Farmer Focus: It’s been a character-building spring

I can honestly say it has been a character-building spring.

I certainly didn’t think I would be feeding fodder beet to the ewes mid-April just to keep them milking. The grass can’t start growing soon enough for us.

Amid all the goings-on, we manged to sow 30 acres of brassica and 12ha of new grass seed.

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With the brassica this year we have sown a variety called Winfred, which is quite popular in New Zealand. This is a regrazeable crop if managed well, and it’s also a dwarf brassica, which should mean it won’t bolt like the crop we grew last year.

We also put in 4kg of Italian ryegrass with it to hopefully give us a little bit of spring grazing. This should help carry the stocking density through early spring before we reseed it with a long-term grazing lay.

With the grass paddocks, we just put in some early and late ryegrasses with a few summer strong ones, a good amount of white clover and 2kg of tonic plantain.

See also: It’s great to share the lambing workload

We have been seeing really great results with plantain in terms of lamb growth rates. It also makes really good round bale silage. I have never seen sheep clean it up so well.

We have done all our own cultivation this spring. We just gave it a quick cut with a set of discs, with the brassica paddocks getting one cut and the grass paddocks receiving two.

The reason for this is that the brassicas don’t need such a fine seed-bed, as it is quite a vigorous seed. But we wanted a nice, even finish with our grass and a finer seed-bed to help the clover get established.

After the discs, our neighbour Eddie let us use his power harrow with an air seeder. Well, it’s all in now – we just need it to grow. 

Here’s wishing all the young farmers an awesome weekend at the YFC nationals. Pip dragged me up in her final year.

Matt and Pip Smith run 1,085 breeding Romneys and Romney cross Lleyn ewes across 121ha. Matt is also a shearing contractor and train sheep dogs.