Just yesterday, as I write this blog, we began evening milking through our new parlour! It was with great excitement that all our builders, parlour fitters, bulk tank fitter & family etc were all on site to watch this momentous event. With last minute temporary gate hanging (farmer style) and re-arrange the electric fencing to make a new entrance, we introduced the cows to the new enormous collecting yard!
We are very grateful to Mick Grimes & team from G&B Contracting who have guided us throughout this project with their knowledge and expert advice. They’ve built many more dairy buildings than we have and we’re so glad they could do ours too. We think we’re milking around 170 cows presently, so with 24cows aside (sometimes 26 due to smallerl heifers), we’re milking them in no time at all. Although everything is new, clean and shinny, the cows walked straight in, ate plenty of cake, hardly messed about and walked out just as keenly – straight to a feed of new silage – which meant walking through the brand new foot bath!
Not a problem for these wonderful Ayrshires, they simply took it all in their stride. I think keeping the cows tight for fodder was the key! Although we’ve let them eat the silage inside the new feed shed for the past couple of nights, they’ve always had the choice to return to the paddock or stay in. On Saturday night it poured down with rain, and most of them staying inside. Having to stand all night as the cubicles weren’t quite finished. However, last night they had access to the cubicles and the paddock so slowly they’re coming round to the idea of staying in, after the chilly frost we had last night too.
So it’s been a momentous event in our lives and for Mark it’s his first move, having worked in this village all his life. As he walks about the old farm buildings, which immediately look dead and forgotten, he is reminded of all the past generations who erected them, seeing and hearing all his past memories of time well spent within their walls. And how they’re being raided of all their reusable equipment and slowing being dismantled. It’s now scarily eery and desolate and would make an ideal venue for a ghost tour. Quite relevant as its Halloween tonight!
So solving one problem often brings up many others! For instance, the journey from our village home to the new farm is only a matter of 500m as the crow flies across the fields. However, the battle to jump straight on the quad bike (Marks preferred method of travel) or the Land Rover, going through the busy village High Street and past the shop, school and church, making that route the slower one, between the three of us continues. The walking route should only take 5 minutes, but the drawback is, can’t carry a lot of “stuff” as well! (The stuff I mean, at the moment, is hot water for the calves, as they’ve yet to move the water heater from the old dairy and reconnect for calf feeding). Not long to go when it’s all connected and then the dog (Beattie) and I can enjoy the walk to and from the new farm, which I’m positive will help me loose that ‘muffin top’ that’s crept up on me lately!
All in all, we’re shocked at how well the first milkings have gone and how wonderfully clean, spacious, airy & light the whole farm feels, compared to the tight limited access and confined space in the old farmyard in Church Lane. We’re so excited about the future of our dairy business too. Me, Mark and Harry are committed and positive we’ve made the right decision to build a new place and how luck Harry is, at just 21 years old. Even Harrys’ Grandfather, Robert Waterfall, (a retired dairy farmer) keeps popping over to lend a hand, share his knowledge and help us with the move. It’s been a real family affair!
However, the builders are going to be around for a lot longer yet. There’s the other side of the cubicles to complete and a slurry lagoon needs building and more concrete needs laying outside the sheds. Then there’s all the new fencing & tracks that we need to do before spring turnout. But we feel we’re on the home stretch now.
Not a lot else has happened in my life since my last blog, other than what’s going on at home. Although I’ve managed to keep up with all my Farm Talks I had booked in over this summer. Having cancelled Farm Visits due to the building project, I’m steadily getting more bookings for the new farm tours due to start next spring. That’s if I get my Cow Classroom finished over this winter too!
We didn’t plan any holidays this year either, but just had a night or two away locally. Mark and I had a lovely couple of days going round the wonderful herds for the Cumberland Herd competition in August. That was a first for both of us and a real pleasure. We felt very honored to have been asked to Judge that competition this year. In September we had fabulous weather whilst visiting The Queens Norfolk home, Sandringham House and Gardens which was a rather nice break from cows and building sites! We visited and stayed over with our daughter Charlotte in Suffolk a couple of times. Then Mark and I ventured over to visit Sue and Tom Crawford one Sunday for a delicious lunch and took a look around their marvelous robots systems.
Even though the weather has now suddenly turned wintery, this year couldn’t have been better conditions for building. We’ve done all the earth moving, laying stone & concrete in the dryer weather and now working undercover, the weather can do what it likes! At the end of some hard weeks of concreting, we’ve been supplying our builders with small treats such as Fish & Chip lunches on the colder days or cakes and biscuits with cans of Cola and Ice creams on the hotter days. There’s definitely been a good community spirit on site and everyone’s kept on smiling through. We’ve still got a long way to go but then “Rome wasn’t built in a day” either!