Farmer Focus: A prayer for rain as farm dries up

We live in a beautiful part of the world and have a dry farm that allows an extended grazing period and good early growth of a variety of interesting crops. The downside of the farm becomes apparent when you have a cold, dry spring, followed by a dry June and then the hottest July day ever. You can imagine how things are looking here.

We are desperate for some proper rain and every morning I switch on BBC Breakfast to check the weather, hoping the lovely Carol Kirkwood will show rain clouds over Gloucester. Well, that is the reason I tell Kirsty I am watching her anyway.

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Our grazing fields are brown and our second-cut silage grass yields will be about 50% down. Thankfully we have been here before and our lucerne and wholecrop (which will be ready to harvest this weekend) look good and will make up some of the shortfall.

Our maize is a mixture of a brilliant, up-to-my-waist success and an awful, not-much-above-my-boots failure. It was so cold here in early May we were a little later than normal in spraying the maize and we are paying for it now in patches. What is more annoying is you can see our maize field from the motorway, which is a cause for much amusement for some of my so-called friends.

We endured the nightmare of our annual herd TB test last week. Thankfully it was all clear. It is fair to say at test time I change from a nice guy to a bad-tempered git (Kirsty’s words, not mine). I am really pleased to see the work John Cross and the TB eradication group are doing and hopefully we will have a better solution soon.

On a more positive note, we have started our AI programme for the spring calvers and I am really pleased with the quality of the heats and submission rates we are getting. I hope to get 95% of the spring-calving block served to AI from natural heats this year, so everyone is on heat detection duty. I have even asked the leader of the opposition, my beloved wife, to watch for heats, but she hasn’t forgiven me for my ill temper during the TB test. Perhaps flowers are in order?


Paul Westaway farms in partnership with his wife Kirsty on a 69ha Gloucester County Council farm, running more than 220 Angus and Holstein Cattle. The pair also run an AI business and have recently launched an online steak and wine shop.