Farmer photos show acute grass shortage

No two seasons are ever the same in farming, as these incredible pictures show.

The photos of grass leys, taken in the same field two years apart, demonstrate the desperate conditions farmers have been battling this year as the impact of the cold winter has restricted grass growth to a minimum.

Cambridgeshire farmer Andrew Lawman took a picture of his farm dog Rolo playing in this 12ha (30-acre) field in early April 2011 at Top Farm, Coppingford, near Huntingdon, just ahead its first cut.

Fast forward 24 months to the same period this year and the grass is barely ankle high. It will not now receive its first cut as usual before the cows are put out to graze.

Composite dogs in grass

“I was looking through my pictures from two years ago and I could hardly believe it was the same field,” said Mr Lawman.

“In 2011, we cut the first bit of grass. It was clover and we cut it in the first week of April. This year is the third year of a ryegrass ley, but you would expect it to be a lot more forward by now.

“Normally, we would have taken a cut of silage off it and then the cows go out there. Whereas this year, we have lost a cut and the cows will be sent straight out on it.”

Mr Lawman farms a mixed farming enterprise with family members, which consists of 60ha (150 acres) of grass, 182ha (450 acres) of arable crops, straw cultivation, and 400 head of beef cattle, of which 100 are cows and the rest are calves, yearlings and fat animals ready for slaughter.

“We’re cattle, crops and straw and we’ve been hit all three seasons,” he said.

“The cattle are coming in early and going out late. The straw was chasing showers around the countryside – and it’s the same story with the crops.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the county, Peter Waite, crop protection business manager at AtlasFram, said oilseed rape crops in were only just flowering – a month later than usual this year.

“Farmers were already chasing pollen beetle from their rape crops by mid March last year,” he added.

“After the sunny weather this weekend, the rape is shooting away after, but we could do with a touch of moisture to get everything going. Some of these crops need to catch up a bit. We’ve a long way to go.”

Earlier this month, the ScotGrass 2013 machinery demo, due to take place in Dumfries on 14 May, was cancelled due to a lack of grass.

More on this topic

Track grass growth with our GrassWatch monitor

See more