A day in the life of a Dairy Herd Manager

Updated on 14 November 2016 | 0 Comments

Dairy Herd Manager Steve Laurie takes us through his (very long) day on a dairy farm in the Yeo Valley, Somerset.

The organic dairy farm I work on is one of two dairy farms run by the Mead family, producing milk which goes into making yogurts and cream as well as being used for our bottles of milk. It started back in 1961 when the Mead family put their roots down in Yeo Valley with just 30 cows and a few sheep.

Now I look after 180 cows, which produce over 1.3 million litres of organic milk every year. It’s hard work with long hours, but it’s rewarding and I love it.

4:00am – Wake up!

If it's calving season, I get up slightly earlier than usual (about 4am) and head straight to the shed to check on the cows which could be about to give birth. It’s always likely for a cow to have a calf during the night, so I have to keep a close eye on them. We’ve even installed cameras in the shed to help us monitor them during the night. When I’m watching TV, my eyes are always flicking to the cows! We make sure that labour happens indoors, that way we know the cows get the best care they need.

5:00am – Milking time

My assistant Lauren milks our 170 cows in the milking parlour at around 5am all year round. It’s a lengthy but thorough process because only 12 can be milked at any one time. During the milking, I carefully weigh and mix the feed for the cows and then feed the rest of the herd outside or indoors, depending on the weather. We feed them a specific diet rich in grass silage, but the quantity and type of food depends on each cow and their calving cycle.

Once milking is finished, the parlour is washed and cleaned. After the morning milking is complete it’s time to pay the cows some special attention, especially those who are in need of little extra TLC, such as the new mums.

10am – Breakfast and chores

I spend an hour on breakfast before heading straight back onto the farm to do any cleaning or maintenance work – we have very high standards at the farm. I then spend a couple of hours in front of the computer doing paperwork before I have lunch at around 1pm... even farmers have emails to attend to!  When I’m doing the afternoon milking, I sometimes try and sneak in a quick nap before I head back to the milking parlour.

4pm – Afternoon milking

We bring the cows back into the shed to start the process again and aim to finish milking at 7pm, after cleaning the parlour once more. Again, if I notice any cows in need of extra care, I will attend to them immediately because it’s important not to leave the problem until the next day.  

7pm – Almost home time

After the afternoon milking I have dinner with my wife and try to unwind with the kids before heading back to do the last chores of the day.

At 10pm it’s lights out for the cows and we do our final checks to ensure all the girls have enough food and water for the night, before closing up the shed. Like us, cows need quiet with low light intensity to keep them healthy.

It’s difficult to take holiday when you live and work on a farm because I’m so involved with every aspect of running it. Long weekends are usually the most holidays I take. It’s a lot of management but I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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