Farmer Focus: Lack or rain causes grazing havoc

Don’t become one of those farmers who obsesses about the weather – that was the one bit of advice I was given when I started to write these articles. But with no real rain for six weeks the tops of the hills are starting to burn off and our moderate “drought” is the hot topic of conversation.

On the plus side, the calves have been thriving in the sunshine and are looking great. Unfortunately, the paddocks ahead of the milking herd are looking fairly stressed, with the grass plants throwing up a seed-head which is reducing feed quality and this is now being reflected in milk yields. With the forecast continually predicting that showers are one week away, it looks like it might be some time until this changes.

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For our final week of AI we used Hereford semen, which will hopefully serve as a relatively clear marker next year to indicate when replacement heifers have come to an end.

One of the disadvantages of cross breeding is it isn’t always easy to tell whether the newborn is a cracking Jersey cross or an Angus masquerading as a dairy cow. Fingers crossed this will limit any confusion.

We now have two teams of bulls running with the herd and are rotating them every three days to give them time to rest. There appears to be a surprising difference in activity between the two teams, and time will tell whether our younger studs are simply trying far too hard, or if their older colleagues have lost their get-up-and-go.

Early July saw the First Milk road show come to the farm, with a wide range of speakers from DairyCo to Nestle providing information for the crowd. It was great to hear more about what is going on further down the supply chain, as I for one am perhaps a little guilty of getting too caught up with what is going on at the farm gate.

I was privileged to be given the opportunity to meet this year’s Farmers Weekly Farmers Apprentice candidates. They dispel the notion there might be a shortage of talent entering the industry, and it was motivating spending time with such an enthusiastic bunch of people who have such diverse interests.

George Brown won the Farmers Weekly Apprentice in 2012. After a stint working on dairy farms in New Zealand he has returned to the UK and is now managing the 330-cow dairy herd at Cairnhead Farm on behalf of Robert Craig.