Memories of those last murderous days of March have faded in the April sunshine. As is often the case at lambing, the worst disasters were compensated by unexpected gains elsewhere.
We lost a dozen good strong lambs on that frightful “black Wednesday” and, in one flock, about eight lambs have contracted a seemingly incurable joint ill but, on the plus side, there were no cases of wet mouth or scours and to my knowledge just one fatality to foxes.
The persistent cold nights and east wind have meant reluctant grass growth but fortunately we have ample silage so there is no urgency to find grazing for cattle. In spite of unprecedented supplementary feeding, our earlier-lambing ewes lost condition and their lambs have lost their “bloom”. They are now taking creep pellets so will hopefully rally to provide some sales in June.
The root field has been sub-soiled, dunged, ploughed, limed and reseeded. The adjacent 12-acre grass runback has also received 1t/acre of lime and been over-seeded by a very conscientious contractor who, 10 minutes into the task, decided his other drill would do a better job so made the 40-mile round trip to change machines.
Some of our more forward steers are approaching slaughter weight but, with the price about £2.60/kg, it is doubtful if they will cover purchase and input costs. Cheaper stores seem unlikely and would only put pressure on primary producers to further reduce numbers.
If we abandoned our beef enterprise altogether in favour of, say, another 250 ewes, then where would we be in terms of grazing in a spring like this? While tractor driving I briefly considered re-establishing our suckler herd, but quickly decided things were not that bad yet.• For more columns from other Livestock Farmer Focus writers