Farmer Focus Livestock: Alistair Mackintosh expects labour to be stretched

Silage stocks are running low, so our objective is to stretch them out as far as possible, and pray for an early spring.

We are feeding straw and a small amount of home-grown barley to the cows in an effort to reduce silage intake. Instead of silage, ewes are being fed ad-lib sugar beet, bought in at £34/t. It took them a while to get used it, but now the beet is disappearing like snow off a dyke. Ewes are being fed an 18% roll in the run-up to lambing. Meanwhile, fertiliser has been spread on the grazing land. I had hoped to hold off until I was sure I would get maximum benefit, but the shortage of winter fodder has forced my hand.

Ewes have been vaccinated with a pasteurella injection, and cows with an anti-rotavirus injection. By the time you read this, lambing will not be far off. But cows have not started to calve, which means shed space will not be available for lambing.

With cows and sheep giving birth at the same time, one son studying for his GCSEs and another son off skiing, it looks like mum is going to have help out, as labour is going to be stretched.

I was recently lucky enough to meet this year’s winners of the Nuffield Scholarships. It’s refreshing to see the range of subjects studied, plus the enthusiasm the scholars have for the agricultural industry. It was clear to me that they have the potential to have a positive impact on our industry. I’d be keen to see in the future how some of these projects could have a worthy influence on mainstream agriculture.

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