Farmer Focus: Silage feeding will start unless rain comes

I write this 26 days into mating and things have been going well. Bulling activity was good in the build-up to mating, with less than 10% of the herd having not had a heat or shown any signs of one. 

Some of these can be put down to being late calvers, some were just having quiet heats, and the remainder possibly had an energy deficiency. 

This positive activity carried on through the first weeks, resulting in a three-week submission rate of 94%.

See also: Are fertility monitors worthwhile in block calving herds?

After five days we have seen a return rate of about 31%, which having used sexed semen for the first time is a pleasing start, but it’s still early days.

The sexed dairy straws were used up by day 23 so we are now serving everything to beef. 

The hope is that we will have reduced the number of dairy beef calves, compacted the birth of dairy heifer replacements to February, and will be producing desirable beef bull calves through to the middle of March.

Grass growth has somehow managed to hold on. We have had very little surplus grass growth on the farm, but growth has managed to keep up with demand. 

However, the farm is extremely dry with 11mm of rainfall in May and very little in late March or April. 

Our average cover is somewhere just below 2,100kg DM/ha and is lower than we would like. 

It is all pointing towards us having to start filling a deficit with silage in the near future. At the minute we are just trying to keep a 25-day round and fill the deficit with feed in the parlour.

If we have a shorter round the average cover will crash and we will slow growth down. A much longer round length will lead to grass heading and getting out of control, and quality being lost.  

It is a situation that brings back some sore memories of 2018, although feed stocks are better thanks to a good spring, as opposed to the Beast from the East, and we now have the benefit of experience, even if it wasn’t a good one.

Johnjo Roberts is a Farmer Focus writer on Anglesey. Read his biography.