7 May 1999

DIARY OF AN EARLY GRAZER…

March 7

Very windy but spread N on some fields. Unable to spread remainder of fertiliser until 15 and 16 March.

Measured grass with plate meter on 17 March. Quite disappointed with results; not as much there as I thought. Average cover for farm of 1685kg DM/ha.

You know how we are all supposed to justify all our expenditure? Well, I was desperately trying to justify the plate meter at the Profit Workshop Day, when it came to me in a flash! This is going to be the most expensive Mothers Day present ever!

March 18

Should have been at grassland grazing group at 10.30am – cancelled. Cows turned out to grass to compensate for me not having my day off with the group. I think most of the group would have approved of this.

Cows extremely excited. Exited the cubicles and silage yard at between 85 and 90mph. They nearly went to the group instead of me.

Grazing approx 5 acres a day and after first day they settled down not too badly. Milk yield went up slightly and work went down slightly (in at night).

Grass will have to move on a bit faster or I will struggle to have enough grazing. This could be very embarrassing!

March 19

Cows very content; look an absolute picture. Why isnt everyone doing this! Milk yield has risen.

March 20

Things looking really well. Cows content to be out all day. Milk up. Neighbours must be sitting up by now.

March 21

Cows milked well, but I know why everyone isnt doing this. Weather OK when cows went out, turned pretty damn awful within 3 hours. Cows huddled up in a heap twice the size of our kitchen. Had to bring them in.

Much more of this and I might lose my nerve but one day is certainly not going to deter me!

I can now see there needs to be a minimum cover of 2000kg DM/ha before considering turnout over a large area to allow about 4-5 acres per day until grass takes off.

March 22

Overall conditions quite dry underfoot. In many instances could almost get away without tracks but I feel they would have begun to make a mess in two fields at least by now without them. Milk up quite a bit more. Cows seem very content.

March 23

Conditions dry and sunny. Very pleased with track system to get them to and fro. Also extremely pleased with mobile water tank (with it on pick-up hitch it is easily moved and connected up).

It is earlier fertilised grass that is keeping the job going. A huge difference between that and later fertilised area at this stage. New shoots to be seen on grazed area 3 days earlier.

A note for another year must be to get fertiliser on it all in Feb at least. We must use some urea for that application to get a minimum 1700kg over the whole farm.

March 24

It came back via the grapevine – "had I run out of silage?" I had to send back via a neighbour: "No I still have at least a bay of the silage shed full yet!" And a further heap in the outside pit left too.

We have now completed our first week of early grazing and as yet have no regrets other than the fact we should have been better prepared (eg fertiliser on sooner, electric fence and water sorted out before we actually wanted to turn out).

I do feel with better management in the autumn and mid-late winter, late-Feb/early March turnout could be achieved.

PS: broke a record for us. We sent the most milk ever for this time of year (every other day collection). Obviously cows loving it!

March 25

Had four hours grazing then weather turned bad so I brought them in. No problem and also no damage to sward, as they had grazed and not just charged about. I now know the value of a good track and why four hours grazing is just about right.

If the cows go out to graze at 8am and it turns into a pratting awful day like this, four hours gets you to dinner time, when your neighbours sitting down to his Yorkshires. Then you can go get em and race them back at the speed of light without having to explain the merits of extended grazing.

March 26

Was not sure about them going out today. I did think they might be unsettled, but I was wrong, once again!

Looking back on this job, I wish I had received group therapy much earlier because it is only meeting others and sharing each others viewpoints and experiences that has given me the courage to have a go. I dont think I would have had the nerve otherwise.

Cows have now lightly grazed over 60 acres in 9 days, mostly silage area and hardly made a mark on it. 7.6 acres approx a day.

March 27

The learning curve is steep and mistakes are sure to be made.

I needed slightly more cover just before we started grazing, so now we are getting over the farm too fast and looking like running out before the grass takes off. The old girls still need feeding so the decision was made to slow the grazing round to 4-5 acres/day and feed extra silage. Otherwise meltdown will probably happen and we will end up having cows housed all summer.

March 28

White with frost.

Grass measurement day, takes about one-and-a-half hours to walk round farm. Dog likes it, so thats something.

Theres definitely lessons to be learnt for another year. Firstly, dont tell other group members what you have done and when you have done it. Secondly if you are hell-bent on turning these cows out, let them out under cover of darkness until confident of what youre doing. Or, as someone suggested, "paint em green".

March 29

Bad day, very unsettled cows hardly out today (1 hour approx). Heavy rain during middle of day. Glad they were in. I could feel the tension ooze out of me once cows stopped looking out towards the fields about half past two in the afternoon! These mood swings cant be good for me.

Glorious evening, lots of sun, marvellous colours, joy to be farming, cows back looking over gate.

They will have to go back out tomorrow although Id decided this morning to keep them in for the next week. Moving electric fence in the dark ready for flier in the morning.

March 30

Kept 20 odd cows back for PD and that sort of work with vet. Let the rest of the herd go to graze at 8am. Quite amused at the vet wanting to know where all the cows were when faced with virtually empty buildings. The milks way up.

Cows all looking over gate – they want to be out at night. Also, its been a really good growing day, one of these days when you can see the grass growing.

March 31

Cow grazing down nicely. Cows very content.

April 1

Put more nitrogen on some fields, bringing it up to 110 units so far on silage land.

April 3

Cows out at night close to buildings. Access to silage but did not eat much. Content. Milk still up. Cake getting pulled back slightly.

April 4

Milk eased back slightly. Cows on full bore grass now but only one-third of the cake they were originally getting.

Close to finishing first grazing round and not asked any neighbours for a field of theirs yet! First grazed fields coming on now with a good cover on them. &#42