Farmer Focus: Silage rows look big compared with previous years

I spread most of the year’s slurry on the silage fields in mid-to-late May. I graze most of the fields first – unlike most farms in Orkney.

Every year while spreading slurry I wonder if this is the year when we won’t have enough silage. It often looks poor and pale coloured, especially if there has been a lot of dry weather.

Thankfully, we have always managed to grow a crop and this year the grass growth has been great, especially as it hasn’t been particularly warm.

My son Glen was out with me cutting the first field and was quick to say “they’re big rows, Dad”.

It wasn’t a very big crop as I don’t put on a lot of fertiliser (but he is only eight and probably only remembers the past four or five years – and compared with those years, the rows will look big).

See also: Red clover silage bolsters beef finishing diets

We normally count on seven or eight bales per acre, but, so far, we have averaged 10. Because the cows were out early, the grazing grass hasn’t got out of control until the past week or so.

I know grazing experts would cut fields that get too strong, but my grazing fields are either steep or have boulders sticking out of the ground and mowing is out of the question.

A few days at the Royal Highland Show is our short holiday between the spring and the summer work. Hopefully the cows have been out long enough and they are all settled and just need checking.

We have had a couple of cows with photosensitisation (where the skin pigment becomes inflamed and peels) this year – and one had it when we were at the show.

Sampling some great food and seeing the cattle are always on my “to do” list, but watching the heavy horses in the main ring is a highlight for me.

I always think there are mixed messages at shows. Speaking to farmers, I heard about how poor the price of beef is at the moment, the continued uncertainty over Brexit and rising costs.

But you go for a walk through the machinery area and it continues to get bigger and more expensive. I often wonder what non-farming folk think.


Steven Sandison farms Simmental and Salers cattle on Orkney, read his bio