Bristol bridge

Start of 2022

I've been with ForFarmers for 6 months and I’m now officially halfway through my placement year. It's been a varied couple of months, from moving to Bristol and working from the Portbury office to meeting new colleauges and visiting customers farms.

At the beginning of January once the festive celebrations were over, I headed back down South to Bristol, ready to settle back into my placement routine.

Afbeelding: Josie and her family - 720


On the first Friday in January, I headed out dual calling with Amy Wilson who is a Ruminant Specialist. We drove over to Penkridge in Staffordshire and stopped at our first farm visit which was very insightful. During the appointment we took maize and silage samples so they could be sent off to the laboratory to be tested.

I also learnt about a metabolic disease called ketosis. This is when cows are in a negative energy balance during early lactation however, the extent of this can vary considerably. The cow mobilises an enormous amount of body fat when she is in a severe negative energy balance and she is unable to convert it to energy through the normal mechanisms. Ketone molecules are formed instead which the cow can use as an alternate energy source in tiny amounts. When ketone production is high, the cow is unable to use all of the ketone bodies for energy and levels in the blood rise. When this happens, the cow may go into ketosis.

It is important to monitor cows around calving because there is a greater risk of ketosis and it will be an even higher risk for over conditioned cows. Maintaining and boosting feed intake is an important aspect of ketosis avoidance. It is also important to consider not just dietary considerations, but also cow and feeding management protocols and in particular dry cow management and nutrition. 

The importance of forage sampling

Silage sampling

When creating diets, having an accurate nutritional analysis of preserved forages is critical to ensure that they are used appropriately, accurately and cost-effectively. It's important to keep testing samples from the clamp face throughout the season, as feed values fluctuate in the months following harvest. As you get further into the clamp, forages start to become higher in sugars and starch due to being fermented for a longer period of time in comparison to samples taken during the start of the season.

Silage quality is critical for optimal animal performance, as well as lowering winter feed costs and enhancing profitability during the housing season. In this country, grass silage is the foundation of most winter feeding regimens and animal performance is largely dependent on appropriate intake of high-quality silage. The quality of your silage determines the level of meal feeding on your farm, as a result knowing your silage quality should be the first step in planning your winter feed and making cost-effective concentrate supplementing options.

I was warmly welcomed by the Forage team when I joined their monthly meeting via Microsoft Teams. The team reflected back on 2021 and discussed the success of campaigns and what could be improved. Each Forage Specialist then spoke and told us what worked well in their specific areas of the country.  As we head into 2022 the team’s focus is on maize seed, additives and fertiliser sales. I was able to contribute by mentioning our social media channels and some ideas on how we could raise the profile of our Forage Specialists. The afternoon consisted of a webinar led by the Business Unit Director, Robin Weening. It was a very insightful webinar and included various updates for 2022 plans.

Monitoring DLWG by weighing youngstock

On Friday 14th of January, Eliza and I headed out to re-weigh the youngstock on some farms we visisted before Christmas. We met Ruminant Specialist, Sam Wall out on farm and walked the cows together. It was great to get back out on farm down South as I had been back in the Midlands with my family for Christmas. I was amazed to see the progress the calves had made prior to when we weighed them at Christmas, they were looking healthy and strong.

Ruminant Academy Training

Back in October I was lucky enough to join the Ruminant Academy. This is run by Chris Elliott one of the ForFarmers Technical Managers. I was able to gain a place with other new starters who will be taking exams at the end of their training. The first session was on the Micro Balance range of products. Chris explained what mycotoxins are, how they are formed and the harmful effects of them. I learnt about products in the range including Micro Balance Detox, MegaBuff and ExtraGuard to name a few. We had a session in November and another in December.

We kicked off January’s training session with an introduction to minerals and a guide to feeding minerals to dairy cows. From this session I realised that micro-nutrients such as zinc, iron and calcium are just as important as macro-nutrients for ruminant animals. For our Ruminant Specialist’s out on farm, it is hugely important to discuss these factors with customers as it is critical to the overall health of the animal. Therefore by taking micro-nutrients into consideration it can ensure a balanced supply to support animal health and performance. This will reduce the chances of copper deficiency, zinc deficiency and iodine deficiency. I am looking forward to my next training session in February which will be on farm calculations, I better get my calculator ready.

Free time

Since coming back to Bristol after the Christmas period. I recently joined the North Somerset Young Farmers Club. The first meeting I attended was at a local pub in Yatton, it was very enjoyable. We played a game of skittles which broke the ice and this allowed me to get to know a few of the other members in the club. The second meeting we went stock judging at a local dairy farm in Clapton-in-Gordano, there was a great turnout of members at the meeting. We got shown how to judge a cow by looking at aspects such as locomotion, udder formation, topline and would score them out of seven. After stock judging we headed to a local pub for a socialable drink. The next meeting will be sign painting in preparation for the tractor run.

It has also been great to get back into netball since having a couple weeks off due to the Christmas break. I recently competed in my first netball match with my netball team that I have joined in Bristol. Unfortunately we lost but it was a close game and we all played extremely well. We now have weekly matches against different teams as we have entered into a league which goes on until the end of the season in March.

Clifton bridge

February goals

January has flown by. One of my priorities for this coming month is to make a start with my placement project. I will be looking at how the nutrient density and values alters during the microbial fermentation process of grass silage.

A personal goal of mine for February is to increase my independence and use my own initiative, rather than asking for support with a project straight away. I want to be able to challenge myself more and see if I can work out the majority of problems on my own.

Afbeelding: Josie signature 2