Farmer Focus: Frozen ground gives window for muck spreading

Every Christmas I ask Santa for a crystal ball. It really would make this job of farming a lot easier.  Once again though, he brought socks.

That’s the last time I’m leaving out a bale of haylage for the reindeer!

See also: Business outlook 2023: Inflation driven by war, Covid and labour gaps

About the author

Colin Murdoch
Ayrshire farmer and zero grazer Colin Murdoch switched from Holsteins to milking 225 Jerseys in 2019. The 182ha farm grows 40ha of winter and spring barley for a total mixed ration and parlour fed system supplying Graham’s Family Dairy.
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The year went past quickly, but I think that’s down to our two boys growing up so fast. It was great to spend plenty of family time over Christmas and rediscover how much fun building Lego is.

We had the wintry weather at the start of December. Temperatures got down to -9C, which is very rare for us.

However, it allowed us to get all straw yards mucked out and heaped onto stubble, as well as easing pressure on the slurry stores.

We don’t have a closed period for spreading here yet and, in accordance with our waste management plan, we managed to cover about 20ha (50 acres) away from any watercourses.

I do realise spreading in winter will be frowned upon by many, but I believe that “little and often” is far better than battering the land with 5,000 gallons to the acre in spring.

We have already seen a response from the grass as it grows in the milder January weather.

The thaw brought the usual hassles of burst pipes and the delight of water flowing through the main circuit breakers in the dairy. Big thanks to our local dairy engineers for getting us going again at 3am.

Where do we think milk prices are going in the next 12 months? Without that crystal ball I’m not sure anyone can say with any certainty.

I presume the record autumn production was down to a second flush of grass down south and a move to an autumn block by many.

With a reported lack of forage, this level may be short-lived, but global prices are certainly under pressure.

We’re somewhat sheltered from price fluctuations with our Jersey contract, but as the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite, I’d just like to remind everyone that full-fat Jersey milk makes a great coffee all year round, not just at Christmas.