Farmer comment April 11

Published 11 April 14

With wet conditions still causing problems for many, some of our Forage for Knowledge farmer contributors tell us about how the start of the grazing season has treated them.

“We’ve had a pretty good start to the season, and so much earlier than last year,” says John Owen, who farms in Carmarthenshire. “Ground conditions are very wet; we had 60mm of rain between Thursday and Sunday last week.  We have damaged some paddock which we will have to rectify in the future.

“The second round of grazing started here yesterday (April 10), and we had to skip a couple of paddocks in the first round as we saw the grass just getting away from us. We’ll either shut them up for silage, or we might have to go back in if conditions change and growth rates slow down.

Jim Baird, who farms in Lanarkshire, has been facing a frustrating problem brought about by the wet conditions

“Although we had grass growths of nearly 50 Kg DM/ha last week, we’ve just not been able to get out to graze, because the ground is just so tender.  We can’t get the cows out because of the damage they’d do to the pasture. We’ve also not been able to get out with slurry or fertiliser, and I can see the grass getting away from us and the window for spreading closing.

“The higher temperatures are there, and as the days are getting longer, the grass growth is racing ahead. It’s very frustrating that we can’t get out and graze the grass. I think it’s just going to be one of those years were we graze less and cut more silage. We’re going to have to be flexible in our approach.”

It’s been an interesting spring for Nick Haines, who only moved to the farm in Shropshire in October, when he entered into a share milking agreement. He’s getting to know how both the fields and the cows perform in wet conditions

“With the wet weather it’s been quite a challenge to get the grazing residuals down,” says Nick. “I’ve had to pick where we go, and leave some areas for later. Not knowing the land that well yet means it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve, finding out how different paddocks perform in these wet conditions.

“We’re not very highly stocked so there’s not been a lot of concentrate in the cow’s diet. The majority of the spring milk has come from grass, silage and not a lot more. While the cows out-wintered well, I’ve certainly stripped a bit of conditions off them this spring. I’d say the majority of the cows here are what I’d call a Danish x Holstein, rather than the more New Zealand type that maybe would have done better in these conditions.

“We started the second round of grazing last Tuesday. Grass growth was 40 Kg/DM/ha last week but the last couple of days have seen rates rise dramatically. I don’t think the cows have performed quite as well as they could have this spring, and we’re going to have the same predicament in this second round. We are under stocked, and will have the grass to feed the cows, but with the milk price as it is, the temptation is there to add a bit of concentrate!”