Farmer Focus: Maize could fill forage gap to beat dry spell

I hope the frosty mornings have just about stopped for most people. They have definitely hampered our first cut growth. It looks as though we will be about seven to 10 days later this year (7 May).

This year we have decided to grow maize for the first time. We drilled it under plastic to allow it to get a good start, and then we can get it harvested earlier than conventionally grown maize, before the weather breaks up here and we will not be able to travel on the ground.

As I write this, it’s two weeks since the maize was drilled. The crop is a good three to four inches high and pushing up on the film.

See also: What are the pros and cons of min-till maize?

If it is a dry year and silage struggles with lack of water (something that has happened only once in my lifetime), the maize could fill the gap in forage.

We have started our latest building project – our new calf shed is well under way.

The builders are roofing it as I write, which is a bit of a slower operation than a conventional agricultural shed because we have decided to use a broiler shed and adjust the ventilation system to suit the calves and then set up the internals how we want.

We have gone for this style of building because we get a lot of still and damp days which cause a big problem with pneumonia.

This will not eliminate all pneumonia issues, but the idea is it will give the calves the best possible start with little challenge so we can reduce antibiotics use, increase growth rates, and allow the calves to express their full genetic potential.

The first cycle of lambing finished with 94% lambed in 17 days. The lambs are doing very well now we have got past the -5C mornings.

Those mornings caused us a few problems with the triplet-bearing ewes not wanting to lick the third lamb, but we managed to lift most spare lambs and get them in the pet pen.

There are plenty of pets now, but they are well worth the hassle with current lamb prices.

Patrick Morris-Eyton is a Farmer Focus writer from Cumbria. Read his biography.

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