Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Jo Mackenzie: Cows’ foot health steps up at Rootfield

Nick Mackenzie.
Nick Mackenzie.

As the temperatures drop, more and more of the dry cows have been moved inside for the winter and, just in time, Nick has had a new-to-him Hoofcount system fitted in the main shed to address the foot health of the herd.

This smart system comprises footbaths fitted into the entrance to the two robotic milking machines. What makes them clever is that after 200 cows have walked through, they automatically empty themselves and refill.

Plumbed in and hooked up to a drum of antibacterial fluid and an air source, the footbaths help combat dermatitis in the cows’ feet which can be a real issue, because if a cow has sore feet she’ll be reluctant to visit the robot for cake and then loses condition and won’t milk well.

Nick has also been working with nutritional advisers from Harbro to help him get the best ration for the cattle, which is slightly more challenging now that the Rootfield herd is a mixture of dairy breeds.

A fourth generation dairy farmer, Nick’s great grandfather began the herd – originally at Parks Farm in Inverness – with traditional black and white Holsteins, popular at the time for their high yields.

Over the years, Nick’s grandfather began to cross the Holsteins with the Friesian and added the occasional “guest breed”, including Jerseys and simmentals, to see what difference it made to the milk but always came back to the reliable and hardy Holstein-Friesians.

When the herd was moved over to Rootfield in 1996, Nick took over the running of the dairying including the genetics of the herd, an area in which he is particularly interested.

Today, the 120-head herd is made up of roughly 50% Holstein-Friesians, 30% Ayrshires and 20% Jerseys.

The addition of these breeds has helped produce a creamier, protein-rich milk which not only fulfils key cheesemaking criteria – important as the majority of Rootfield’s milk goes to Highland Fine Cheeses in Tain – but helps Rosie and the team produce a more velvety ice cream, characteristic of the gelato style.

On the processing front, ice cream cake orders have been good this year as have sales of our range of seasonal festive flavours.

The vending machine with chilled and ambient compartments has finally arrived from Italy and will temporarily be housed next to the honesty shed until our new premises can be built.

A lack of local timber and materials has seen us go back to thinking about a custom converted container, which other diversified dairies have done successfully.

In the meantime, customers can still stock up on the usual goodies from the shed, and from today I have a limited stock of botanical cold-process soaps for sale.

The handmade tartan decorations created to raise money for the girls’ school have sold out and have been replaced by Mulbuie Primary Scottish Recipe Books featuring fabulous tried and tested bakes and savouries from the school community – all profits to MFR’s Cash For Kids Mission Christmas.

Whatever your festivities look like this December, be they small, socially-distanced or al fresco, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and look forward to a healthier, happier New Year.

  • Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie and 120 dairy cows.

Already a subscriber? Sign in