A well-known Hampshire farmer was once asked the difference between a good farmer and a bad one. "About a fortnight" was the considered reply. Having comfortably finished our harvest in August, we might concur with how correct he had been. However a big tractor out of action for several days, a wet weather delay and a wait to be able to hire some F.Y.M.(farmyard manure) spreaders, and suddenly - a week in farming seems like a long time! This resulted in our plantings of Winter Oilseed Rape not being as timely as originally envisaged.
I understand from some kind inquiries the condition of the Spring Bean crop in the Croft field had dismayed those watching the crops progress. After flowering the developing green pods had steadily filled, but no action was taken by us to harvest them. Instead we stood by while green pods turned to brown then black! Why? Whilst the actual plant looks exactly like a garden broad bean, with seeds that are developed to remain a succulent green for as long as possible, the seed of this variety is smaller and is bred to senesce quickly to allow us to harvest the light brown beans dry with our combine harvester. Our beans will ultimately end up as a protein source in a farm animal ration or even, if quality is good enough, for human consumption as protein utilised in a range of food preparations.
Now a puzzle. If you want to do this...
You will need to start with youth on your side, a desire, an ability and a great deal of determination, you may, have a small chance to succeed! Luck will play a part, however good sound judgment will be fundamental. The tools you begin with will be important, but over the years how you adapt and mould them will become more so. The journey you embark upon will at times be deeply frustrating, as at each stage, each choice will take at least a year to manifest itself and then just at the very moment of accomplishment there is another difficulty, as it has been ordained that there shall be less than a fifty percent chance of unreserved joy and delight. If joy there is, then patience you will need, as you now qualify for the wait! This will be a two year delay while you check, nurture, check until finally itís a go, and production can begin. Great! Cracked it! Well, no! You might be really pleased, but sadly no one else will be much impressed. They of course will wish to regularly monitor for imperfections while you organise and run series of annual production trials. That will be another five years minimum. Now at last we can be certain! Certain that eight years on, you have achieved success! Well maybe, but by this time she might well, well look a little last year.
Welcome, welcome to pedigree dairy cow breeding!!
Here at Sherwood farm on the 1 August 1959 a young Derek Loosmore started on this journey with a strong desire to breed a top herd of Friesian cows. Some of the original tools came from Reading Cattle Market in October 1959, when my late grandfather, a market gardener by trade, happened to see the Heron Herd from Kent were being sold. Hearing the prices he decided on the spot to buy the remaining animals. Luck was certainly on his side that day as three of these cow families are still in the herd today. They number three Maximums, 35 Cadenzas (the youngest is Mackney Cadenza 268th ) and 22 Cadenas. Of other families from the same herd, the Melodys died out a long time ago due to a lack of heifer calves, a fate that befell the Crisellas recently. Two cows from one cow family previously owned by Reading University were a much more considered purchase by Derek in 1960. Redling Lead the 63rd and 67th were to become the foundation of our most prolific family, who number 87 in the herd today. The current youngest family member is Mackney Lead 616th who was born on 28th August 2006
Many breeders buy in good cows on a regular basis. However from the perspective of commercial milk production this can risk bringing disease onto the farm. Since purchasing our foundation stock we have opted to run a closed herd so all subsequent generations are related to the original genetic pool. The male line is brought in via artificial insemination straws which do not carry a disease concern.
It is notoriously difficult to measure success in breeding as the goal posts move over time. Whole herd success can be checked in dairy herd competitions. Individual cows are regularly assessed by the Holstein Friesian Classifier. Both of these measures show Derek to have been remarkably consistent over the years. It is without doubt this consistency that marks Derek out as an outstanding cattle breeder. In this, his retirement year, there has been the challenge of being invited to participate in the National Milk Records Gold Cup Competition, which is open to the top 50 recorded herds in the United Kingdom, and where we were semi-finalists.