FARMER FOCUS: Grass growth boosts forage

As I look out of the kitchen window there is rain falling gently on cows’ backs as they remain grazing happily in one of the closer paddocks.

Every day is a bonus day at the moment, with grass growth giving us a seasonal forage boost, and grazing conditions remaining great for both spring and autumn milkers. Milk yields have also remained positive and ahead of budget, so I am finding it difficult to complain or worry about much at all.

The most pleasing result this summer has been the fertility of all of our herds. Sunshine on their backs and great quality grass arriving at the right time has resulted in nine week block empty rates of less than 10%. These results seem to have been mirrored on many spring calving herds and it does beg the question what will happen to milk volumes through next year?

It would not be foolish to also assume that the inclement spring weather endured this year, along with a shortage of quality forage at the end of the winter, may also mean that winter calvings will have slipped into the spring.

In west Wales there seems to be a flurry of activity by milk processors trying to unsettle the more traditional routes to market. We are all aware of the milk shortage that is driving prices north and some of the propositions look very tempting indeed. As well as price, we need to understand the drivers and risks attached to each contract.

I find it amazing that few farmers I talk to have any idea where the milk they sell ends up. How can we feel secure making 20 year investments on spot market certainties? I wonder how many of the flash chequebooks will head back up the M4 next spring?

Will Prichard manages the family’s 1,250 cows and followers on four sites in north Pembrokeshire. A grassland and block-calving enthusiast, he operates two spring and two autumn calving herds and also breeds and sells Wagyu beef.

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