Farmer Focus: Cattle growing well in the dust bowl

Now then, we have a long way to go and a short time to get there, but Operation Desert Storm has ceased for the time being.

We have drilled 40ha of cover crop and 80ha of oilseed rape and if it wasn’t for military-grade satellites steering the tractor, it would have been an impossible task in the dust storm we created.

There has been just enough rain to get crops started and, all being well, if we keep up the midnight spraying for flea beetle we might be on to a winner.

See also: Farmer Focus: Drought means store cattle are 56kg lighter

The first intake of “big empty houses” have had their 40-day weigh check and have done exceptionally well, averaging a daily liveweight gain of 2.4kg straight off the bat, with a feed conversion of 5.8:1 – a case of the right cattle and the right diet.

The yard is more or less full with clean cattle that have been vaccinated with IBR marker live (to cover shipping disease).

We are taking a belt-and-braces approach to parasites by drenching for worm and fluke even in a dry year like this. For the increase in liveweight gain, it’s a very small cost.

We are about to start filling the clamp with maize – it looks to be a good crop, even though it has had less than 100mm of rain since the day it was drilled.

Here at Osgodby Grange our chop length is short (12-15mm) – not AD short (5mm) – but we find this is not detrimental to the rumen and, combined with a good additive, we can compact it tighter and have far less spoilage.

Our old tractor (Case 956 turbo) will be on additional clamp-rolling duties.

There is something to be said about keeping it simple. You stab the fully illuminated chromium-plated gearstick into mesh and the tractor moves.

There’s no aircon, no radio – just the turbo whistling out of the straight pipe.

Doug Dear is a new Farmer Focus writer. Read his biography.