Farmer Focus: Spring has sprung to double grass growth

Milking and pre-calving cows are all out to grass, with plenty to go at. Growth is at 30kg dry matter (DM)/ha at our farm, Netherlands – more than double what we had last week.

It is grazing well, with good DM ever since the rain switched off. The other farm – Millands – has struggled as we battle geese grazing with the cows. Growth is starting to come now, as late January slurry and fertiliser kicks in.

See also: Coronavirus: Mart sanctions pressure dairy cattle values

Calving has gone better, with few milk fevers this year. However, we have had our first few cases of rotavirus in the calves again – a killer of calves and motivation.

We vaccinate for it in the dry cows, but still it seems to cause issues. Metabolic tests in the cows suggested low urea levels were the issues. Grass sorts that, and we shall see if it helps.

We have been building pHs steadily over the years, and are now heading up to 6.4pH. This has been done using only calcium lime to get a calcium-to-magnesium balance of nearer 6:1.The balance is now coming into line, and next year we may need to use magnesium lime for the first time in 20 years.

P and K levels have been building steadily using digestate, and we now need to address the sodium as well as sulphur levels in both grazing and silage fields.

We’ve just starting ploughing to reseed with some new Aber varieties. They have great DM growth figures, and we will see how they persist up here.

We are all amazed with the way coronavirus has unravelled around the world. Even the prime minister has been in intensive care.

The shopping habits of the British public through all this have given real succour to us farmers as we feed our nation again. My butcher can’t prepare the stuff quick enough.

This past week has been a roller-coaster ride, as we must all now cut milk production. Like other industries we can’t escape the pain.

The biggest bugbear has to be the lack of available social occasions, as all invitations get binned with sad resignation.

At least social distancing comes naturally to us farmers.

Read more about Ayrshire dairy farmer Wallace Hendrie