Farmer Focus: Catchy silage weather after a welcome holiday

Nicola Sturgeon finally freed up the ferries to let us holiday in Arran. It’s kind of strange how islanders view us mainlanders as potential Covid carriers. Customer service is definitely taking a back seat.

Back on farm this is holiday season for most, after AI in spring and before the start of calving in early August.

It’s been a struggle. Many people are not taking the proper holidays due to lockdown restrictions. I wonder how detrimental these restrictions are on mental health and other untreated health issues the public may have.

See also: Dairy farms race to stay ahead of rising production costs

We managed to scan our first three weeks of AI. We have half the herd pregnant at one farm in the first three weeks.

I still think we could have scanned a week earlier to give the dirty cows a chance to get in calf. The three we treated will struggle to make it.

About 60% of the heifers are in calf to sexed semen on a cheap synchronisation programme. They receive a jab of prostaglandin to synchronise them after seven days of spotting natural heats.

We used scratch cards on them, which worked well, but it’s important to buy the dearer ones as they don’t come off – the biggest downside of the cheap ones.

Rain (100mm and 76mm in the past two weeks) has dropped yields in the spring herds as we have had to go into some higher grass covers to protect the ground as grass growth slowed. 

I was worried about causing damage, but soils dried remarkably quickly, and back fencing means we protected the ground just grazed.

Silage has been a real on-off affair over the past month. The weather has not allowed us a good run at harvesting and we were only just finishing second cut in late July.

Having our own wagon has given us the confidence to go when we can, as getting a contractor is impossible when there are only one or two dry days each week.

We are calving 55 extra autumn calvers to keep our supply in better balance for our customer Muller, as their new seasonality is giving us big penalties in April to June.

The plan is to carry higher daily litres through our low months in December to March, which should reduce our exposure to penalty litres in the spring.

Read more about Ayrshire dairy farmer Wallace Hendrie