I AM dictating this as I drive back from Bristol airport on a cold, damp and miserable morning when spring seems as far away as ever – and my cows are back inside again.
I am quite envious of my son Robert who has just caught a plane to Majorca. However, as he will be cycling up to 100 miles a day while he is there as part of a training programme, rather him than me.
The cows went out on Mar 1 onto 6ha (15 acres) of intended grazing. We shut up the field in late September and planned to graze it in the spring. The field is alongside our concrete track. We took them right up to the top and gave them 0.4ha each day.
Letting them out up hill is quite important. They dont run and gallop so much and they put their heads down to graze straight away.
The grass was old and some of it yellow and I was worried about rejection. However, the cows thought it was wonderful especially as they had an edge on their appetite – their silage feeders were empty at midnight the night before.
There is no water at the top of the field so after two hours on the first day we brought them back in. To my surprise they walked straight past the water tanks and round to the feeders. They had heard the tractor going and knew what to expect. So, although we had planned to use a water bowser, we found it unnecessary.
There is an electric fence all the way up the track so we were able to let them in and out a different gateway every day.
This worked fairly well, although on my bad days I look at the pasture drainage and think I will have to set in motion the contingency plan. That is plough up, sow stubble turnips followed by a reseed in August.
On my good days I look at the drainage and think I can repair it by rolling and then using my new toy – a Grass Master pasture aerator. We are hoping to do some trials with this in conjunction with Kingshay Farming Trust to see if we can measure any increase in silage yield.
Because of our quota situation we used the early bite to cut back the silage and concentrates and kept yields constant. It now looks as if we shall have enough silage to last the winter and we had seven glorious days when the cows were happy and routine work went with a swing. *
Mike Lemmey is hoping his new toy, a Grass Master pasture aerator, will improve drainage and productivity of grass swards and boost silage yield.