picked the readings for 64 fresh cows (that the system picked up out of 66 in reality – scanning isnt always spot on though engineers will look into that this week).

There were about 20 with high readings (1.5-2.0). We had their tag numbers, now we needed to find them and see if they are healthy (just a high/low reading isnt conclusive). Unhealthy ones tend to burn their own fat to produce milk (rather than from silage) – not a good idea long-term. Some we saw limped, some were thin, some had overly liquid manure, some we couldn’t locate. We’ll follow up with the vet tomorrow to get to the bottom of this (some issues are probably known to her already).

After lunch in yesterdays place, Rich hosted all the different department heads for coffee & cakes and explained a little about the milk factory & cheese production project starting next week. By September we should have the first samples. Planned are cheddar, Camembert, i think stilton and other not too long duration cheese to manage the capital cycle. We will also together prepare some sort of cheese for a wine show in September. Would be a first for me.

Afternoon much of the same. Bit more silage testing (the first batches were a little odd), check on newly harvested silage (cutting size of grass & making sure seeds are crushed open) and more ketosis check-up. Jan and I prepared a weekly schedule so we can operate independently since Rich will be off till Sunday. Given there wasnt much more to do we left 5.30. Cows seemed happy enough (some even very excited and ready to be inseminated).

Fact of the day: We walked some 15km during the day (net of 6km to/from lunch). Thats 3 hours of 8.5h just walking. The big red area is barn 2 of the new farm – specifically us chasing cows to check their health ;o) Need to consider taking the bike to work. Would enhance productivity by an hour at least.

Crematorium in action: there is a place on site to burn dead animal remains. One cow died today – from injuries i suppose and despite vet attention (she was already looking pretty down yesterday). Was a bit of a strange at first to smell it, but is important to do i guess. Good news is that this will also be the place where i can practice my own ‘butchering’ skills. Something i had on my list before i came and it hasnt been forgotten. Lets see how that pans out as and when it happens.

After work was a bit of time off. Not too much to do in the village. Jan and I managed to visit the otherwise empty cafe Britannia next to the supermarket (just in case i get homesick) and i had time to visit the riverbanks and gaze at some of the village architecture before we headed for dinner (in the usual place using our food vouchers ;o). Its a quiet life here even with school kids still enjoying their 3mth summer holiday. Really not much happening. Time to write, read and, well, clean the house etc. Weather will be stable tomorrow – more rain, lightning and some sun in the middle. Good night.

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