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.