Farmer Focus: Grass growth goes beserk after slow start

Grass growth started a little late this year and then certainly had a challenge due to a lack of moisture. However, lately the grass growth has really taken off.

My own forage plans added to this. I moved the cattle onto the grass rotation later than planned, as they were still finishing off the swedes, which grew well into April.

This means I built up cover more than I would have liked this spring.  

This was my first year of growing swedes and while I understand it may be a one-off season, there is no doubt it is a fantastic, high-yielding, resilient crop. 

The additional grass cover in the spring allowed me to complete my first rotation before applying nitrogen.

See also: Guide to fertiliser terminology and spreading equipment

All grass got 160kg/ha of 10-26-26, plus sulphur in the spring, and now, after the first rotation, has had 123kg/ha of ammonium nitrate (34.5% nitrogen). 

I have taken my first cut in just about perfect conditions. It was a very bulky and leafy grass, so hopefully the analysis will be good.

This first cut includes a considerable number of paddocks that had got beyond grazing, and the pit is already two-thirds full.

Fodder beet and swedes were sown in mid-May into dust and both crops are very uneven. Hopefully, now that there is moisture and heat, I will see an improvement.

My biggest concern at the moment is the beef price and the apparent lack of demand for beef.

Normally in July and August I would sell off all the surplus beef that is not needed for the shop and usually prices are buoyant by now, but the finished price has been stagnant and last week the price dropped another 5p/kg.

I am not concerned about veganism or vegetarianism, but there is no doubt that there is real momentum behind the “eat less meat” message and this really concerns me. 

I have finally completed the sales of my lamb crop from last year and, interestingly,

I sold 26% Texel-sired, 33% Hampshire-sired and 41% Suffolk-sired lambs, which is quite interesting, since there were three Texel tups, one Hampshire and one Suffolk. 

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas, near Biggar, Lanarkshire. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.