Gary Mitchell with some dairy cows© Robert Smith

I can’t believe how long harvesting silage has been delayed because of continued rain.

However, I was delighted when the Scottish government decided to give a derogation on Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules in our region, for which 23 farms applied.

This decision stopped any temptation of careless slurry spreading as 15 October approached.

I really hope in the post-Brexit agriculture policy, regulations like NVZs cannot just be based on a date.

See also: Read more from our livestock Farmer Focus writers

Slurry dates are tricky

We have no control over the weather, so flexibility is needed for the extremes of UK summers.

We have managed to finished all but 60ha of silage which is on heavier land, so hopefully it can be grazed with sheep to reduce compaction.

No winter wheat has been sown to date, but we still hope to sow 40ha at least because whole-crop is an important part of our cows’ diet.

Conference reveals Defra despair

I managed to attend the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) conference, and what a worthwhile trip it was.

Subjects covered ranged from Brexit to labour and even a Defra staff survey presented by Chris Walkland that was quite an eye-opener.

If your were a dairy farmer receiving 20p/litre or less for your milk (which wasn’t long ago), can you remember how you felt?

Well, that’s similar to staff at Defra. Apparently 25% of staff want to leave in a year and 65% want to leave within the second year.

Perhaps as dairy farmers we could counsel these down-beaten people with our encouraging words: “Jam tomorrow…well maybe the day after.” It seems to work for us.

On a lighter note, I had a great workout last Saturday night being a cow chaser, so I put my step monitor watch on and covered 17,000 steps in five hours.

And now to end on an interesting calculation to help morale and make keeping fit seem attractive.  

Last year we were at 22p/kg so I worked out that per step that is 8p/step. This year it’s gone up to 12.4p/step, which was quite an inspirational thought to have when getting to bed at 12:30am!


Gary Mitchell milks 800 cows near Stranraer, with heifers reared on a local farm. Gary zero grazes 80ha of the 195ha he owns. He is vice-chairman for NFU Scotland.