Farmer Focus: Honeymoon brings break from slurry work

I’ve finally found some drying weather: it’s a nice 15mph wind and a consistent 30C out. The flaw is that I had to travel 5,000 miles to find it.

I’m writing this on a Mexican beach looking out on the Caribbean Sea – bliss. Soph and I are making use of a quiet March and enjoying our honeymoon.

Neither of us is good at sitting and doing nothing, but we have coped.

See also: Inventions Competition 2024: Slurry separator bags top prize

About the author

Tom Hildreth
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Tom Hildreth and family grow grass and maize for the 130-cow herd of genomically tested 11,000-litre Holsteins near York supplying Arla. The Hildreths run a café, ice cream business and milk vending machine on the farm.
Read more articles by Tom Hildreth

I had hoped to see some agriculture here, but even when you’re 30m up on a zipline tower, all you can see is jungle into the distance.

It makes the Welsh government’s attempt at putting 10% of farmland under tree cover look like a drop in the ocean.

February and March tend to be a quiet couple of months. I got the calf pens mucked out, power-washed and disinfected, ready to be left for a month before calving restarts in late March.

The week before we came away, I rushed to get some slurry out before the lagoon overflowed.

Last month’s column prompted a local beef and arable farmer to ring to say he had a dry field we could spread slurry on.

I appreciate being able to export 30 loads of slurry, although I can see why the field was dry, as it was so hilly – the hilliest one I’ve worked on.

The difficulty I faced was that although my four-cylinder 175 Valtra could pull the full tanker uphill, it struggled to do so with the pto and hydraulic pump.

I found I had to knock the hydraulics off to reduce load on the engine so it could pull up hill, then run them again for a few seconds to ensure I had no blockages in the macerator.

Hopefully, it will be dry enough to get slurry onto the early pre-maize grasses. I will try to rely on slurry more this year.

My rough (and regularly inaccurate) maths suggests 15,000 litres of slurry/acre should give me 40kg of nitrogen/acre, so I’ll be able to grow my early grasses off that easily.

In the meantime, I’ll be at the swim-up bar enjoying a mojito.