Farmer Focus: Can you really blame spring calvers for high feed prices?

What a difference a month can make. We were relieved when the rain arrived here at the end of July – the farm greened up almost overnight.

Steady rain since has led to some serious grass growth and now almost farcically has put us in a position where we are faced with a surplus of grass on the platform.

So to ensure the grazing rule book is firmly thrown out of the window for 2018, we are going to take silage off the platform over the next week or two.

We will measure grass again tomorrow, but I suspect our average cover has jumped up again from the 2,350kg DM it was last week, with growth rates probably somewhere between 70 -90kg DM/day.

See also: What is the ideal DM to milk solids ratio to survive price volatility?

Grass DM drops

Cows responded well, with milk up about 2-3 litres a day, although this is proving harder to maintain now pre-grazing covers are getting heavier. Lower-DM grass is resulting in some less-than-ideal residuals.

The milking herd here at home was scanned today with an 8.6% empty rate after 12 weeks of mating and 84% of them in calf within the first eight weeks.

Given the poor weather at the end of 2017 and the tough spring we are delighted with the results – sets us up nicely for 2019.

The majority of the heifers entering the herd will calve in the first three weeks, guaranteeing another compact and busy calving period.

Spring system getting stick

I was disappointed to read an opinion letter published recently in the farming press citing young spring calvers in north Wales as the cause of the increase in forage prices.

It blamed them for unsustainable farming systems, the need to buy silage and paying high land rents. 

The one huge contradiction the author made was that the basis of the moan was that his merchant was charging him more to purchase forage this year – an alarming mindset.

The sense of entitlement to purchase a commodity at the same price each year leads to grossly unjustified, sweeping statements aimed at a single section of one farming sector.

I’d welcome this person to our farm any day, to attend a discussion group meeting and even allow a reciprocal meeting at their farm.


Johnjo Roberts is a Farmer Focus writer on Anglesey. Read his biography.