Farmer Focus: I am planting swedes as a fodder insurance policy

At last, in the second week of May, spring has finally sprung in Lanarkshire.

Swallows have returned, grass is virtually jumping out of the ground, lambs are skipping, the cattle are into their rotation and I finished rolling the undersown arable silage today.

All is well with the world and the farmer is a lot happier.

Five ewes are left to lamb, but on the whole I would say it hasn’t been too bad. However, I won’t really know before I do a proper first count.

After the winter, it is time – while things are still fresh in the mind – to look back and try to get a grasp on where I could improve things.

The saying: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” comes to mind.

See also: 9 steps to getting a spring reseed right

I was very disappointed in my cattle performance during the winter. The weight gain of outside groups was static at best and this was mainly down to a lack of feed.

We had a very prolonged period of hard frost midwinter that hammered all my fodder crops. This is the second time this has happened to me, so this year, in addition to my swift, kale and fodder beet, I am sowing some swedes as an insurance policy.

I also feel the animals would benefit from more protein in the diet, so I have gone back to an arable silage mix that includes peas rather than a pure stand of barley for my wholecrop.

I have added red clover to my undersown grass seed, in hope of two outcomes: more protein in my silage and aftermaths to provide me with a crop of “rocket fuel” for finishing lambs.

I have also set myself the target of having all lambs off the farm by 1 November – hopefully all the new Suffolk and Hampshire Down lambs will help.

The shop is going through a major transition, with my wife, Michelle, planning and developing lots of new products. From the end of May we will be offering a take-away service of our own hot pies and rolls, made with our home-cooked meats. 

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas, near Biggar, Lanarkshire. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.