I hope by the time this gets to print we’ve caught up with all the silage making. I’ve just added up and between both units we must have almost 160ha of grass that’s losing quality by the day and needs cutting as soon as a dry day appears.
So far, 2012 has been the wrong year to be lightly stocked – the new unit we started farming last autumn has been running on a cautious low stocking rate in its first year, due partly to a large area of new seeds and also the unknown growth potential of the new farm. Almost stopping fertiliser applications has reduced growth, but we still see surpluses accumulating. The spring reseeds are getting off to a perfect start and now compounding the surplus grass problem that, frustratingly, another 200 cows could easily have sorted out. With most of the main cow tracks in place, our attention is now concentrated on the restructuring of the cubicle housing at the new unit and sourcing sufficient extra stock to get the farm up to its current potential of 550 cows calving next spring.
The second unwelcome milk price reduction of the summer has proved to be a wake-up call for the industry and reminds us of the predicament we’re in regarding the imbalance of power in the dairy chain. Surely the answer lies with us producers cooperating more and the development of new markets. I hope we at least give cooperation a try properly before we start tipping milk away or reverting to any of the other solutions currently circulating. Why is it we head straight for the politicians and demand action, as if the magic in Westminster will solve everything? Come on, please, it’s our industry.
Robert Craig, 41, farms a 440ha of almost all grass split between two units in north-east Cumbria. A passionate grassland farmer, Robert is a 2012 Nuffield scholar and former Cumbria NFU chairman.